“What’s your UTR?’’
In recent years in junior and college ranks, that question has become as ubiquitous as golf’s “What’s your handicap?” UTR Powered by Oracle is also increasingly used in the pros and by analysts to gauge a player’s performance. Now it’s becoming far more than a rating system – its owners hope to improve the overall tennis experience through the UTR platform.
UTR stands for Universal Tennis Rating, a data-driven measurement of tennis skills for all competitive players from Roger Federer to a 10-year-old in a local USTA event. Based on a 16-point scale, players are rated regardless of age, gender or geography. The rating is derived from players’ actual performance in matches and is based on the result as well as the quality of their opponent. (Serena is now 13.29; Federer is 15.82.) Ratings can be found at www.myutr.com.
UTR is valuable for many reasons:
• It allows players and organizers to set up matches between players with similar skill levels, which usually is more fulfilling for players.
• Because it rewards players for every game won, UTR motivates players to compete hard through an entire match, even if they are playing a better opponent.
• It is a tangible, quantifiable way to measure improvement.
• It’s the most reliable global index of tennis skill available, providing a simple metric to compare player skill level. Players’ UTR is based on their most recent 30 matches and can fluctuate throughout the year, providing a more real-time measurement as opposed to a fixed yearly metric.
The beauty of UTR, experts say, is that it allows access to everyone. Martina Navratilova noted, “UTR is ageless, genderless and borderless. It truly democratizes the game.’’ Created in 2008 by Virginia pro Dave Howell, UTR won early adoption among college coaches because it helped them gauge the quality of recruits globally without having to actually see the players. The Intercollegiate Tennis Association was an early proponent and used it for both recruiting and match scheduling.
Universal Tennis was recently acquired by an extraordinary investment group eager to harness the power of data to help improve the game. Led by venture capitalist and entrepreneur Mark Leschly, a former ATP-ranked player with degrees from Harvard and Stanford, the group also includes: Oracle CEO Mark Hurd, who played tennis for Baylor; John Griffin, founder of Blue Ridge Capital; Ken Solomon, President of Tennis Channel; Ken Hao of Silver Lake Partners; Jan Leschly, former CEO of SmithKline Beecham and a former top 10 ATP player, and the LA Dodgers investment group.
Mark Leschly said, “Our vision is to unify tennis and improve the experience for players worldwide. We want to create a level playing field where any player can get a rating, track their progress and find matches at their level, regardless of where they live. We’re not only making the game more accessible, but also less costly and more enjoyable for players who can now find more play and improve their tennis.’’
Hurd noted that technology is changing the game, from Hawk-Eye and other line-calling systems to the stream of innovations from UTR, which “is unifying the sport around a single, digital platform. We provide access to tools that tennis has never had before.’’
Universal Tennis has made incredible progress in the months since, refining the UTR platform and establishing a range of partnerships and associations to propel the organization forward:
• A sponsorship with Oracle that includes the use of Oracle technology and the branding of the rating system as “UTR Powered by Oracle.’’
• A partnership with TEAM8, the sports company which created the Laver Cup and is owned by Federer, Tony Godsick, Ian McKinnon and Dirk Ziff.
• Partnerships with academies and clubs, including the Rafa Nadal Academy, IMG Academies, Saddlebrook, Cliff Drysdale Management, Kim Clijsters Academy, Good to Great Tennis Academy, HEAD USA and others.
• An investment from Larry Ellison, Executive Chairman of Oracle and owner of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
There are now more than 855,000 players who have a UTR rating. The system contains results from more than 8.4 million matches in 204 countries and is a data clearinghouse for 2,152 college teams, and the numbers keep growing. Establishing a UTR rating is free. Anyone in the world can register on the website, get rated and find play. Subscriptions are available if players want to see more data and features.
UTR recently launched a tournament- and event-management system that allows organizers to create tourneys and events. The system can use player UTRs to select, seed and match players based on skill level. A mobile app is also in the works. And UTR is about to launch a community platform that will allow players and organizers to connect with others – a sort of “Facebook for tennis.’’
Oracle ITA National Fall Championships, November 7-11, Surprise, AZ
Oracle Challenger Series, November 10-18, Houston, TX