Sunday, February 14, 2016

What NTRP rating combinations works best in 55 & over Adult? More Interesting Tennis League Stats

In USTA League play, the 55 & over division typically uses combined ratings rather than straight NTRP levels.  For example, in 18+ and 40+, you have 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5, etc. flights where the players must be at level or can be one level lower and play up.  But in most sections, the 55 & over division are combination leagues, e.g. 7.0, 8.0, 9.0 where the ratings of the players on court cannot exceed the level for the league.  This can work because the 55 & over division is only doubles and there is no singles.

A question then is, is it better two players at the same level or a higher and lower level player making a doubles team?  I've done this sort of analysis for Mixed doubles play in the past (it is also combination of levels) and it showed that the unbalanced pairs typically win more when playing balanced pairs.  While there are more permutations with Mixed, the unbalanced pairs when the male is higher rated do tend to win more often, 57-61% of the time.

I went ahead and did the same analysis for 55+ looking at results over the past three years.  Here is what it shows by level.

First the men:

  • 7.0M - 4.0/3.0 pairs beat the 3.5/3.5 pairs 58% of the time.
  • 8.0M - 4.5/3.5 pairs beat 4.0/4.0 pairs 56% of the time.
  • 9.0M - 5.0/4.0 pairs beat the 4.5/4.5 pairs 60% of the time.

And the women:

  • 7.0W - 4.0/3.0 pairs beat the 3.5/3.5 pairs 55% of the time.
  • 8.0W - 4.5/3.5 pairs beat 4.0/4.0 pairs 55% of the time.
  • 9.0W - 5.0/4.0 pairs beat the 4.5/4.5 pairs 69% of the time.

So the trend observed in Mixed seems to hold in 55+ too, both men and women.

Now, this obviously depends on how strong the players are for their level.  It is possible that the 3.0's that play 7.0 (and the 3.5s that play 8.0 and 4.0s that play 9.0) are strong for their level and they are playing the full range of ratings for players on the balanced teams, so that could be at least a partial explanation.

Another explanation may be that the unbalanced pairs have the strongest player on the court, and if they can assert themselves, that advantage is the reason the unbalanced pairs win more often.

What do you think?