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Ask any serious triathlete what his resting heart rate is, chances are you won't have to wait long for an answer. Likewise, ask a marathoner about her average mile time and the answer will generally come forthwith, and accurate to the hundredth of a second.

And if you're talking tennis, it's all about the NTRP rating.

The USTA's National Tennis Rating Program (NTRP) is the official system for determining the levels of competition for all players. At first, a player's rating is a relatively simple self-assessment that later evolves into a dynamic number--updated after every officiated match--once a player engages in USTA competition, ranging from 2.5 for beginners up to 7.0 for professional players.

According to the USTA, "The primary goal of the NTRP is to help all tennis players enjoy the game by providing a method of classifying skill levels for more compatible matches, group lessons, league play, tournaments and other programs."

Self-Rating
Whether you're interested in competitive league play or a simple pick-up game at your local tennis club, the first step in determining your level of competition is to assess your NTRP rating using this simple self-rate guide, or when registering for a USTA league match through the TennisLink registration process.

Gone are the days when a player was required to visit a USTA-sanctioned rating facility and have an official rate their playing abilities. The new system is honor-based, allowing a player to quickly and easily evaluate their game and start playing tennis--with an equally matched opponent.

According to the USTA, "The rating categories are generalizations about skill levels. You may find that you actually play above or below the category which best describes your skill level, depending on your competitive ability. The category you choose is not meant to be permanent, but may be adjusted as your skills change or as your match play demonstrates the need for reclassification."

If unsure of your classification, the safe bet is to rate up rather than down. Players found to be "sandbagging" in competitive play--purposely downplaying their abilities in order to be pitted against an opponent of lesser ability for an easy win--risk disqualification and other penalties from the USTA.

Dynamic Rating
In 2003, all USTA sections implemented the Dynamic NTRP. Once you have self-evaluated your abilities and entered USTA competition, your scores are entered into a national database. A dynamic rating is the result of your current match averaged with up to three of your most recent dynamic results generated. The USTA’s automated data management system, TennisLink, integrates the national database and the NTRP program to provide a seamless flow of information.

Year-End Rating
A year-end rating is a NTRP level assigned at the conclusion of the league championship year that reflects level of ability. Year-end ratings are based 50 percent on one’s cumulative dynamic rating during the season and 50 percent on the comparison to the benchmark player.

Here's how it works: The USTA starts with your previous year-end rating, adds in your match scores, adds the ratings of your partners and opponents, then considers the closeness of the scores. The USTA then compares the score to the NTRP benchmarks--those players in the Adult or Senior Division who moved into championship level during the year--and combines that number with your dynamic rating. The final result is your NTRP year-end rating.

Utilizing the NTRP ensures that players will get more enjoyment from the game of tennis. And helps facilitate equal matching of opponents based on their playing abilities.

Click here for a general guideline for interpreting and determining your NTRP rating.

For more tips on how to improve your game, visit Active.com.

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Tags: NTRP, rating

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