Monday, April 14, 2014

Bump downs for Seniors in USTA League Tennis

A fairly common question I get from folks, particularly Seniors, is why they haven't been bumped down and if they are close enough to appeal.  I actually just did an Estimated Dynamic NTRP Rating Report for someone this weekend that helped them decide to appeal and they were successful which pleased them greatly.

Why do people ask this and why is it important?

Players that have a bad year or know they have declining skills may play at a given level and not do well, even to the point of not having competitive matches.  It is natural for them to want to be bumped down simply to make their experience, and frankly the experience for those they play with and against, more enjoyable.  While this can happen with any age group, it is perhaps a little more common with Seniors as they begin to slow down a bit and can't play at quite the level they used to.

The problem is that because the NTRP algorithm can lag your current results a bit due to how the averaging is done, players that only play a handful of matches in a given year may not have their rating drop far enough to get the bump down.

For example, say a player has been a good 4.0 for many years and has a rating around 3.8.  Say they happen to not be able to play too much the next year and between the lack of play and age catching up with them, they get match ratings of 3.4, 3.5, and 3.3.  Taken by themselves, they look like a good 3.5 player.  But because they were carrying the 3.8 in to the year, with only three results, their rating doesn't fall below 3.5 and they don't get bumped down.

So players like the gentleman I did a report for are interested in why they weren't bumped down and how close they are to the threshold and if they can appeal.  With the new appeal rules, it is easier for players in this situation to appeal as by playing only three matches, the allowance for an auto-appeal is a full 0.1.

Now, these appeal rules aren't just for Seniors.  As described in my NTRP FAQ, the USTA allows for appeals for players that haven't played too many matches as they seem to understand that just a few matches may not result in the most accurate rating.  So any player can appeal and if they meet the criteria, it should be granted.  Can these appeal rules be used to someone's advantage trying to get bumped down to stack a team?  Sure, but in most cases the players are legitimately getting to the right level and/or the matches are still competitive, which is the whole goal of the NTRP system.

If you didn't get bumped down and are interested how close you might be an if an appeal might be successful, let me know.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Where can you play the most USTA League tennis and how many matches did you play last year?

Many players that play USTA League live in a city where there is one USTA district or area and thus one set of leagues.  This usually provides ample opportunity to play, oftentimes year-round with the introduction of the 40 & over leagues last year.  In my area, many players will play 18 & over Mixed and Adult, 40 & over Mixed and Adult, and a Summer doubles league we have.

If that isn't enough for you, there are some areas of the country where you can play more.  A lot more in fact.  As you might expect, this is in the more populated areas of the country, namely the East Coast.  In some areas of New Jersey or Connecticut for example, you can play not only in multiple areas but multiple sections with the Middle States, Eastern, and New England sections all very close together.  Similarly, I've seen players that live in the Carolinas playing in both North and South Carolina as a way to get into more leagues and matches.

But the topper from what I've seen is in the Mid-Atlantic section, and specifically the Washington D.C. area.  Between Washington D.C. itself and the surrounding areas in Maryland and Virginia, there is a plethora of playing opportunities.  Throw in that some of these areas have not only the standard leagues but also Tri-Level, Combo, and Singles leagues and someone that wanted could probably find a way to play 4-5 times a week if not more.

So, what are some of the extreme cases I've seen?  While most of us play in just one area, there is a player in the Mid-Atlantic section that played in eight last year.  Prince Georges County, Anne Arundel County, Frederick County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Forty West, Northern Virginia, and Washington D.C.  And with just a bit of driving, this player could likely get to Baltimore County and Loudoun County, if not a few more.  And before you say this is one strange outlier, there are a bunch of players that played in six and seven areas as well.

This leads to situations where players may be on over 20 teams in a given year and play over 50 matches during the year.  In fact, there is a player from Leesburg, VA that was on 25 teams in 2013 and played over 100 matches during the year.

How many league matches did you play last year?

Friday, March 28, 2014

New USTA NTRP Rating FAQ now published

I get a lot of questions from people via e-mail or via comments on my blog about NTRP ratings and how they work.  I also frequent several message boards where I respond to questions and scenarios I see there.  As you might expect, I find myself answer some of the same questions over and over again, so I thought I'd begin collecting them in one place for all of you to have as a reference.

So, as of this moment, you may check out my USTA NTRP Ratings FAQ page.  I've captured some of the more popular questions and answers but it will be a living FAQ and be updated on a regular basis.

Do let me know if you have a question that isn't listed there, or any comments you have about the answers I've written up.  While I think I have a pretty good handle on how it all works, I can calculate an Estimated Dynamic NTRP Rating for any USTA League player after all, I might have something wrong so any and all feedback is welcome.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How can Estimated Dynamic NTRP Rating Reports help in scouting USTA League opponents? A real world example

A large and growing number of USTA League players have gotten Estimated Dynamic NTRP Rating Reports from me.  These are a great way to find out why you were/weren't bumped up or down, see how specific matches affect your rating, or track your progress towards a rating goal.  And with the updated report format I just released, you can now clearly see how your singles matches rate vs your doubles matches.

What fewer, but still quite a few, folks do is get reports to aid in scouting future opponents.  These can be lists of ratings or team reports that show overall ratings, and records and courts played on a given team.  With these you can get an idea of who plays with who and on what court and if teams stack their line-ups or if they play straight up.

But what about once you are on the court?  A customer, let's call him Bob, just shared his experience with me from a recent match where knowing the opponents estimated ratings helped he and his partner have a strategy from the start that allowed them to win a match they might not have otherwise.

The opponents for the upcoming match were both 4.0s, but one was just bumped up from 3.5 and the other down from 4.5.  The impulse reaction would probably be that Bob and his partner should try to avoid hitting to the bumped down 4.5 and attack the bumped up 3.5, and this is exactly what Bob's partner and teammates all advocated.  But Bob had gotten a report on the opponents and knew that the bumped up 3.5 actually had a higher estimated dynamic rating than the bumped down 4.5, 3.9 vs 3.6, and had a game plan to take advantage of that.

With the game plan in hand, Bob and his partner went after the bumped down 4.5.  Bob describes how the match went the best:
The former 4.5 was a big hitter, who could hit two great shots in a row, but not three. The former 3.5 guy was very solid, steady, and didn’t miss much, but he was one-dimensional and climbed on the net.

So, I lobbed the steady guy to get the ball to the big hitter, got in rallies with him, and waited for him to miss, which he did, confirming his rating. The former 3.5 guy got very frustrated, got impatient, and got worse as the match went on, trying to finish points as soon as possible.

Without the ratings, I would have played the match exactly wrong. Maybe I would have figured it out along the way, maybe not. Going in with the ratings on their foreheads helped me a lot.
Like he says, the strengths and weaknesses could perhaps have been figured out.  But given that the 4.5 was a big hitter who could hit great shots, how quickly would one have deduced that we was actually the weaker player?  And in league play where the third set is a 10-point tie-break, figuring this out after losing the first set means that at best if you win the second set you are playing roulette with the 10 pointer.  Knowing the ratings ahead of time and trusting them (to a point), allowed Bob have the right game plan and stick to it even when the guy they were attacking could hit a few great shots.

As always, contact me if you are interested in any reports on any USTA League player or team.

Note: Names and specific (but not relative) ratings were changed in the above to protect those who wish to stay anonymous

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Should there be separate NTRP ratings for singles and doubles? Updated Estimated Dynamic NTRP Rating Reports: Separate stats and match ratings for singles and doubles

In USTA League play, some players play doubles exclusively.  This is because in the standard adult leagues, 75% (for a 2 singles 3 doubles format) or 80% (for a 1 singles 2 doubles format) of the players in a team match play doubles, and in the senior leagues and several other additional leagues, only doubles is played.  And even in the standard leagues, the players that play singles are oftentimes singles specialists and there isn't much of an opportunity for the "doubles guys/gals" to get on a singles court.

Some teams do change things up and some players get a mix of singles and doubles during a league year.  When this happens and you get a "doubles gal/guy" on a singles court or vice-versa, you may see some strange results when compared with the expected result based on the dynamic ratings and a common question is if there should be separate ratings for singles and doubles.

There is some merit to the idea as in today's game, singles and doubles are quite a bit different.  While there are certain exceptions to these generalizations, singles is dominated by baseline play while doubles is dominated by or at least requires adept net play.

So when someone does play both singles and doubles, it would be interesting to know if they rate higher at singles or at doubles.  With my updated as of today Estimated Dynamic NTRP Rating Reports, now you can know.

I've modified the report format to include some singles and doubles specific summary stats, and then display the singles vs doubles match ratings in the chart using different colors.  The result is, you can see pretty clearly if a player that plays both rates higher at one or the other.

Here is an example for a player in the Northern section that played 16 singles matches and 11 doubles matches.

Current NTRP: 4.5C
Estimated DNTRP: 4.29
Match Record: 19-8
Singles Record: 13-3
Doubles Record: 6-5
Sets Won-Lost: 43-20
Games Won-Lost: 281-191
Best Match Result: 4.82 on 3/18/13
Worst Match Result: 4.01 on 7/17/13
Highest Estimated DNTRP: 4.49 on 3/18/13
Lowest Estimated DNTRP: 4.26 on 7/17/13
Singles Average Match Rating: 4.4
Doubles Average Match Rating: 4.25


I've highlighted in bold the new information in the summary, the records for both singles and doubles and then the average match rating for both singles and doubles.

As you might expect for someone that plays more singles than doubles, this player both had a better record at singles and his average match ratings were a full 0.15 higher in singles than doubles.  Also, his best match result and results are all in singles while his worst is in doubles, although his second worst result was in singles.

All new reports from this point forward will be in the new format, so contact me if you would like to get one, or if you've gotten a 2014 report already, you know you can get updates to your report for a discount and this new report format is an added reason to get an update today.

And as a reminder, I can generate reports for any USTA League player in any section and can still do reports for last year (2013) as well as reports for matches played so far in the 2014 season.

Let me know what you think of the new report format!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Do women want their USTA NTRP level bumped up more than men?

In USTA League play, players often want to be bumped up at year-end.  Reasons for this vary.

For some, it is a sense of accomplishment and achieving a goal to be bumped up and validates that a player has improved their game.  For others, it is a status symbol, the ability to say "I'm a 4.5".  And related to this, at some clubs, players aren't allowed to "play up" so getting bumped up may be required to get to play on a certain team or with friends.  Some relish the opportunity to play stronger opponents at the next higher level.

Of course, some players want to be bumped down.  Sometimes this is because someone wants to sandbag and be bumped down so they can play and clean-up at a lower level, or be part of a team that wants to make a run to Nationals, but occasionally it is for a slightly better reason.  These include there being limited to no playing opportunities in their area at the higher level, or age or injury are affecting their game and they want to get down to the level that better reflects their ability.

Since I do a lot of Estimated Dynamic NTRP Rating Reports, I usually find out if someone is wanting to be bumped up or down.  What I've observed is that most people want to be bumped up, but a few want to be bumped down.

As far as the split between men and women, I'd say more women want to be bumped up than men.  Of course, this can be influenced by what level the player is presently at too as it is more common for lower level players to want to be bumped up and higher level players to want to be bumped down.  I'd say the sweet spot for women is 4.0 and men is 4.5.

This passes the smell test as it balances the desire to have a high NTRP level and be recognized as a good player, but not so high that they aren't able to compete and win.

What do you think?  What level do men and women aspire to getting to but not exceeding?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

We are 2 months into 2014, what direction is your USTA League NTRP rating going?

It is the beginning of March and the winter that will never end is lingering over much of the country.  But that isn't stopping USTA League tennis from being played.  In the southern states, they get to play outdoors year round, but the rest of the country gets to play indoors to get their tennis fix in the winter.

Of the 17 USTA sections, 15 have already had matches played in at least one of the 18 & over, 40 & over, or 55 & over divisions for the 2014 season.  And played matches means dynamic ratings are being updated.  And updated dynamic ratings means players are interested in what they are doing.

After a quiet January, requests for Estimated Dynamic NTRP Rating Reports has heated up in February, especially the last week, as players have gotten enough matches under their belts that they are curious what their dynamic rating is.  I've even had some interested in team reports already, to see how their team is stacking up or to scout upcoming opponents.

And that means I'm off and running calculating ratings for 2014.  I can calculate an estimated dynamic rating for any player in any section, so drop me an e-mail if you are interested in finding out where your rating stands.

Or if you are just interested in musings and statistical information about USTA League play, follow this blog or like the NTRPRatings page on Facebook.