The USTA NTRP year-end ratings are out and 2014 leagues will be starting soon if they haven't already. Some players have been bumped up achieving what was perhaps a goal for 2013, but others with that same goal didn't quite make it. Whatever the case may be, if your goal for 2014 is to move up a level, here are some tips on how to accomplish that.
First, the way the NTRP algorithm works, every game counts. Winning a match 6-2,6-2 is going to do more to improve your rating than winning 6-4,6-4. It is the couple of games here and there that get away, especially when playing lower rated opponents, that is the difference between the players that get moved up and those that don't.
But it doesn't just matter when you win. We like to remember the good matches and ask how we didn't get moved up when we had such good results, often forgetting we had some real stinkers of a match too. These count just as much as the good matches and while nearly everyone is going to lose some matches, limiting the damage and keeping them as close as possible is another important factor in improving your rating.
Second, playing up is a good way to have the opportunity to improve your rating, but playing up will not automatically result in a bump up. If all you do is lose, and lose badly when playing up, your rating can actually go down. This is because you may be playing opponents that are also playing up, or opponents may simply be rated on the lower end of their level, and poor results against them will have negative effects on your rating. It is possible that you can do more to help your rating by winning convincingly at level rather than playing up. Of course, if you play up and do well and get some wins, that will likely result in your rating going up.
Third, and this one may be counter-intuitive, but playing with a lower rated partner can present more opportunity to improve your rating. The way the algorithm works is that it compares the expected result with the actual result for a match. If you play with a strong partner, you are supposed to win, perhaps easily, and a close win could actually hurt your rating. But if you play with a weak partner and pull off an upset win, that can really boost your rating.
Fourth, and perhaps most important, improve your game. Your rating is simply an indication of your ability based on your match results. The three items above are all about getting the most out of your opportunities, but in the end if your tennis skills don't change, your results won't change significantly and your rating isn't going to change very much. So go get a few lessons. Identify your strengths and weaknesses and improve your weaknesses and come up with a game plan that accentuates your strengths.
As you go through your new season with a rating improvement plan in place, you may start to see results in the form of more wins or more competitive matches when playing up. But how will you know if you rating is really improving? In some sections, there are Early Start ratings that give you an idea, but those often don't come out until July, August, or later. Another option for sections without early start ratings or those that don't want to wait is to get a mid-year Estimated Dynamic NTRP Rating Report that will give an accurate picture of your current dynamic rating and how each match has contributed to it.
Contact me for more information or even to get a report for your 2013 season to see why your rating ended up where it did.