We all, as club players, pretty much take it for granted that for the most part men and women with equivalent NTRP ratings are not equals on the tennis court. A 3.5 man is typically a better player than a 3.5 woman, and the same holds true at every level.
There are exceptions of course, but they prove the rule.
What I’ve been wondering lately, along with quite a few members of the Tennis Warehouse forums, is why this is so? And, more to the point, is this the best tennis rating system?
I’d posit an argument that this is not an optimal system. If it were up to me, the rating system would be one size fits all.
Imagine if the USTA re-rated every woman, dropping each a level. So every 4.0 woman instantly becomes a 3.5, every 3.5 a 3.0, and so on. At the same time, a new league format is introduced – we’ll call it “All” – so now we have four types of USTA leagues; Men’s, Women’s, Mixed, and All.
In the All league, the team could consist of a combination of men and women. For example, in a typical team match you might have two women playing together at #1 doubles against two men, or a man and a woman playing against two men. And in singles you could have a man playing a woman, two women playing, or two men playing.
The point being every member of the team, man or woman, is approximately equal in playing ability.
In an admittedly non-scientific poll I started in the Tennis Warehouse forums, about 80 percent of respondents (of approx. 100 total responses at the time of this writing) approved the idea of a single rating system that would be applied equally to men and women.
The main benefit of a system like this is instantly obvious; namely, more players in almost every level. This is good for club players, as it allows for more options and opportunities to play. It’s also good for the USTA, as an entirely new league means more league players, which means more money coming into the USTA coffers.
Drawbacks? Well, every woman might not particularly like a drop in her numerical rating – even if it is just a number. Then again, perhaps the same effect could be achieved by raising the rating of every man. Both options could be studied to come up with the best solution.
The first year could also be problematic, as the true competitive level of players is sorted out. After a year or two though, the ratings would work themselves out and everyone should find themselves enjoying competitive matches.
What do you think? Could something like this work? Or are the two sexes destined to be separated on the tennis courts, only to meet in the occasional Mixed Doubles match?