Junior Tennis Tournament Guide
This junior tennis tournament guide is designed to help parents figure out the best pathway to follow when starting junior tournaments.
The USTA has developed a four-ball system based on level of play. Red, Orange, Green and yellow. Each system is explained below.
The USTA & UTR Tennis Tournament Information
There are two main categories of tennis tournaments in our area. We have USTA and UTR. Both systems involve getting a ranking and moving up to higher levels of competition. We will explain both of these systems below.
The USTA tournament structure utilizes eight levels of events, ranging from 10-and-under to Level 7 (beginner tournaments player) to Level 1 (National Championships), as well as a national ranking system that will distribute points consistently across the country. Sectional Level 3 - 7 and 10 & Under events are sanctioned by the USTA Texas section.
The eight levels of USTA tournament play are listed below.
L7 Tournaments - Open Beginner: 1-day event; 2-match minimum, 4-match maximum. These events are open to anyone. If there is a limited draw, a bottom-up selection process will be used for this level, which means players with no ranking will be selected first. The 12U division will offer green and yellow ball events.
L6 Tournaments - Open Intermediate: Up to 3-day events; 2-match minimum, 4-match maximum, and open to anyone. Selection process for this level is based on ranking.
L5 Tournaments - Open Advanced: Up to 3-day events; non-elimination and open to anyone.
L4 Tournaments: Up to 4-day events; Open and Closed events, with Closed events limited to Texas Section players. Selection process for this level is based on ranking.
L3 Tournaments- 3+ days National or Sectional events: L3 tournaments will be Closed events limited to Texas section players. Selection process for this level is based on ranking.
L2 Tournaments -National L2 and Section: 3+ day National events. Selection process for this level is based on ranking.
L1 Tournaments - National Championships: National Team Events and selected ITF events 4+ day National events. Selection process for this level is based on ranking.
10-And-Under- All 10-and-under players are recommended to use Net Generation PlayTracker when wanting to compete in USTA competitive programs. The PlayTracker is designed to guide parents and players through the red, orange, green and yellow ball pathway and serve up education. More information on the PlayTracker system can be found at netgeneration.com/playtracker.
Red Ball Level- Red tennis is named after the red foam or felt balls that are used at this stage. Red tennis balls bounce lower and move more slowly through the air, giving beginning players a chance to set up and take a good swing at the ball. Courts at this level are 36 feet long and 18 feet wide, with a net that is 2-foot-9.
Orange Ball Level- Once comfortable at the Red level, players graduate to playing at the Orange level. Orange felt balls bounce higher and move faster than the Red felt or foam balls but lower and slower than the Green ball.
They are a step toward the traditional yellow tennis ball while still remaining fun and manageable for players learning the game. Courts at this level are 60 feet by 21 feet for singles and 60 feet by 27 feet for doubles. The net is 3 feet at the center and 3-foot-6 at the net posts.
Green Ball Level- After Orange, the next level is Green. The Green ball is very similar to the traditional yellow tennis ball but with a slightly lower compression so it rebounds lower off the court after a bounce. The Green court is the same dimension as the traditional Yellow court: 78 feet by 27 feet for singles and 78 feet by 36 feet for doubles. The net is 3 feet at the center and 3-foot-6 at the net posts.
Yellow Ball Level- The Yellow level is what most people know as traditional tennis. The balls, courts and racquets at this level are used in the majority of adult matches and at the professional level. That means the court size is the same as at the green level: 78 feet by 27 feet for singles and 78 feet by 36 feet for doubles, with a net that is 3 feet at the center and 3-foot-6 at the net posts.
Ball Color and Age Requirements
Players must be at least 5 years old to play in a USTA competitive program, and will graduate from the Net Generation PlayTracker at the age of 11, on the first day of their birthday month.
- Players aged 5-7 years old are recommended to play in red ball programs.
- Players aged 7-9 years old are recommended to play in orange ball programs.
- Players aged 9-11 years old are recommended to play in green ball programs.
Players 7 and 8 years old that reach 1,000 play points in orange ball are eligible for green ball. A coach assessment is also available for players 7 or 8 years old who have the skills to advance to green ball early.
- The assessment must be completed by a player’s primary Safe Play approved certified coach using the Net Generation mobile app. Learn how to use the assessment tool here (or see more details below).
All players in green ball will be required to meet 1500 points on the Net Generation PlayTracker in order to play in yellow ball events. At least 1000 of these points must come from win points. At age 11 players will age out of the PlayTracker system.
How to Register for a USTA Tournament?
Players will find and register for tournaments at playtennis.usta.com/tournaments. By registering for USTA Texas tournaments players acknowledge that they know and understand, as well as agree to abide by all rules and regulations detailed in Friend at Court. For more tutorials on the new tournament registration platform, click here.
Age Divisions and Eligibility
USTA Texas tournaments are offered in the 10 & Under (10U), 12U, 14U, 16U, & 18U divisions. Players become ineligible to play in an age division on the first day of their birthday month, the year they turn 11, 13, 15, 17, or 19.
Ranking Points are earned by winning singles and doubles matches at all L1-L7 tournaments and designated ITF tournaments. Extra Ranking Points are earned for winning singles matches over highly-ranked players. Ranking Points earned by winning singles and doubles matches are combined for a player’s Ranking Point total and players are ordered based on this total. For more specific information on how many tournaments are counted and what percentage is from doubles events, read the Juniors Ranking FAQ.
The greater Houston area offers many opportunities for junior players to compete in USTA events. To view tournaments in our are click here.
The UTR System
UTR tournaments are popular in our area. They are coed events (usually) so girls and boys can play each other. These are ranking tournaments and you gain points by winning games, sets and matches. We have lot’s of UTR events in our area for you to choose.
The UTR, or Universal Tennis Rating, is a system where an algorithm is used to calculate your rating based on a weighted average of your most recent results. All beginner tournament players can play UTR’s and get a ranking by playing a couple local tournaments. Most beginner tournament players get ranked between 1.0-2.0; but if they have better results they can move up faster!
College recruiters tend to like using the UTR to assess prospective players, so it has become a priority for some young players to improve their UTR above tournament success. For this reason, a number of events have popped up in our area which are specifically designed to improve competition between people with similar UTRs. A typical UTR-junior based event will have boys and girls playing against each other because the algorithm assesses males and females on the same scale. Ratings vary between 1 and 16, with Rafael Nadal currently top with a UTR of 15.94.
Frequently asked questions from parents
How do we search for USTA tournaments?
USTA offers fun and competitive opportunities for pages 5-18, all levels. You can search for programming near you by visiting PlayTennis.usta.com. You can also search for more competitive environments on PlayTennis.usta.com with our tournament search. If you have questions about play programs in your area, we have 17 section offices across the country whose staff are able and willing to assist parents and players. To find out more about our sections, and the contact information for the Section you live in -- click here.
What are USTA Junior Circuit and USTA Tournament ranked events?
USTA Junior Circuit events use a non-elimination, round-robin draw format for players of all ages so you can gain match experience in a tournament setting and then see your individual results. These fun events give you the opportunity to develop your skills through level-based play while learning and demonstrating good sportsmanship.
What are UTR tournaments?
UTR is a separate business to USTA and offers tournaments and leagues that contribute to a rating. For more information, please visit their website.
In summary, both USTA and UTR tournaments are held in our area (and nationally) offering junior tennis players opportunities to compete and improve their ranking. We recommend doing a combination of USTA and UTR tournaments to find the one's you like the best.
- How To Search for a Tournament on USTA.com
- How to Complete a Tournament Payment Request
- Tournament Registration FAQs for Players
- Registering for a Tournament
- Registering Your Child for a Tournament
- Inviting a Doubles Partner/Accepting a Doubles Partner
- Viewing Tournaments and Draws
- Tournament Registration Communications
- How to Withdraw From a Tournament
- Tournament Canceled
- Contact the Tournament Director
- USTA Junior Circuit Program Overview (Video)
- 2021 Tournament Event Comparison Table
- Understanding Suspension Points in Tournaments
(Note: some of this information and links were gathered from USTA and UTR sites to improve accuracy of information)