Wednesday, December 6, 2017

USTA NTRP National Championships - Another opportunity for recreational tennis Nationals!

Anyone who reads my blog or follows USTA League tennis is aware of the National Championships that the USTA holds each Fall where players who played USTA League locally are able to advance through local playoffs, Districts/States, Sectionals, and make it to Nationals where they can compete against teams from 16 other sections to win a championship.  Championships are held at NTRP levels for both Adult (men's teams and women's teams) and Mixed teams.

But the USTA doesn't run just USTA League.  There are tournaments held throughout the year that are sanctioned by the USTA and these include both NTRP tournaments and as well as Open/Senior tournaments that are open to all of any age (Open) or of a minimum age (35+, 40+, 45+, etc.).

For the Open/Senior tournaments, there are select tournaments identified as championships that draw the very best in pursuit of winning the title.

What has been missing, until now, is the identification of a "champion" for NTRP tournament play.  Recently, the USTA has introduced the NTRP National Championships which is a "new national adult tournament that leverages the NTRP rating system as a way to create level-based competition at the 18 & over and 50 & over age groups".

The tournaments will be held for 18+ in Surprise, AZ April 6-8 and for 50+ in Naples, FL April 20-22 and include play at the 3.5, 4.0, and 4.5 levels in both singles and doubles.  The page says they there will be four-player round robins feeding into compass draws so each player/pair should get a number of matches in.

Interestingly, the scoring format is listed as Fast Four.  This has been experimented with in some events including the ATP NextGen tournament a month or so ago, and entails best-of-three set matches to four games with a tie-break at 3-3 in a set and tie-breaks the first to 5 win by one.  I like the idea of not having match tie-breaks for a third set, but am not sure about first to four sets.  But I guess if you are going to play upwards of 6 matches in three days, some sort of short format is needed.

To advance a player will need to play NTRP tournaments in their section and using criteria set by each section, quality to be a section's representative to the event.

Some sections will hold a Sectional tournament where players qualify for it based on tournament play during the year, say the top 8 or top 16 at a level advancing to Sectionals.  Others will just use the tournament rankings to determine the representatives directly.  See the link above with links to rules for various sections or contact info for each section's coordinator.

It is interesting to note that a couple sections have explicitly stated that self-rated players are not eligible to advance to Nationals.  I think this makes sense, you don't want to encourage players to self-rate too low to unfairly dominate at too low a level, especially since there are no 3-strike DQ's from NTRP tournament play.  There are some that feel that self-rated players shouldn't be eligible to go the USTA League playoffs or Nationals!

As there is often confusion about rankings vs ratings, particularly as it relates to NTRP play, a little clarification is probably a good idea.  See what I wrote several years ago for more details, but the summary is that a player generates an NTRP rating and associated year-end NTRP level from play in USTA League play (and sometimes NTRP tournament matches are included too), while a player separately accumulates points from NTRP tournament play based on how far they advance in a draw, and their ranking is just based on where the show up (rank) in the list of players with points.  So these are separate and distinct things.

In any case, this is a new opportunity for recreational players who have an NTRP rating/level to advance to a Nationals and get to play against peers from other sections.

What do you think?  Will you set new goals to play more tournaments because of the NTRP National Championship?