The International Tennis Federation has joined forces with national associations in France, the UK and the US to launch a strategic project which it claims could be “game changing” for the development of the sport on a global basis.
Entitled the World Tennis Number (WTN), the project has been envisioned as a global, level-based tennis rating, designed to enable more matches to be played between players of similar levels, from beginners to professionals.
The French Tennis Federation (FFT), Lawn Tennis Association and United States Tennis Association are also involved in the project, while sports technology company ClubSpark has been engaged to build a digital platform around it.
The ITF said the WTN will aim to break down one of the sport’s key barriers to participation – uneven match-ups – allowing players of all abilities to determine their individual level. This will help players identify opponents and competitions of an appropriate standard and access more competitive and enjoyable playing opportunities.
The WTN project was approved by the ITF Board of Directors in March 2018 and is led by a steering committee composed of executives from the ITF, FFT, LTA and USTA. In addition, it is being supported by a project team and an advisory group of nations that includes experts from the national associations of Canada, China, Ireland, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
ClubSpark will seek to create a global online tennis community, enabling players to access their WTN from anywhere in the world, record and measure their progress, and interact with other tennis players. The digital platform will also assist tournament organisers in the staging of competitions based on ability levels.
The ITF said the scale and algorithm for the World Tennis Number is currently being modelled and refined using a database of millions of match records, and through worldwide player consultation. The Federation added that it has already received significant input from nations representing the majority of the world’s tennis players.
“The goal is more people playing more tennis more often,” Luca Santilli, ITF executive director of tennis development, said. “Creating a rating system for players of all levels that is commercially independent has been a very positive step; but what is really exciting is the potential for the World Tennis Number to become a giant leap forward for the sport. With the correct algorithm and adoption on a worldwide basis, it could be game changing.”
The World Tennis Number is planned to be in operation towards the end of 2019, with national associations launching officially within each country from 2020. The system is designed to be different from the current rankings by reflecting a player’s current level of playing ability across all competitions they play in, including but not limited to club leagues, provincial, regional, national and international events.
It will also represent one scale, regardless of age, ability and gender. The ITF added that it recognises the potential of the WTN to assist in the entry process of ITF Circuit events, including events on the World Tennis Tour. The Federation added that this will be based on analysis of the appropriate data in due course and be subject to approval by the respective ITF Committees and the ITF Board of Directors.
FFT president, Bernard Giudicelli, said: “France will always be supportive of initiatives enabling tennis to grow worldwide and will share its experience with other nations to build their own grassroots development plan. Competition is the best leverage to achieve that aim.
“The World Tennis Number platform is a 10-year dream come true. This is Tennis 4.0, using technology to provide easier access to tennis and deepen the connection between local players and worldwide tennis.”