The staggered-entry format has players enter a tournament at different rounds, based on their established playing level. At the UTR National Open Clay Court Championships, UTRs will index those levels. Stronger players will start the event in more advanced rounds. An opening round of 16 entrants will fill the lowest flight, followed by four more flights of 12 players each, with the flights at progressively higher UTR levels. Everyone will get at least two matches. Four of the 16 playing on Day 1 will advance to Day 2, where they’ll compete with 12 entrants from the next flight up. Four competitors will advance daily from the matches on Days 2, 3, and 4 to duke it out the next day with 12 fresh entrants from the next flight up. Day 5’s matches will determine the semi-finalists, who’ll go through a traditional playoff for the championship the next day, with $5,000 in prize money at stake. “This format is beneficial to players,” says Lipka. “I say, let’s run some staggered-entry nationals with UTRs on different surfaces. We’re doing National Clay Courts—why not add national indoors, hard courts, grass courts?”Level-Based Play: The Key to Exciting Tennis
Woodmont Country Club -Rockville, Maryland
"Tennis is a game of competitive maturity- and to develop that, you need to play as wide a variety of players as possible and develop the options needed to solve any on-court problem."Juniors, college players, and adults will all mix it up at the Rockville tourney. This, for Lipka, begins to answer the riddle of how to get young American athletes to “play against an array of players and develop their games, rather than worry about rankings. Europeans develop skill, not rankings—they connect with the bigger picture. Making kids play only with the age group where they ‘belong’ is the opposite of what should happen. In age-based events, the skill set you succeeded with in, say, the 12-and-unders, is obsolete at the next level. Do you want to grow a plant in a jar, or in the woods? Which one will grow bigger, sturdier, hold up to duress and storms? “Tennis is a game of competitive maturity,” Lipka continues, “and to develop that, you need to play as wide a variety of players as possible and develop the options needed to solve any on-court problem. You want competitive matches based on ability, not age or gender. The UTR system enables the level-based play that makes this a reality. Nothing about UTR is flawed—it’s efficient, great for competition, fantastic from top to bottom.” The $5,000 in prize money is “important for a number of reasons,” Lipka explains. “Junior players have expenses, and they are allowed to win a certain amount. The day of amateur athletics is long gone. Half of the top players at the NCAAs have been out there playing pro events—money tournaments, Futures. College coaches are setting their schedules around ITF and ATP tournaments. Maybe a young player wants a new racquet. Why not go out and earn it? “The United States is the only country in which tennis is an amateur sport,” he continues. “Amateurism doesn’t exist in any sport, anywhere else. Guys get paid to play soccer, club basketball, junior hockey. It teaches you how to be a ‘professional.’ You learn how to act as a professional and compete as a professional. You’re worrying about how to hit a tennis ball, or how to get ranked higher. Forget it. Instead, figure out how to beat your opponent.” Make level-based play and staggered entry-point competition part of your tennis experience. Join UTR for free here.