Barry Fulcher knows his way around the tennis court. A former ATP tennis player, a professional coach, Team FT program director and Captain of GB Men’s 35s team, Fulcher is also a UTR Progress Tour Director. He has been using UTR to run elite tennis events for players of all ages in the UK, promoting the power of UTR to facilitate level-based play and more competitive, successful tennis events.
This July, Fulcher is hosting the UTR Progress Tour Tennis Smart Showcase at the Sutton Tennis & Squash Club
in London, targeted at aspiring current and former professional players. This tournament caught the eye of reporter Fiona McWilliam, who spoke with Fulcher to discuss why he believes in UTR as the future for tennis. Read on for the full story:
A tournament in London at the beginning of July promises to further expand the already burgeoning popularity of UTR in the UK as well as featuring some of the world’s leading junior players.
The Tennis Smart Showcase, which runs from 4 - 7 July at the Sutton Tennis & Squash Club is the latest event in coach Barry Fulcher’s recently established UTR Powered Progress Tour. Targeted at aspiring current and former professionals, the tour is sponsored by US-based student placement company Tennis Smart, founded by former GB doubles number one Sarah Borwell. (Check out Sarah’s own UTR Real Story
“We’re aiming to attract more than 60 players, including some of Britain’s touring professionals and the world’s best juniors, who will be in the UK for Wimbledon.”
“We’re aiming to attract more than 60 players, including some of Britain’s touring professionals and the world’s best juniors, who will be in the UK for Wimbledon,”says Fulcher, GB Mens’ 35+ team captain. Players are guaranteed three or more matches. “As a showcase event,” he adds, “it will provide coaches on the recruiting trail from US colleges and UK universities with access to some of the very best young players.”
Having emerged in the US less than five years ago, the algorithm-based UTR system is fast growing in popularity here in the UK. This is thanks in no small part to the pioneering efforts of Fulcher, who coaches at Preston Lawn Tennis Club (PLTC) in the south coast city of Brighton & Hove. He describes the UTR system as “a much healthier form of rating than the current domestic rating system, as it is inclusive and encourages players to seek out and focus on good quality competition”.
One of the premises behind UTR is widening accessibility to the sport: the idea that all people at the same level should be allowed to play each other competitively, whatever their age. Under the current system, Fulcher explains, tennis loses out to other sports, especially football, as finding age- and gender-appropriate tournaments often involves a great deal of travel and expense.
The UK’s Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) declined to comment on its future intentions with regard to UTR, although head of competitions Keith Carder says it has been working with the system since 2016, and was the first Grand Slam nation to connect with UTR. And the LTA provides match results from British tennis competitions to UTR, he adds, “to enable British Players currently or considering playing college tennis in America to gain a Universal Tennis Rating”.
Another feature of Fulcher’s tournaments is the idea of offering expert guidance and advice to would-be players and their parents as an integral part of the event programme. “The ethos is one of compete, learn and earn”, he explains. This means that in addition to the overall winner’s prize of £800 (US$1071) a £400 (US$535) female bonus prize and an 18U bonus prize, the Tennis Smart Showcase will include free player/parent workshops with eminent players and coaches.
Last summer (July 2017) Fulcher hosted the country’s first UTR “genuinely open” mixed single tournament at his Brighton club. Open to everyone, whatever their age, level or gender, the £6,000 (US$8029)prize event attracted more than 60 players (aged from 11 to 71!), including more than 25 ATP/WTA professionals, from the UK, Ukraine, Spain and Argentina.
“It was a really successful platform for the Progress Tour and proved that there’s an appetite out there for this accurate and progressive rating system.”
“It was a really successful platform for the Progress Tour and proved that there’s an appetite out there for this accurate and progressive rating system,” says Fulcher.
Since last July Fulcher has organised three successful UTR Powered Progress Tour events, in Somerset, Cardiff and Brighton. A fourth, at Doncaster Lawn Tennis Club, will take place from the 28 - 31 May.
He is also planning a second UTR Prize Money Event at Brighton’s PLTC. Running from 29 July to 3 August, the event will again be sponsored by local company ISE Language School, it will also have the biggest winner’s prize (£2,500 ) in domestic British tennis.
Fulcher’s UTR events have already caught the attention of the UK tennis community and he was invited to talk about his work on Radio Wimbledon during last summer’s tournament at the All England Tennis and Croquet Club.
The UTR system has taken off in a big way in the US and Fulcher is determined to maximise its popularity here in the UK and very possibly further afield; he has, he says, had enquiries from potential tour organisers in several other countries.
In a recent article for the US magazine Sports Illustrated, ATP player council president and doubles expert Eric Butorac describes the UTR system as being “great for tennis in so many ways”. Butorac, who played a great deal of tennis in France, where a similar system exists, writes that he hopes all countries adopt the system, as it has the potential to “drastically change worldwide tennis for the better”.
This report was originally published in the May/June issue of UK Tennis Magazine. You can read more at http://www.uktennis.co.uk/index.php.