The USTA’s Southern California Tennis Association (SCTA) announced in late December that it will use Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) to seed its junior events at Levels 1-4 throughout 2017. The decision builds on SCTA’s declaration of last spring that UTR would become, along with the Southern California Standings List and the USTA Rating System, a criterion for seeding Level 1-4 junior tourneys for the remainder of 2016. The new commitment establishes UTR as the key tool for seeding, relegating the USTA Rating System and the SoCal Standings List to tiebreaker status in cases where two player have identical UTRs. “I’ve followed UTR long enough to know its power and strength,” says Trevor Kronemann, director of junior tennis for the Southern California Tennis Association (the USTA’s Southern California section), “and I feel it can do some things to help our juniors.”
"UTR holds up the best. It gives us the ability to be innovative.”
By seeding with three different systems during the latter part of 2016, the SCTA was able to compile and compare statistics. A good measure of seeding accuracy is the frequency with which the seeds survive deep into the draw. Kronemann examined spreadsheets on the 2016 junior matches and the conclusion was clear: “UTR holds up the best.” When a tournament seeded its draw with UTR, 80 percent of the seeds reached the quarterfinals. The comparable figures for the USTA Rating System and the SoCal Standings List were 70 percent and 55 percent. “These are not small numbers,” he says. “With eight seeds, a 20-25 percent difference can mean two more players reaching the quarters.” UTR also helps seed players who come to southern California from other sections in the States, or even abroad. (There are many tennis academies in Southern California, where athletes from Florida, New York, France, Germany, and other places enroll.) “If we have no idea of their ability level, they could come into the draw unseeded and upset the #1 seed in the first round,” Kronemann explains. “Those players should have been seeded.”
UTR can also change event structures. “It gives us the ability to be innovative,” he says. “We can group people into flights based on their UTRs, and have them play a round-robin or compass draw instead of single-elimination, which can mean ‘one and done’ for half the players. We can break down a draw of 16 into four groups of four based on their UTRs, and have lots of competitive tennis in one weekend. Everyone plays everyone else in their group, and gets three matches.
“With a UTR-based round robin, you can play two matches Saturday, one on Sunday morning, and be a human being again Sunday afternoon."
“A lot of our events are big, often with draws as large as 128. The matches will stretch out over two weekends,” he continues. “With a UTR-based round robin, you can play two matches Saturday, one on Sunday morning, and be a human being again Sunday afternoon. The matches will all be competitive. And juniors don’t have to spend four weekends a month on the road.” Furthermore, a UTR-based event creates more contact between players in a round robin. “Such a different environment,” Kronemann says. “It gives people a chance to mingle socially and get to know each other—they may want to practice together. When you have 6-0, 6-1 matches, that doesn’t help either player. Moving forward, you can eliminate age divisions. UTR just does powerful things. I’m a very average golfer, but I know my handicap and can compete with anybody in the world. We’re losing kids to other sports. We need to make events more fun, more social, and put a reasonable time limit on it.”
Kronemann coached college tennis for 16 years at University of California, Irvine and California Polytechnic State University before taking his present position. He’s excited about what UTR offers college coaches. “With UTR as a starting point, I can have a real conversation with a recruit about their chances of playing for my team, or at another school,” he says. “And there’s no need for me to spend $6,000 on a trip to Europe to see a German or French kid play. I can settle it right at my desk. I can Skype them and say, ‘You can compete with our #3 through #5 players.’ And at an intercollegiate match, you can give your #7 through #10 players a match; the results won’t count for the team score, but they will definitely feed into the players’ UTRs.” “I think UTR is the best thing there is to measure the ability of players soundly,” Kronemann concludes. “We haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s possible yet.”
Want to organize an event around UTR? Go to the UTR Events page to get started.