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Men’s Tennis Ratings and Recruiting Guidelines

Each year, American and international student-athletes compete for roster spots on NCAA and NAIA men’s college tennis teams across the U.S. This competitive process has even higher stakes when it comes to fighting for an athletic scholarship package to cover the costs of college. If a recruit is serious about competing at the collegiate level, he needs to understand what college coaches are searching for in potential recruits. From tennis rankings to competition experience to physical advantages, college coaches recruit athletes using specific criteria at each division level. This section looks at the different division levels and what skills make a recruit stand out to college coaches.

Tennis ratings and what they mean

Tennis ratings are used to identify an athlete’s experience level and understanding of the sport. As an athlete develops and refines their skillset, such as strokes, control of the court and forcing errors, their tennis ratings will increase. Unlike tennis rankings, tennis ratings help match athletes solely based on playing ability, without regard to age, ethnicity, gender, etc. For example, a 16-year-old male player could be matched with a 30-year-old female player if they both have a comparable tennis rating.

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What is the Universal Tennis Rating and how does it work?

Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) is the official rating system for college tennis in the U.S. UTR is an indexing system that rates a player’s tennis skills using a single 16-point scale. This rating system does not consider age, gender, nationality, or locale; only playing ability. Most college tennis players and junior tournament players worldwide use the UTR system.

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What are NTRP ratings?

The National Tennis Rating Program (NTRP) was designed to help athletes measure their playing ability and track their progress as they develop their tennis game. The system rates tennis players on a scale of 1.0 (beginner) through 7.0 in 0.1 increments. Each rating includes general characteristics and skills that define an athlete’s playing ability. Athletes are assigned a rating based on their performance in USTA-sanctioned junior tournaments, USTA Junior Team Tennis, men’s/women’s Opens, USTA Pro Circuit events and International Tennis Federation (ITF) events held in the U.S.

The main benefit of this system is that it rewards players through their tennis development and allows tournaments to match athletes with similar playing ability, rather than by age or gender.

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What is the difference between a rating and a ranking?

Unlike tennis rankings, which compare athletes of the same gender in a specific age group to one another based on their tournament performance, a player rating is a number assigned to an athlete that represents their personal playing ability, without regard to age, ethnicity, gender, etc.

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How do tennis rankings work?

Each tennis tournament has a certain number of points associated with it that are determined by the size of the tournament. Tennis players earn points for how far they advance during the tournament. At the conclusion of each year, tennis players can see how well they performed in tournaments during the calendar year compared to other athletes. Because the ranking system is based on weekly tournament participation, the tennis rankings fluctuate from week-to-week.

It’s important to note that tennis rankings don’t necessarily identify the best players. For example, Andy Murray was ranked No. 832 one week, despite being one of the best men’s tennis players in the world. What tennis rankings identify is the players that had the best tournament results during the current year. Athletes who perform unexpectedly well in a tournament can make a major jump in ranks as a result, just as an athlete can drastically fall in rank if they perform poorly in a tournament. This is why college tennis recruits should never rely solely on their rankings to impress college coaches during the recruiting process.

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How important are tennis rankings in recruiting?

When it comes to college recruiting, tennis rankings on Tennisrecruiting.net are where college coaches first turn to when building their list of prospects. Division 1 programs, in particular, will reference the list of top 50 players and look for athletes who are labeled as Blue Chip in their age group. Coaches will then cross-check these rankings by reviewing the athlete’s UTR rating. If a recruit is not ranked by Tennisrecruiting.net, it is unlikely that they will make a college coach’s list of potential recruits. 

For international athletes, coaches will focus on those that are ranked the top in their country. This varies from country to country depending on how competition is set up and whether the country uses the UTR rating system.

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Men’s tennis recruiting guidelines by NCAA Division level

  Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 3 Tier 4
  Top NCAA D1 Lower level NCAA D1; top level NCAA D2 and NAIA Lower level NCAA D2 NCAA 3
Tennisrecruiting.net 4-star recruit, preferred 5-star+, Blue Chip Minimum 3-star recruit, preferred 4-star+ Minimum 2-star recruit, preferred 2-star+ Minimum 1-star recruit, preferred 1-star+
UTR 12.5+ 11.5+ 9.5+ 11+ for top D3 programs, 6+ mid- to lower-D3 programs
National Rank Top 50–100 Top 200 Top 500 n/a

Tier 1 men’s tennis

Tennisrecruiting.net qualifications:

  • Minimum 4-star recruit, preferred 5 star+, Blue hip
  • USTA National Ranking 190 or below

Universal tennis rating:

  • 12.5 UTR

High school experience:

  • #1 singles, #1 doubles
  • 4 years varsity
  • Awards such as All-County, All-Conference, All-Region, All-State, MVP, Player of the Year
  • State champion

Club experience:

  • Extensive experience and training

USTA and ITA/ITF qualifications:

  • High Performance participation
  • Zonal team experience
  • U.S. national rank: Top 100 in age group; international players: top in country (varies per country)
  • ITF Rank: 200
  • ITF Rank: 200
  • Attend national-level tournaments: National Open, Section Closed, Winter Nationals, Clay Court Nationals, Orange Bowl, Eddie Herr, Hard Court Nationals, etc.

Attended one of the following tennis academies:

  • Evert Tennis, FL
  • Saddlebrook Academy, FL
  • Bolletierri Academy, FL/PA
  • John Newcombe Tennis Academy Camp, TX
  • ITA International Tennis Academy Camp, FL
  • Rick Macci Tennis Academy, FL
  • Windward Academy, GA

Tier 2 men’s tennis

Tennisrecruiting.net qualifications: 

  • Minimum 3-star recruit, preferred 4 star+
  • National ranking 190 or below

Universal tennis rating:

  • 11.5 UTR or higher

High school experience:

  • #1 singles, #1 doubles
  • 4 years varsity
  • Awards such as All-County, All-Conference, All-Region, All-State, MVP, Player of the Year
  • Top 5 state finish

Club experience:

  • Extensive experience and training

USTA and ITA/ITF qualifications:

  • Zonal team experience
  • National rank: top 200 in age group
  • ITF Rank: 300
  • Several years of experience preferred
  • Attend national-level tournaments: National Open, Section Closed, etc.

Tier 3 men’s tennis

Tennisrecruiting.net qualifications: 

  • Minimum 2-star recruit, preferred 2-star+

Universal tennis rating:

  • 9.5 UTR or higher

High school experience:

  • #1–2 singles, #1 doubles
  • 3+ years varsity
  • Awards such as All-County, All-Conference
  • State qualifier, high conference or regional finish

Club experience:

  • Experience required

USTA and ITA/ITF qualifications:

  • Zonal team experience
  • National Rank: top 200 in age group
  • ITF Rank: 300
  • Several years of experience preferred

Tier 4 men’s tennis

Tennisrecruiting.net qualifications: 

  • Minimum 1-star recruit, preferred 1 star+
  • National ranking 500 or below

Universal tennis rating:

  • Top academic program: 11 UTR or higher
  • Mid-lower: 6 UTR or lower

High school experience:

  • #1–3 singles, #1 doubles
  • 3+ years varsity
  • Awards such as All-County
  • State qualifier, high conference or regional finish

Club experience:

  • Several years of experience

USTA & ITA/ITF qualifications:

  • Sectional rank: top 250 in tier 1 section, top 150 in tier 2
  • National rank: top 600 in age group
  • Several years of experience preferred

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What tennis skills are most critical to master for college tennis

Many college coaches rely more on their personal evaluation than rankings when recruiting. Wins and losses are important, but they don’t always directly correlate to how a recruit hits the ball and sets up points and how they carry themselves during the match. Below is a list of tennis skills that are important to college tennis coaches.

  • Movement: Tennis players are constantly moving around the court switching from offense to defense throughout the match. To play a well-rounded game and build points, recruits need to have a variety of backhand and forehand shots, a drop shot, topspin lob and controlled rallies.

     
  • Endurance: The average tennis match is over an hour long. Recruits need to have both physical and mental endurance to keep up with the game and stay positive in challenging situations.

     
  • Adaptable: Tennis is played both inside and outside, as well as on a variety of different surfaces. College coaches look for athletes who are not intimidated by the elements and different environments because these athletes will likely adapt quickly during the transition from high school to college tennis.

     
  • Sportsmanship: It’s important for college coaches to understand a recruit’s character. They want to see how student-athletes conduct themselves during a match, whether they show good sportsmanship and if they are a team player. It’s easy for a college coach to lose interest in an athlete that is disrespectful and unsportsmanlike, even if they are talented.

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What are some tennis tournaments I should attend?

Below is a list of important national level tournaments that college tennis recruits should attend:

  • National Open
  • Section Closed
  • Winter Nationals
  • Clay Court Nationals
  • Orange Bowl
  • Eddie Herr
  • Hard Court Nationals

Find more men’s tennis camps and tournaments.

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