If you want to play a competitive sport like tennis and enjoy a challenge then you will probably be interested in participating in competitions. Playing against friends or playing at a club can be fun but for some, the thrill of winning a game or even a competition is what really attracts them to the game. The idea of winning a trophy or simply playing in a competitive format can be motivational for players of all ages and abilities.
In the US, there are many different ways that tennis players can enter tennis tournaments. The USTA (US Tennis Association) sponsors amateur tennis leagues as well junior tournaments. The type of tournament you apply to enter will largely depend on your age and location. For adults, there are local events that are run for age categories including open, 35+, 40+ etc. You can then use the USTA website to finds tournaments that are in your area.
For example, in the Los Angeles area there is a tournament organised by City of LA Rec and Parks open to all USTA members. So a good starting point is to sign up with the USTA which costs around $20 for juniors and $44 for adults. Membership will give you a number of perks including the chance to play in recreational leagues and tournaments across the US. They also offer family memberships and school memberships.
By signing up with USTA you will get information regarding tournaments that are scheduled and you can choose which ones to enter and are eligible for entering. Signing up for a league such as the Young Adults Leagues is easy, with numerous leagues across the US, such as the Sets in the City (love what they did there) leagues in NYC. There is a contact for the main organiser so that you can get in touch and arrange to go down to a session.
When you sign up with the USTA, you will complete a self-rating survey to indicate what level/ability you are, to ensure you enter the right type of competitions. Then when you play in tournaments your match scores are collated to calculate an appropriate NTRP for the following year. So a player’s rating will generally start off at 1.0 as a complete beginner and through practice and training, they will hopefully progress through different ratings. To play in USTA League play, they must be a minimum of 2.5 rating.
A player’s NTRP can go up and down depending on many variables, they may drastically improve at the beginning but their skills could deteriorate for example, as they get older or if they get an injury. They may not have time to practice as often as they used to and as a consequence, they could go from a higher rating down to a lower rating. So it is a fluid system that enables players to compete against players of a similar ability at the current time. There are a few tournaments that are open to non-USTA members and participants can sign up for as ‘entry level’.
For junior players, there is a tournament pathway that allows players of different abilities to get involved in the game. The So Cal Juniors, for example, starts on Level 7, which is entry level. The next progression is then local tournaments (Level 6). Level 5 is for section tournaments, offering regular competition and then levels 4, 3, 2 & 1 are the high-level events. For adults, there are age categories going all of the way up to 80+, so it is very age inclusive and there really is a level of tennis for everybody to enjoy competing.
If you are interested in getting started playing competitive tennis then the USTA should be your first place to see whether you want to become a member. If you are serious about competing and trying to improve your tennis standard, then entering sanctioned competitions will help you to achieve this.