Am I Giving My Player A REAL Chance to Reach Their Potential

by Lindsay Lee-Waters (former ranked #33 In the world WTA) and

Heath Waters (ATP/WTA Registered Professional Tour coach since 1998)


Match Count and It’s
Relevance to a Tennis Players Success




In the following article, the data provided is based upon the presumption that most who are reading this article are using The Match Tennis  App…and therefore, have players that are likely playing tennis tournaments.

The Data

Tennis tournament matches are essential for player development. For an aspiring college or professional tennis player, they facilitate many of the developmental qualities needed to realize one’s full potential as a competitive player. After all, whether it be the College NCAA Tournament or Wimbledon one day, if a player desires to play college or professional tennis, tournaments are the target environment where players aspire to perform at their best.

Tournament matches help players obtain official rankings, improve one’s tennis game, gain valuable experience, and can teach players “how to win”. Tournament match results can also potentially lead to college scholarships, financial sponsorships, a professional career and more.

Since tournament matches are currently the competitive target environment where players aspire to perform at their best, it is important to incorporate a steady diet of tournament matches into a players yearly developmental schedule.  The question then is, how many tournament matches a year should your player be playing?  If a player desires to achieve a college scholarship, or has dreams to make a living on the pro tour, the answer to this question then becomes crucial to a players development.

Just as a speaker to a large audience at first might be extremely nervous, timid, and possibly perform downright awful the first time on stage, once a speaker actually performs on stage over and over again, they better learn how to manage their nerves, how to focus on the content of the speech, and how to deliver their personal best performance time and time again. The same holds true for tennis players when it comes to playing in tournaments. There is no way around this truism.

Websters dictionary defines experience as the direct participation in events as a basis of knowledge. Players must be exposed to the target environment (tournament matches) as often as needed to obtain this crucial experience in order to learn how to perform in this target environment. Players need to face every style of opponent, every weather condition, every court surface, and every type of adversity possible as much as possible, while under the duress of the real thing…a tournament match!

One can play matches in practice just as a speaker can perform their speech in front of the mirror, but it is NOT the same as doing it in front of a large audience, or for a player… in a tournament match. Let’s take a closer look at tournament player match count data that might shed some light for you and your player as a possible rough guideline. We found the data interesting. There are many pathways to realizing one’s potential and no one way that works for everyone, but hopefully this information will help you better help your player.

We compiled 2016 USTA match count data in order to help players, parents, and coaches better understand information that can impact a player’s tennis game growth and development. Specifically, this series will discuss Match Count and its relevance to a tennis player’s ranking. Below we have created 4 relevant infographics for your convenience that reveal the difference in 12-month match count totals between Top Ranked Players and Lower Ranked Players in junior tournament tennis. The data does not include practice matches or possible UTR sanctioned tournament data etc. 

The following data reveals the total yearly match counts of the top-ranked USTA junior players in comparison to lower ranked players. Our objective is to first educate, and then hopefully stimulate thought on how to more effectively provide your own player a realistic opportunity at realizing their full potential as a tennis player, by at least understanding what the top ranked players are doing. One could reason that if one desires to obtain a college scholarship, or possibly even make a living on the pro tour, one then should at least do the minimum of what others before them that have reached such levels did or are currently doing. 

In the following case study, we took the top 3 nationally ranked players match counts from each age division 12-18s and
averaged them together. We then compared these averaged totals to the 100, 200, and 300 lower nationally ranked players averaged match count totals. Our objective was to learn if there was a substantial match count difference between the top-ranked and lower ranked players USTA tournament players.

The findings are enlightening and revealed below:

What the Data Reveals

Generally, the lower ranked players in the younger age divisions of the 12-14’s are playing roughly HALF the matches of the top players until they hit the 16’s division. In the boys 12’s, the top nationally ranked players 12-month match count average (combined singles and doubles) was 121 matches to the lower ranked players 61 matches. Higher ranked players typically go deeper into tournaments, so obviously they win more matches than lower ranked players. The data shows us the top-ranked 12-18’s players are winning nearly 4 matches to every loss, whereas the lower ranked players on average are winning only about half their matches at approximately 2.5 wins to every loss for the girls, and for the boys roughly 2 wins to every loss.

So, what does this mean?

Top-ranked players at the youngest ages are playing MANY more matches than lower ranked players. What’s the primary benefit at stake that the lower ranked players are missing out on? EXPERIENCETHROUGH REPS IN THE TARGET ENVIRONMENT! The data shows that top-ranked players are gaining double, and sometimes even triple the experience over the lower ranked players between the ages of 10-14 years old. This can be good and bad for a player…much depends on one’s approach to these reps, of which we will discuss in part 2 of this series.

This Part 1 article is primarily informative. It shares with you the data so you can compare where your players match count currently fits into the equation.

In general, if your player has not played roughly 100 tournament matches in the last 12 months they might not be gaining the same experience in the target environment as the top ranked players. 

Recommendation: Play as many tournaments as it takes (even if local) to get your player as close as possible to 100 tournament matches per year (singles and doubles combined with approximately 75% being singles).

Does it mean a player will be top ranked if they play roughly 100 matches a year? Of course not…there are many other factors that come into play in order for one to achieve a top ranking, but at the very least you can provide an opportunity for your player to obtain the same level of experience in the target environment through tournament matches as the top ranked players. We hope this data and insight might help you help your player as you pursue this wonderful yet challenging journey. 

In Part 2 of our series on “Match Count and its Relevance to a Tennis Players Success,” we will be discussing “how” tournament match count can possibly be a benefit to a player’s tennis journey.

To be continued…

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