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Landmark Day for Australian Tennis

by Chris Bates, Founder of UTR Events Australia and Study & Play USA

Mark down the 20th January 2019 as perhaps what could prove to be a landmark day for the way tennis is played in Australia. And I am not simply referring to Ashleigh Barty’s history making victory against former world number one Maria Sharapova.

In fact, a significant announcement has been made – that Tennis Australia has aligned strategically with Universal Tennis, creators of Universal Tennis Ratings (UTR) in what could be a game changer for tennis in this nation.  The mutual goal of the partnership is to continue to grow the great game of tennis via level – based play, a hallmark of UTR’s success in several other countries.

In 2016, I had the privilege (along with my team at Study & Play USA) of pioneering UTR in Australia in partnership with Universal Tennis. For two whole years, as the sole providers of UTR style events across Australia, we took UTR to all corners of the continent and saw for ourselves the impact of level – based play on the tennis landscape down under.

What started primarily as a necessary move to help young Australians gain a UTR for US college recruiting purposes quickly became a quest to provide tennis events where players, coaches and parents were more relaxed and focused on competitive match play. No ranking points. No rankings. Less pressure. Closer, more competitive matches. Happy kids, parents and organisers.

Picture: Australia’s first UTR event (2016)

As we entered each new state, each player was surprised to find out that even losing a match could improve one’s UTR. This wasn’t about winning and losing but being as competitive as possible. There was no tanking. Players wanted to play better players rather than hoping for a ‘good draw’ through which to progress.

Fast forward nearly three years and we could not be happier to see that this concept has been endorsed by the governing body for our great sport.

And whilst it is not immediately apparent how UTR will be used and how quickly it can become part of the tennis landscape across the continent, here are the five biggest benefits that this partnership can bring to Australian tennis:

1. Key to US College Recruitment

Ok so I may be slightly biased here putting this at numero uno, but as the option to go to the US on scholarship is becoming more readily taken up by Australian school leavers, coming from a nation that supports UTR is critical. In our capacity as Australia’s leading recruiting agency Study & Play USA, we know that US college coaches use UTR as their primary recruiting guide globally. Not having UTR accessibility put Australian kids off the recruiting radar. That’s why we initially launched it down here. Players now will be able to access more opportunities to build their best UTR.  Players need to be educated about how they can maximise their UTR.  Study & Play USA helps college aspirants choose the right tournaments and in turn assist their recruitment.

2. Developmentally healthy

In our experience running level – based play competitions across Australia, matches are closer by design because players are playing opponents at their own level. This puts players in tight situations more regularly which is healthy for development. It provides great coaching data for coaches and helps with player enjoyment. As Dr Anthony Ross, founder of Mentally Tough Tennis, wrote back in his 2016 blog about UTR’s introduction to Australia, ‘every point counts’ with UTR.

3. Choices for Families

Imagine playing opponents according to level rather than just gender or age? Whilst I think there is a place for junior age – based events, providing choices for families is incredibly healthy. This brings about a new dynamic to tennis and one that allows clubs and event organisers to think outside the box in the way that tournaments and events can be run. Think mixed singles events, juniors versus seniors and more.

4. Let’s all get rated!

Universal tennis ratings allow players of all ages and levels to find their rating on one universal scale from 1-16. Players in clubs, mid – week comps, junior tournaments, school leagues, semi -professional and professional tournaments can find themselves on one rating. This allows anybody, anywhere to compare to anybody else in the world. Earlier in 2018 we saw a former professional player over 50 years of age play against a 16 – year old. They were matched according to UTR and it was a brilliant, close match. For the record, it was a win for the veterans :) This is the power of level – based play.

5. Flexibility for clubs and administrators

As long as a tennis match can be verified, it can count towards a player’s UTR. Imagine the possibilities here. Clubs can use UTR to grade players, select junior squads and I dare say that national academies can use it for selection into high performance programs too. Simply, the results from any events can be used towards each player’s own UTR. Pennant and fixtures results can all count. Tournaments can be run for one day as is the case in Sydney with Voyager Tennis or four – day carnivals with engaging off court events like at the NSW Country Championships in Forster. Organisers can group players by UTR guaranteeing level – based play. We even experimented in simply guaranteed level – based matches, win or lose, without any draws as such. The value is in the matches.

About Study & Play USA

Study & Play USA brings experience, expertise, track record and a commitment to the client’s best interests to deliver extraordinary outcomes for clients.

To place a student in the right University for the best long term outcome requires an expert’s understanding of the system within the USA, the students’ abilities, personality, interests and background. The world of sports and scholarships can be confusing and having been there himself Chris with his team at Study & Play USA helps his clients through the confusion by meeting with them and their families as well as assisting with setting up students with pre- USA examinations and other academic and sporting translations that need to be made.

Chris is well respected among coaches in all sports across the USA and it is these relationships that he has fostered which allow young Australians to pursue their dreams abroad, whilst vastly minimizing the financial burden that a sport and study balance can create for families.

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