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Women’s Tennis Ratings and Recruiting Guidelines

Tennis player

All around the country and internationally, student-athletes strive to make NCAA and NAIA women’s college tennis teams and earn an athletic scholarship package to cover the costs of college. To compete at the collegiate level, student-athletes need to be dedicated to the recruiting process, which includes understanding what college coaches are searching for in recruits. During the recruiting process, college coaches take the time to review tennis rankings, competition experience, physical advantages and more. This section outlines what coaches at the different division levels look for in recruits and how recruits can stand out in the process.

Understanding tennis ratings

While tennis rankings are based on age, nationality, gender and competition performance, tennis ratings are based solely on an athlete’s experience level and understanding of the sport. As athletes develop important tennis skills, such as strokes, control of the court and forcing errors, their tennis ratings will increase. This system was created to better match athletes based on their playing ability.

The Universal Tennis Rating 

As the official rating system for college tennis in the US, Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) is an indexing system that rates a player’s tennis skills based on a single 16-point scale. This rating system ranks athletes based on their playing ability with no consideration given to other factors, such as age, gender, nationality and location. This is the rating system most used by college tennis players and junior tournament players worldwide, though not all countries have adopted the system.  

NTRP ratings

Athletes use the National Tennis Rating Program (NTRP) to gauge their playing ability and measure their progress as they improve. This system uses a scale of 1.0 (beginner) through 7.0 in 0.1 increments to rate athletes based on general characteristics and skills that define their playing ability. An athlete’s rating is determined by their performance in USTA-sanctioned junior tournaments, USTA Junior Team Tennis, men’s and women’s Opens, USTA Pro Circuit events and International Tennis Federation (ITF) events held in the US.

Tennis rating vs tennis ranking 

Tennis rankings are used to compare athletes of the same gender in a specific age group to one another based on their tournament performance, while tennis ratings assign a number to an athlete that represents their playing ability. College coaches refer to both tennis rates and rankings when evaluating recruits during the recruiting process. 

How do tennis rankings work? 

Tennis rankings are determined by an athlete’s tournament performance. Depending on the size, each tournament has a certain number of points associated with it. The number of points that an athlete receives is determined by how far they advance during the tournament. At the end of each year, athletes can reference their tennis ranking to see how well they performed in tournaments, compared to other athletes. 

It’s important to note that rankings fluctuate from week to week because the system is based on weekly tournament participation. With that said, tennis rankings don’t always identify the best players. For example, Serena Williams was ranked No. 26 one week, despite being one of the best women’s tennis players in the world. When an athlete performs unexpectedly well in a tournament, they can make a major jump in ranks as a result. Similarly, an athlete that performs poorly in a tournament can drastically fall in rank. While college coaches do reference tennis rankings, it’s important for recruits to remember that there are other ways to impress coaches.

What rankings are important in the recruiting process? is what most college coaches reference when they begin to build their list of potential recruits. At the Division 1 level, coaches focus primarily on athletes ranked in the top 50, especially those that are labeled Blue Chip. To cross-check these rankings, coaches will review the recruit’s UTR rating. Recruits not ranked by are unlikely to make a college coach’s list of potential recruits.  

When it comes to international recruiting, athletes must be ranked the top in their country in order to catch the attention of college coaches. International recruiting varies from country to country and depends on the level of competition and if the country uses the UTR rating system.

Women’s tennis recruiting guidelines by NCAA Division level

 Tier 1Tier 2Tier 3Tier 4
 Top NCAA D1Lower level NCAA D1; top level NCAA D2Lower level NCAA D2NCAA D3 or NAIA
National RankTop 50–100Top 200Top 500n/a

Tier 1 tennis qualifications:

Universal tennis rating:

High school experience (not critical to play HS tennis):

Club experience:

USTA and ITA/ITF qualifications:

Attended one of the following tennis academies (not necessarily indicative of high level):

Tier 2 tennis qualifications

Universal tennis rating:

High school experience:

Club experience:

USTA, ITA, ITF qualifications:

Tier 3 tennis qualifications: Depending on program, unranked could be ok

Universal tennis rating:

High school experience:

Club experience:

Tier 4 tennis qualifications: Depending on program, unranked could be ok

Universal tennis rating:

High school experience:

Club experience:

USTA, ITA, ITF qualifications: Not overly applicable

What tennis skills are most essential for college tennis 

Personal evaluations are just as, if not more, important than rankings when it comes to college recruiting. While college coaches want elite tennis athletes, they also want to evaluate a recruit’s ability to hit the ball, set up points and carry themselves well on the court. Below is a list of tennis skills that coaches look for when evaluating college tennis recruits.

What tennis tournaments should I attend?

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

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