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Merlin Van de Braam, Head of Coach Development and Support at the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA).
Merlin Van de Braam, Head of Coach Development and Support at the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA).

The ‘Golf Handicap of Tennis’

3 min read
ITF World Tennis Number

Inside the impact of the ITF World Tennis Number with the LTA’s Merlin Van de Braam

The ITF World Tennis Number (WTN) serves as a central hub, bringing together players from every background; designed to promote a shared love for the game and inspire millions of players worldwide to pick up a racquet and play tennis. As the WTN tennis community expands, we explore the experiences of those influenced by the WTN, revealing its significant role in shaping their tennis journeys.

We had the opportunity to speak with Merlin Van de Braam, a keen competitive tennis player and currently Head of Coach Development and Support at the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA). With a long-standing commitment to fostering the sport's progress, Merlin offers valuable perspectives on the impact of the WTN. Drawing from personal experience, he discusses how the WTN has revitalised his love for playing tennis, inspiring a fresh wave of excitement for the sport.

For Merlin, the WTN represents more than just a numerical rating system; it symbolises a positive step forward for the tennis community. With unwavering confidence, he predicts that the WTN will not only increase global participation but also develop the way players engage with the sport. As we delve deeper into the WTN, Merlin’s viewpoint provides insight into how the WTN could influence the future of tennis worldwide.


Merlin Van de Braam, Head of Coach Development and Support at the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA).


What impact does the ITF World Tennis Number have on your game and tennis experiences?

After graduating from university and starting my career in sport development, I had stepped away from playing and competing in tennis. I chose other sports like cycling and triathlons where I could measure my progress easily over time. However, the introduction of the WTN in recent years has given me a renewed motivation to play tennis. It serves as a constant source of motivation for me, providing an objective measure of my level that updates weekly. Additionally, with the WTN’s global reach you can travel abroad and play with international opponents who match your skill level, setting it apart from other tennis rating systems. It is a true global standard equivalent to a golf handicap.


How accurate do you feel that the ITF World Tennis Number algorithm performs when matching opponents of a similar skill level?

In my experience, the algorithm has proven to be highly accurate. I've consistently found myself evenly matched with opponents within my Game zONe with each match competitive and fulfilling. Though one frustration is that my number doesn’t go up quicker, but that is my responsibility and something I am working on.


What specific benefits do you feel players gain from the World Tennis Number?

It serves as an objective measure of your ability, enabling you to identify similarly skilled opponents. Witnessing your number rise with improvement serves as a powerful motivator, while also allowing you to benchmark against the world's best players. Just like running, cycling and golf, I know what my level is, it is objective, and most importantly, in my control.


In your view, how does the ITF World Tennis Number contribute to the overall development of tennis players globally?

I firmly believe that the WTN will play a significant role in retaining people in the sport. Over the next decade, its influence in my opinion will likely contribute to a rise in tennis participation globally. It will make life easier for team selections at clubs which often relies on subjective coach assessment. It will also match people for internal ladder competitions, seeding at tournaments, and potentially getting a place on university teams once it really beds in.


How do you see the World Tennis Number shaping the future of tennis and player evaluation?

It is the golf handicap of tennis for me. In the coming years, I feel it should become an integral feature for tournament entries, qualification entry thresholds, national team selections, and club team selections. I look forward to more wide-spread adoption of WTN. For me it is a total game changer for the sport.