For years, tennis players have been grouped by ability in an effort to make social events more enjoyable, and tournaments more competitive. While this may have worked specific local groups, it was not a universal way to establish consistent player classification.
The traditional method of characterizing player abilities in any sport is categories of “beginner”, “intermediate”, and “advanced”. Variations include advanced-beginner, beginning-intermediate and other combinations. In tennis, we’ve taken it one step farther to also include “A”, “B” and “C” categories. There really is no method to the madness, and we soon found that “A” doesn’t always equate to “advanced”, “B” with “intermediate”, etc.
The National Tennis Rating Program (NTRP) was formulated in 1978 as a method of classifying players throughout the country using one consistent set of guidelines. This loosely translates into an “A” player as having NTRP rating 4.0-5.0, a “B” player as 3.0-4.0, etc. At least now, even with generalizations, we can all speaking the same language.
Any tennis player can have an NTRP rating, and in fact it is recommended. Ratings are established by self-evaluation as well as visual observation by qualified verifiers. Categories are generalizations of skills, and are not meant to be static. Your NTRP rating will change based on improvements in your game or injuries that may keep you from playing.
Following are general guidelines for the NTRP categories. Starting with the first rating, 1.0, read all categories and decide which best describes your ability level. This will give you a good idea of where you stand in the NTRP system.
NTRP Rating Categories
1.0 This player is just starting to play tennis.
1.5 This player has limited experience and is still working primarily on getting the ball into play.
2.0 This player needs on-court experience. This player has obvious stroke weaknesses but is familiar with basic positions for singles and doubles play.
2.5 This player is learning to judge where the ball is going although court coverage is weak. This player can sustain a short rally of slow pace with other players of the same ability.
3.0 This player is fairly consistent when hitting medium-paced shots, but is not comfortable with all strokes and lacks execution when trying for directional control, depth, or power. Most common doubles formation is one-up, one-back.
3.5 This player has achieved improved stroke dependability with directional control on moderate shots but still lacks depth and variety. This player exhibits more aggressive net play, has improved court coverage, and is developing teamwork in doubles.
4.0 This player has dependable strokes, including directional control and depth on both forehand and backhand sides on moderate shots, plus the ability to use lobs, overheads, approach shots and volleys with some success. This player occasionally forces errors when serving. Rallies may be lost due to impatience. Teamwork in doubles is evident.
4.5 This player has begun to master the use of power and spins and is beginning to handle pace, has sound footwork, can control depth of shots, and is beginning to vary game plan according to opponents. This player can hit first serves with power and accuracy and place the second serve. This player tends to over-hit on difficult shots. Aggressive net play is common in doubles.
5.0 This player has good shot anticipation and frequently has an outstanding shot or attribute around which a game may be structured. This player can regularly hit winners or force errors off of short balls and can put away volleys, can successfully execute lobs, drop shots, half volleys and overhead smashes, and has good depth and spin on most second serves.
5.5 This player has developed power and/or consistency as a major weapon. This player can vary strategies and styles of play in a competitive situation and hits dependable shots in stress situations.
6.0-7.0 These players generally will not need NTRP ratings. Ranking or past rankings will speak for themselves. The 6.0 player typically has had intensive training for national tournament competition at the junior and collegiate levels and has obtained a sectional and/or national ranking. The 6.5 player has a reasonable chance of succeeding at the 7.0 level and has extensive satellite tournament experience. The 7.0 is a world-class player who is committed to tournament competition on the international level and whose major source of income is tournament prize winnings.