Saturday, August 2, 2014

USTA Age Group vs NTRP Tennis Tournaments

I usually focus on USTA League play as that is where Dynamic NTRP Ratings are calculated and that is what I do reports on.  But the USTA sanctions tournament play as well and does so in a couple different categories.  Since I just played in one, I thought it might be interesting to write about them.

There are NTRP tournaments where players use their NTRP rating to play at the appropriate level, similar to USTA League.  Players without a rating must self-rate as one must do for USTA League, and those with a rating must enter a tournament at their current level or higher.  So someone with an NTRP rating of 3.5 can enter a NTRP 3.5 tournament draw but they could also play in the 4.0 draw.

Players that play NTRP tournaments will accrue points based on the rounds they win, the deeper in a tournament they go the more points are available to accumulate.  Points are kept track of in a variety of categories based on the tournament type and level and rankings are based on a simple ordering of the accumulated points.  To accumulate more points, you have to play more tournaments, although I believe there is a cap on the number of tournaments that can be included.

As far as NTRP ratings go, a player that plays only in NTRP tournaments and not USTA League will get a tournament exclusive or "T" rating.  If someone plays in both NTRP tournaments and USTA League, their tournament results will be included in the year-end calculations if they are from a section that chooses to do so.  Whether to include them or not is up to each section.

A challenge with T ratings is that they are only calculated at year-end and there is no 3-strike disqualification.  This means that someone that plays only tournaments can self-rate lower than they should and clean-up at a lower level, even while playing a higher level and doing well there.  And until year-end, there is nothing stopping them from doing so.  Because of this, some consider NTRP tournaments to be not worthy of their time and discount anything NTRP related.  Instead they advocate age group tournaments.

Age group tournaments require, like you would expect from the name, entrants to be a minimum age for a given draw.  These tournaments will sometimes be called "Senior" but will oftentimes also include an Open draw allowing players of any age to enter.  The age groups start at 30 and go up in 5 year increments, although some may be skipped for a given tournament.  In the tournament I just played, they started at 35, skipped 40, but then had all groups from 45 thru 80.  You are not required to play in the closest group to your age, you can "play down".  You can't play up of course.  For example, I played in the 45s with a partner that could have played in a higher age group, but I am not allowed to play up so he had to play down with me.

Age group tournaments do not factor in to NTRP ratings at all.  Instead players accumulate points and can become ranked based on their points.  The goal here is to get as high a ranking as possible on the list for your age group.  Points are accumulated based on a points per round system and not based on wins/losses or scores.  Tournaments will be of varying categories that dictate how many points are given out.

The challenge with age group tournaments is that they will typically draw the best of a given age group to play.  This means the recreational player may not be competitive, especially at the lower age groups.  For example, the 35s will typically have 5.0 and above level players competing.  If a 35 year-old player at 4.0 or below were to enter, it would likely be a blowout and not a good experience for either that player or their opponent(s).

So there is a place for both NTRP and Age Group tournaments.  What do you think?  Which do you prefer to play and why?