Jay Friend Boosts UTR Rating and Secures Spot on University of Arizona Wildcats Team for 2022

Jay Friend Boosts UTR Rating and Secures Spot on University of Arizona Wildcats Team for 2022

5 min read

After a career-best 2021 season, Jay Friend (UTR Rating 12.79) is on his way to the University of Arizona this fall. The Japanese 18-year-old won three ITF junior titles, and honed his skills on the UTR Pro Tennis Tour, increasing his exposure to college coaches.

Friend was born in Tokyo and lived in Singapore and Australia before relocating to Barcelona and preparing for a move to Tuscon, Arizona. His mom is Japanese and his dad is from New Zealand, and he represents Japan in international competitions.

Moving all over the world could have made it very challenging for him to establish a ranking and get the attention he deserved from college coaches in the United States, but UTR Rating solves that problem. The algorithm takes into account all verified competition, including national, ITF junior, and pro matches — regardless of geographic location.

Playing His Best Tennis at the Right Time

Improving his UTR Rating was a key part of progressing his career from the junior to the collegiate level. When he started looking into colleges, his UTR Rating was in the low 12s. During the period it mattered most in the summer between his junior and senior years, he gained winning momentum and boosted his rating.

"For Arizona standards, I don't think was great, but by winning during the summer, more college options opened up,” Friend said. "I went on a visit to Arizona and then I saw their campus, the team, the facilities, and coaches, and was like, ‘Wow’. I was supposed to go on more visits, but I decided not to do that because I had already made up my mind.”

He will bring a lot of doubles prowess to his Arizona Wildcats team with seven ITF titles (with five different partners). Doubles skills are a big plus for collegiate players as the doubles point plays a pivotal role in the dual-match format.



Ramping Up His UTR Rating

He started the 2021 season at a UTR Rating of 12.05 and would get up to 12.66 by the end of December. The high school senior credits his PTT debut in June as the key to turning his year around.

“Before I started winning titles in juniors, I played my first UTR Pro Tennis event," he said. "I played well there and I gained confidence. Then I went to Holland and Spain, and I won my first ITFs. It all started from one Universal Tennis event.”

His exposure to college programs was boosted by Universal Tennis live streaming every match. Family, friends, and coaches can watch players compete all over the world, and it made Friend’s recruitment process a lot easier.

"I didn't have to really do a produced recruitment video to show what I can do because I could just send coaches my matches and it was enough,” Friend said.

Jay Friend is the No. 16 recruit in the high school Class of 2022.

Taking Advantage of Local PTTs

Friend has been playing ITF tournaments as well as PTT events and he hopes to turn pro after his collegiate career. His first PTT event was the Barcelona Men’s $25K Clay in June, where he made it to the quarterfinals. Over the span of the next three weeks, he'd win his first singles ITF J4 in Rotterdam, reach the semifinals of a J4 in The Hague, and pick up another J4 title back in Rotterdam.

PTT events maximize his time and efforts each week by filling them with guaranteed match play (thanks to the round-robin format) and prize money. On the ITF Tour, losing in qualifying or early in the main draw, means waiting around almost a week before having another opportunity. So far in 2022, Friend has played one PTT event, competing in six matches, which is more than the number of matches he played across three weeks of ITF tournaments in February.

The Barcelona PTT events are especially convenient for Friend as he lives five minutes from the host site. Many of Friend's peers compete in PTT events alongside him, making the experience both fun and challenging.

"You always get matches, no matter how you play,” Friend said of PTT. "And the level is so high so you're always guaranteed to play good guys."

Keep track of Friend's career on UniversalTennis.com or by following along on Instagram.



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