In competitive tennis, there is always some means of ranking the players. This serves two main purposes: giving the players something with which to measure their achievements, and determining who gains entry to the best tournaments.
There are several ranking systems that are widely used in junior tennis. These will all put the players in order, albeit using different criteria. A good position in the junior rankings can give players the right to a place in a professional event, as well as potentially attracting sponsors and drawing the attention of colleges. In this article, we will look at how the two most prestigious junior ranking systems operate.
Junior tennis rankings work based on a points system, where different levels of tournament carry a different amount of prestige, and hence ranking points. The amount of ranking points obtained depends on which round a player loses in. Results in the various events contribute towards a player’s USTA and ITF junior rankings.
A good ranking can bring many benefits, not least financial. Both types of ranking are important in the US, but elsewhere only the ITF list has significance.
The Different Junior Tennis Levels (Explained)
Junior tournaments are normally placed in one of seven levels by the USTA:
- Level 7 tournaments are described as ‘futures’ events, and offer a starting point for players new to competition.
- Level 6 ‘challenger’ events are for players who are ready to move beyond level 7.
- Level 5, 4 and 3 events are called the ‘championship’ circuit and offer the highest levels of regional competition.
- Level 2 and 1 events are typically national. For example, the qualifying events for the national championships would probably be level 2, and the championships themselves would be level 1.
The junior ITF grade international events work in a similar way, using eight main categories. For ITFs, level 5 events are the starting point, where players will normally earn their first ITF ranking points. Tournaments become more prestigious up to level 1, at which point a continent’s best players are likely to be involved.
Above these lie levels A, B and C. Level C is for international team events; level B includes regional championships; level A applies primarily to the four grand slams.
How Do USTA Junior Tennis Rankings Work?
The USTA junior rankings are fundamentally based on a ‘points per round’ system, whereby the points obtained increase according to the round reached in an event, with more points being earned from higher-level events.
Singles and doubles rankings are combined in a single figure, with singles carrying more weight, and are taken from a player’s best six events from the period under consideration. Level 1-3 events count for national rankings, while levels 4-7 contribute towards sectional rankings.
A further contribution to a player’s ranking comes from bonus points. These are issued on a sliding scale for wins over top-500 players, although these are only included in the ranking calculation if the event where the win occurred is one of a player’s best six. Bonus points (only) are also issued for performances in junior Grand Slam events.
The USTA distinguishes between ‘standings’ and ‘rankings’. Standings are calculated on a rolling 12-month basis, and include points earned in any older division, as well as 20% of those earned in the next younger division. Rankings are calculated on a calendar year basis and only include points from a single age group.
How Do ITF Junior Tennis Rankings Work?
ITF junior rankings are less complex than the USTA version. They do, however, have several key points in common.
Essentially, the ITF junior rankings work on a pure ‘points per round’ basis, with the allocation of points being greater for the higher-level events. A player’s ITF ranking is calculated from their best six singles and doubles results, with the former given a higher weighting, on a rolling 12-month basis.
All ITF junior tournaments count towards world rankings, and there are no bonuses for beating specific players.
Are There Benefits To Being Ranked Well?
The answer to this is a resounding yes! Having a good USTA ranking will allow you to gain entry to the strongest and most prestigious tournaments. On top of this, college recruiters and potential sponsors will certainly take note if you get close to the top of the list.
A high ITF ranking has similar benefits to the USTA version, but on a worldwide scale. International sponsors will certainly take an interest in any player who is in the top echelon. On top of this, players with good rankings will get the chance to play in the junior Grand Slams, bringing more prestige and sponsorship potential.
Another benefit stems from the fact that the ITF administers the lower levels of the professional game. They allot places in the draw at many professional events to players with good junior rankings who would not otherwise have qualified, making it far easier for players to earn their first senior world ranking points.
USTA vs ITF: Which One Is A Better Path?
This probably depends upon your ambitions. If you plan to remain based in the US, attend college, perhaps with a scholarship, and continue to play tennis recreationally, your USTA ranking is all you need to attend to. There is no point in even playing ITF events if this is your preferred path.
On the other hand, if you have ambitions of becoming a professional, aim to play the junior Grand Slams, and are looking for the best possible sponsorship deal, you need to build an impressive ITF ranking through performances in international events. It will cost more to play internationally, but if you are good enough (and lucky enough) the rewards will eventually come.
Getting a good junior ranking is an important part of demonstrating your progress as a player, and it can bring numerous benefits. Keep in mind, however, that to succeed in professional tennis you will need to improve as a player and an athlete, and this is what you should focus on.