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Credit: Wild Pigs ITF World Tennis Number
Credit: Wild Pigs ITF World Tennis Number

Taking Centre Court: The Rise of the World Tennis Number

6 min read
ITF World Tennis Number

In the dynamic world of tennis, a game-changing rating system is shaping the landscape: The ITF World Tennis Number (WTN). With over 1.75 million players globally now embracing the WTN, the innovative rating system is transforming the way players of all levels engage with the sport.

So, what is the ITF World Tennis Number?

The WTN is a real-time skill level rating system designed for all tennis enthusiasts. Much like a golf handicap, the WTN is your personal skill level indicator, providing a numerical representation of a player’s ability, enabling you to find opponents matched to your skill level wherever you are in the world. This isn’t just for the professionals; it is for everyone who loves the game.

Reaching new levels:

Since launching in 2020, the WTN has experienced exponential growth, boasting over 1.75 million players across 80 nations equipped with their unique World Tennis Number, a notable surge from the 1.4 million players recorded in May 2023. Moreover, a total of 169 nations have been enlisted, indicating a widespread embrace of the WTN among nations worldwide.

How does it work?

Your World Tennis Number will fall within a range of 40-1, with beginners starting at 40 and professional players closer to 1. An algorithm calculates your number on a weekly basis, reflecting your current skill level based on your ongoing match results. The WTN currently has 26 million match records collected to use the WTN to its best ability. The more you play, the more accurately your number will represent your abilities.

The WTN is a real-time skill level rating system.

The mission for 2024:

The mission for 2024 is clear: To deliver the best-in-class rating system that enhances and connects tennis experiences globally. By partnering with its 213 national and six regional tennis associations worldwide, the ITF aims to ensure that every player has easy access to their World Tennis Number, fostering a sense of community and inclusivity.

Benefits of the World Tennis Number:

The ITF World Tennis Number offers a variety of benefits to players of all levels:

  • Universal standard: Regardless of age, gender or ability, the WTN provides a single global scale for everyone.
  • Matchmaking made easy: A personalised ‘Game Zone’ helps identify players similar skill levels.
  • Global Community: An online, searchable community grants access to compatible opponents worldwide, facilitating further opportunities for play and fostering camaraderie, whether for competitive or social play.
  • Performance tracking: Detailed statistics allow players to track and improve their game, including head-to-head comparisons and win/loss ratios.
  • Player favourites: Build a favourite list of players you’d like to compete against.
  • Wellness Boost: The WTN encourages participation from all, enhancing both physical health and mental wellbeing.

Who is it for?

The WTN is designed for all, from your more casual player to seasoned pros, whether you're hitting the courts a couple of times a week or competing in ITF tournaments, your World Tennis Number ensures that finding the perfect match is just a few clicks away. The WTN's aim is to inspire a healthy competitiveness and encourage more people to play tennis.

We asked the World Tennis Number Team to share their most asked questions:

How does the ITF World Tennis Number differ from other rating systems?

WTN is “Federation First”, with 80 of the ITF’s member national associations already sharing quality data. It is free and aims to offer all players the best competitive opportunities regardless of gender, age, or ability. It’s a truly global system, incorporating matches played across border and ITF events.

Could you elaborate on the benefits of having separate ratings for singles and doubles play within the World Tennis Number system?

When creating the WTN, our data scientist found that separate ratings for singles and doubles provided the most accurate assessments. The doubles algorithm considers a ‘notional’ opponent based on the other three players. The singles and doubles ratings use the same 40 to 1 scale but are not meant to be directly compared to each other. It is common to see players whose singles and doubles ratings differ by more than 1 WTN.

Can you discuss how the World Tennis Number is currently utilised in ITF tournaments and any future plans for its expansion?

The WTN is currently being used as secondary acceptance criteria for Juniors. We have recently developed WTN Masters Tournament Guidance for male and female players to help advise players on the suitable tournaments to enter in line with your WTN. In terms of tournament acceptance, Masters players with fewer than 75 ranking points can now be positioned based on their WTN.

How does the World Tennis Number contribute to fostering a sense of community among tennis players globally?

We have built an online, searchable community providing global access to opponents and regional and international tournament opportunities wherever they are in the world. National Associations are also using it to create competitive match play events and leagues.

Can you share any future plans to expand the features or capabilities of the World Tennis Number? 

The WTN aims to elevate tennis experiences through enhanced statistics and analytical tools available to players, coaches and fans, while appearing in more tournaments and clubs. Continuous expansion, building new product features to best serve players and feedback from our community is part of our wider vision. Our key focus for the coming months ahead will be to support national associations with the WTN adoption and expand our global reach. Registration will soon be available regionally, allowing new players to sign up for a WTN directly.

Game. Set. Matched.

ITF tour player, David Middleton, said: “ITF World Tennis Number has enabled me to easily track my progress as I can see my number increase or decrease after a competition. It’s rewarding to see the general level of your opponent’s form as you play tougher competitions and having a good win is reflected by an improvement in your World Tennis Number."

ITF President, David Haggerty, says, “The ITF World Tennis Number represents more than just a rating; it is a testament to our commitment to evolving our sport. It embodies innovation that drives tennis forward, centred on inclusivity, accessibility, and connectivity. The WTN enables players to have a tennis journey filled with limitless opportunities for competition, camaraderie, and personal growth. Together, with this system, we are shaping a future where tennis thrives, uniting athletes from all backgrounds in the pursuit of excellence on and off the court."

Merlin Van de Braam, Head of Coach Development and Support at the LTA, said “The WTN enables you to find people to play of the same or similar ability, it motivates you to improve when you see it go up, letting you compare your level to the best in the world. I have never lost to someone lower, and I am yet to beat someone higher, and I always have a good match when someone is in my GameZone. I believe WTN will become a total game changer; in 10 years more people will be playing tennis and the WTN will play a key role in that."