Wednesday, August 28, 2019

What's your Universal Tennis Rating?

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Contributor


Do you know what your Universal Tennis Rating is? You might already have a Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) and just not know it! EVERY tennis player can have a UTR. Whether you’re a league player, recreational, junior, college player, or a tennis pro playing the circuit, UTR is available for everyone and will provide the most accurate measurement of a player’s true skill level. Sooo what is it? How do I look up my UTR? How does it work? Also, because I’m sure for those USTA players out there you might be thinking, I have a USTA rating so why would I want to know my UTR? 

Because its universal. Because its affordable. Because it can accurately match up players more competitively. UTR embraces and rates every type of player out there, not just those with a USTA membership. So you can now accurately compare your skills across the globe with those at any age, experience-level and gender. 

Unlike the USTA that uses a rating scale of 1.0-beginner to 7.0-advanced to gauge your playing level, UTR has a rating scale of 1.00 to 16.50. Why the big scale? Because there is a wide variety of players out there! You have your beginners, intermediate players (recreation/league players fall anywhere from 2.00-5.00 on average), high school players, tournament players, collegiate players (typical range is 9.00-13.00), and top-professionals (Roger Federer has a 16.14 UTR) all being rated along one scale. If you’ve played any sanctioned tournaments or are in any adult leagues such as the USTA, then you may already have a UTR and can simply claim your profile by searching for your name. If you’re brand-spanking new to competitive tennis, you get rated by posting a score from a casual hit or by playing recreational matches and poof, you have a UTR! Your UTR will become more reliable after approximately 5 matches, and then will continually update after each subsequent match.

The goal of @MyUTR is both simple and ambitious: measure every player’s ability along one scale.





So how does it work after you get rated? UTR calculates down to the 1/100 of a point and lets you know exactly where you stand by being super transparent with letting you know how its algorithm works. The UTR algorithm calculates your match rating and the match weight and averages the matches you've played to come up with a player’s UTR. What this means is it looks at the match rating (numeric level) and calculates based on how you perform vs. the expectation of the match. So if you're expected to win a close match against an opponent but end up dominating 6-1, 6-1, then your match rating goes up. Even if you are expected to lose, but then end up having a closer match than what was expected, your UTR will go up. Look at it as a win even though you didn't technically win! 

The match weight is actually pretty interesting because matches are weighed heavier on numerous accounts, such as playing an opponent that is closer in numeric rating than somebody 2 points above/below you, playing someone with a more reliable UTR which means they play often, and playing longer matches. A match format that is best of 2/3 sets has more weight than a match with a 3rd set tiebreak. So after looking at both your match rating and weight then voila! you get your new calculated UTR. Also, everything is in real-time. The system updates your rating after every match played (with the exclusion of mixed) within the last 12 months. That includes verified/sanctioned matches and tournaments or just a casual match at the park. 

Here’s my takeaway:  As a newbie to the UTR system I like it. It’s easy to get started, simple to track, and I like that it tracks your progress real-time. Yes, the USTA system is one of the best rating systems out there, because really what else was there to compare to before? The problem I see with tracking a player's level solely on the USTA rating system is we’ve become accustomed and groomed to compete based off of how we think it will affect our rating vs. going out there and competing to the best to our ability. Also, for some players I feel like it has become more of a status symbol. I’ve seen groups of friends break up based on ‘moving up or down’ in the world of USTA league tennis.  And that is why tracking your UTR instead can be so refreshing. We don't have to have this win or die mentality or that we have to "protect" our rating for whatever reason, but rather go out and compete often and win as many games as possible, because at the end of the day that is what makes you a better competitor.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Are you ready for a change?

Barbara Youel | Towpath Member Author of "First Serve", a plant-based cookbook with a tennis theme

The Game Changers in theaters 
Monday, September 16, 2019.
August, 2019.  It’s the annual summer break from scheduled tennis drills and matches. For me, it’s a time to take stock of my fitness, both mental and physical. The first of January may be the traditional day for resolutions, but I never feel moved to much action in the dead of winter. August, on the other hand, is a time of promise and anticipation of cooler temps and less humidity, the autumn holidays, (especially Thanksgiving), and a kind of positive energy that creates my kind of momentum. Fall Interclub and USTA leagues are just around the corner as well as chances to be more intentional and motivated during weekly drills at Towpath.

For a different kind of powerful motivator, you can also mark your calendars for the Monday, September 16 public release of the documentary, The Game Changers. I had the chance to see this in June at an Engine 2 Immersion event and highly recommend it if you are interested in improving your fitness for life, both on and off the courts. 

Executive producers James Cameron (Titanic), Arnold Schwarzenegger, Novak Djokovic, Lewis Hamilton, Chris Paul, Rip Esselstyn and others headline the big names behind this film. I was glad to see that my favorite doctor, Michael Greger MD (author of “How Not to Die”), is the film’s scientific advisor. An excellent choice in my book!

Some of the team behind the highly-anticipated vegan documentary, 
The Game Changers. (Photo: Plant Based News)
This documentary follows the training and successes of various elite athletes who excel in tennis, weightlifting, bodybuilding, trail running, cycling, football, auto racing and more. To what do they owe their success? PLANTS! Not only have whole plant-based foods enhanced their performances, their recovery times have markedly improved too. Now, before you think that this is not for you – we are amateur club players, not professionals traveling the world with a nutritionist, physical therapist, hitting partner and coach – think again. The Game Changers is a fast-paced 88 minutes all focused on dispelling the myth that animal products are the key for athletic success. It’s for you and it’s for me and for all who want to be fit, active, perhaps pain-free and disease-free and oh yes, happy! See you at the movies!

(Towpath Tennis Member, Barb Youel, is the author of "First Serve: 40 Delicious Plant-Based Recipes for a Year of Tennis Grand Slams & Club Matches", Lean Green Living LLC, 2017. Copies are available exclusively at Towpath Tennis Center for $16.95. You can order yours today at 330-928-8763 or stop in The Shop for your copy today.)

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Best Practices with the Ball Machine

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Contributor


Have you heard of the phrase, “practice makes perfect?” How about, “perfect practice makes perfect?” If you're getting on court and hacking up some sloppy shots just because its a practice (guilty✋), then you're not making the practice perfect. Perfect practice is playing and executing shots as you would in a match setting. But I get it, some days when you're having a particularly bad day with say your backhand, it's difficult to work on it in the middle of a group lesson or drill. So instead, grab the perfect practice partner that will work tirelessly with you while happily putting up with all the junk you might hit—the ball machine! With the upcoming USTA season, we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to aid in your quest in perfecting your practice by creating a list for ‘Best Practices with the Ball Machine.'

Best Practices with the Ball Machine

  • Make a plan before you get onto the court. Don’t just come out to hit and see what happens. Think about what you need to perfect; forehand, backhand, slice, top-spin, approach shot, overhead, volley, footwork—the ball machine will do it all.
  •  Don’t do too much in one setting. For instance, make a list of your weakest shots and focus on 1 or 2 that are giving you the most trouble. Then practice and repeat, repeat, repeat! Practice until you can confidently hit the shot over a few times in a row. Muscle memory has higher success in retention when you’re able to focus on one shot at a time.
  • Improve your timing. Once you’re able to hit the perfect shot comfortably, change up the pace. In a real match setting you might have someone popping floaters over or an opponent serving bullets. Adjust the speed on the ball machine to improve your rhythm and racquet preparation. Start slow-medium-fast, or fast-medium-slow and repeat.
  • Have targets and/or consistency goals. Practicing targets can involve actual cones to aim for, or start simply by aiming for 5 shots in a row down the line, then do 5 in a row cross-court. For practicing consistency, make a goal of getting the ball in 10 times in a row then raise it up.  
  • Work with a pro. Request to incorporate the ball machine in your next lesson. A pro can much better analyze and tweak problem shots when they can watch you hit from a different angle.
  • Bring a buddy. One exercise that will keep your feet moving while hitting shots is practicing a little ‘ping pong’. For example, set up the shot for backhands only and rotate each shot between you and your buddy. You might be huffing and puffing but you’ll thank this heart-pumping practice in the next long match rally.
  •  Leave time for serves. It’s not uncommon to see our members leave the last 10 minutes of their session or tag on another ½ hour just to practice serves. Think about it, when exactly do you practice serves? When it comes to a strong game, every shot matters. Remember perfect practice makes perfect.
If the ball machine seems intimidating, ask a Towpath staff member to show you how to use it and what you want to work on. Once you get going, you'll be a practice expert in no time!
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Friday, February 22, 2019

Why you need to try the Wilson Clash

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Contributor

Let's talk Clash! What is it? How is it different? Why do I need to play with? How can I get my hands on one?
Now available for purchase & demo at Towpath Tennis Center.

What is the Wilson Clash?
Short answer: Wilson's new revolutionary racquet. Long answer: The Clash is not only Wilson's new buzz-worthy racquet, but its pushing boundaries with its innovative technology making a racquet that has both ultimate power AND control.

How does the Wilson Clash compare to other racquets?
The current carbon fiber racquets on the market right now are either suited toward control or power. The Clash has both! Wilson has worked its majic in creating Freeflex and Stablesmart technologies making the Clash twice as flexible as other racquets. And why do I want a more flexible racquet you might ask? Because it allows for longer 'pocketing' of the ball, so the racquet bends with each stroke for maximum power and control.

Why are there two versions of the Wilson Clash?
The Wilson Clash 100 and Clash 100 Tour are designed with NO specs on the racquet. This was an intentional decision made to eliminate preconceived notions on a racquet before trying it. The main difference is in the weight, so make sure to demo both to find which works best with your game.

Who will want to play with the Wilson Clash?
Anyone looking for an arm-friendly racquet! If you didn't know comfort and speed could be combined in one racquet without too much shock on your arm, then you're in luck! The Clash offers significant feel compared to other leading racquets without compromising power. Also, the stability/flexibility features in this racquet are demonstrated nicely when adding a soft touch to a volley winner or cranking a groundstroke from the baseline. Compatible with all playing styles!

How can I play with the Wilson Clash?
Demo the Wilson Clash 100 or Wilson Clash 100 Tour for free at Towpath Tennis Center during your next lesson or clinic, or make court-time at our demo rate to see what everyone's talking about. Also, Wilson is now offering the Clash Confidence Guarantee if you buy a Wilson Clash by April 15. If you aren't 100% satisfied, return it within 2 months of purchase for a full refund that can be used toward other Wilson gear and equipment that better complement your game.


Monday, January 21, 2019

Tennis makes lifetime friends

Dallas Aleman | Towpath Tennis Owner

It has been an exciting year at Towpath! We also saw the end of an era after 50 years of our air structures came down. So many tennis friends have been shocked by not seeing the bubbles anymore. We are stepping into a whole new era as we are about to start our 51st year of indoor tennis.

It hard to believe that 50 years ago I graduated from Akron Central in 1969. That was the year Apollo 11 landed on the moon, Woodstock took place, Nixon was president, the first ATM machine was introduced, and Rod Laver was number one in the world. In 1969, I entered the University of Akron, and joined the collegiate tennis team. Little did I know that all these years later, I could say that tennis has been my passion through it all. I’m so grateful for this game and all the acquaintances and friends I’ve made throughout those years from players across the country, and the world. Tennis is such a great sport for making lifetime friends. I want to share one story of this in the next generation of friendships.

Last month, I attended the induction of my son, Alex, into the Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy Athletic Hall of Fame. He was inducted with his life-long friend and doubles partner, Lou Konstan. The pictures say it all! The first picture was taken in 2001 at our annual Thanksgiving Tournament when the boys played against each other as young juniors in the 10s division. Lou and Alex are pictured with teaching professional Lois Bradford who also coached the boys during their high school tennis career.

What other sport can you meet for competition when you’re 7 years old, and still play at age 90? As we turn the page to 2019, I cannot encourage you enough to introduce a youngster or an adult to tennis, play more yourself, compete and make new friends.