7 min read
Much has been made in the last few years of the success of Universal Tennis (UTR) and the UTR rating. With UTR creating somewhat of a recruiting revolution in the college tennis world, and with the platform offering reliable, accurate ratings of the current forms of professional players, some might think that UTR is only for elite athletes.
Nothing could be further from the truth. As world World No.1 and 17x Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic has put it, “UTR is the best way to measure yourself against all other players, regardless of their age or level.” In other words, it is not only world-class players and aspiring collegiate athletes who can benefit from what UTR has to offer. Adult tennis players can, too.
One way they can do that is through UTR Flex Leagues. Launched in summer 2020, UTR Flex Leagues are for both juniors and adults and guarantee four competitive matches a month based on the world’s most accurate rating system. They have already seen healthy growth and engagement across the United States—for example, in its first session, the New York City Flex League saw over 100 players take part. Hawaii’s UTR Flex League was even more impressive as it hosted more than 200 competitors, with several collegiate players participating and players with UTRs as high as 12.85 taking part.
“I liked the UTR rating system and the nuance it offers when it comes to rating as opposed to the NTRP scale. I like that it updates so quickly. I have a tab open on my computer and I check it every day. It’s also great that it’s all-inclusive. Any match I play is factored into my rating, not just UTR matches.”
The unique, flexible format of UTR’s Flex Leagues has been a boon to working professionals as well. An experienced player in France when he was a junior, David Khuat-Duy now runs a company in the San Francisco area. As the Founder & CEO, his responsibilities limit the amount of time he can make for tennis. But the UTR Flex League allows him to organize matches on his own calendar. “It’s well-suited for someone like me, in that it’s flexible. You can also work out with your opponent which venue you will play at. It’s my second Flex League, so while I’m not super experienced in it, the level of play has been great—lots of competitive, close matches.” Khuat-Duy, who is 50, also commented that the structure of the Flex League allows him to be in his best condition for each match. “I’m not that young, so playing multiple matches in a couple days is tough on my body. So it’s great for me because I can recover and feel as if I am in good shape for all my matches.”
At $25 for Power Subscribers and $35 for non-Power users, Flex Leagues guarantees four matches each month at your UTR level. Another working professional who has benefitted from the Flex Leagues is Daniel Pias, whose last foray into competitive tennis was in 2004. After restarting tennis in 2019 through USTA leagues, he found he wanted to continue playing in 2020.
The UTR Flex Leagues stood out for him on two fronts: first, because of the UTR rating platform that they ran on; and second, because of the flexibility they afforded him. “I liked the UTR rating system and the nuance it offers when it comes to rating as opposed to the NTRP scale. I like that it updates so quickly. I have a tab open on my computer and I check it every day. It’s also great that it’s all-inclusive. Any match I play is factored into my rating, not just UTR matches.” On the UTR Flex Leagues, Pias said: “It’s been a great way to meet people who are the same level as I am. I’ve found hitting partners and doubles partners from it, and I’ve also been able to do it socially with friends. I also appreciate that there are standings and rankings after every Flex League. We all want to know where we stand.” When asked for feedback or criticism on the Flex Leagues, Pias commented that he wanted even more tennis, saying, “I’d love for seasons to be 6–8 weeks long!”
League managers at large clubs across the country have also seen the benefits of utilizing UTR Flex Leagues in their organizations. Chris Nyholm, the Director of Tennis at the HCC Tennis Center and the UTR Flex League Manager for the Tampa Bay area, had this to say: “With COVID, the great thing about UTR Flex Leagues is that they’re much safer right now than traditional tournaments which have up to a hundred or more players. There are no large gatherings, but players still get great matchplay experience.” When asked about the business impacts of starting the UTR Flex Leagues, Nyholm commented, “It’s another avenue for members and players to get involved in tennis. The Flex Leagues have filled a lot of dead space in terms of court bookings, too. There used to be times that were always dead but I’m finding that more players are booking those slots to play their matches. We’re able to increase revenue and players are able to have competitive matches. It’s a win-win on all fronts.”
“With COVID, the great thing about UTR Flex Leagues is that they’re much safer right now than traditional tournaments which have up to a hundred or more players. There are no large gatherings, but players still get great matchplay experience.”
Similarly, Mary Cornell, a USPTA Elite Pro and Tennis League Manager for Life Time, said that “members have enjoyed our singles UTR Flex League. They feel the website
For players of all standards, UTR Flex Leagues have been beneficial to ex-college players interested in staying in touch with tennis, too. Nicky Valdecanas played at Sonoma State for three years before moving back to San Jose to pursue a career in tech. A recent graduate, he found himself missing the competition of college tennis. But UTR’s Flex Leagues served as the perfect avenue back. “I was trying to get back into tournaments but I didn’t want to travel too much. The UTR Flex League did it for me. I get a guaranteed number of matches a month, a lot of people are working remotely, so tons of them are flexible with their time.” Speaking on the benefits of the UTR Flex League format, Nicky added: “It’s not like a traditional tournament; you know the exact times. There’s no waiting around a venue for hours. I’d imagine it’d be useful for junior players as well because if they have a tournament during the weekend, they can prepare with matches during the week by playing the Flex League.” On the level of his opponents, Nicky added: “Every match has been competitive, which I like because I miss playing in college.”
“Every match has been competitive, which I like because I miss playing in college.”
UTR Flex Leagues are for players of every caliber — whether you’re a working professional who’s interested in dusting off their racquets and hitting the court again, a junior looking for match play that counts towards your UTR, or an ex-college player looking to keep their passion for the sport alive.
They are also useful for organizers looking to ignite participation at their clubs in covid-safe ways without the hassle of hosting hundreds of players for a traditional tournament.
Interested in igniting your competitive spirit, playing matches on your own schedule, and getting a guaranteed four matches a month? Join the thousands of ex-college players, competitive juniors, and adults of all standards finding level-based match play through a UTR Flex League. They’re growing fast and are currently available in 20 of the United States’ most popular tennis cities and areas—with plans to keep expanding nationwide.