Originally Posted by ohplease
There are plenty of problems with USTA play, but not the least of which is the fact that despite the number of levels (1.0-7.0 in 0.5 increments - about 14), only 5 are really used (2.5-4.5).
What that means is that you've got a huge disparity in playing level at each of those 5 levels. Even worse, there's a structural flaw in that only a few teams even have a chance of getting to districts, then secitional, regional, etc.
The end result being you often see hard fought, competitive matches in the first few rounds of local playoffs, between teams that are pretty much at the right level - where all they're really playing for is the right to get stomped by the one or two teams loading up for nonlocal competition in the local semis or finals.
In fact, this is what happened to my team, this year. I had the privilege of practicing with a different team not one, but TWO levels higher, and I'm not sure they could have beaten the team that killed us in the local playoffs. And I'm pretty sure the team going to districts at the level below us would have made the playoffs at our level, too.
I think the big issue here is the ratings aren't fluid enough. Have a bad season (below .300)? Either as a team or as a player? You get moved down. Have a good one (above .700)? You get bumped up. You see it in soccer and Davis Cup, why not amateur tennis, too?
As it is right now, you've got people managing scores and competing against some mystery number, instead of the guy across the net. That's just not right.
Also, benchmark players should be at the LOCAL level, not playoff. For any given level, the players that make it to regional competitions are by definition the cream of the crop. Skim them off.
Excellent post. In our local league there is 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5, & 5.0. The majority of the players are in the 3.0-4.0 range and this is where the widest range of ability is as well. There were only three 4.5 teams and two 5.0 teams locally and these were very close in skill level. In fact, the top two singles players in the 5.0 both had 4.5 ratings. The USTA should look into getting rid of anything below 3.0 and making everything above 5.0 into "open" and then adding in .25 increments.
Its also funny that you mentioned that winning over 70% of your matches should get you bumped. Last year, as a computer rated 3.0 from my first season of tennis and USTA in 2005 I went 6-2 (75%) at 4.0 and 4-2 (67 %)at 4.5 and got moved to 4.0. This year I went 9-0 at 4.0 and won over 70% of my games
at 4.0 and didn't get moved to 4.5 at the ESR.
You also mentioned competing against some mystery number instead of the guy across the net. I am in total agreement with this. Instead of just worrying about beating the other guy and competing the best I can, I have this number in the back of my head on what the score should be based on his record and his past performance if I want to become a 4.5. When something happens and this number is exceeded in the match its like the panic button is pressed and all of a sudden a 3 set win feels like a loss which is just wrong. I know your rating in the end is just a number and doesn't equate to your actual ability but it is still a measuring stick to base your improvement on and the way the system is now just doesn't make much sense.