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Earlier today Universal Tennis posted an article to their blog revealing the top 10 male and female tennis players currently studying at college in the US, ranked according to their Universal Tennis Ratings. Below, we’ll discuss what the graphic means and analyse how our college kids would stack up against players already on the pro tour.
We’ve talked a little bit about Universal Tennis before, and today the company has revealed the top-rated Brits in US College as part of a series of articles that has already analysed college students from the States and Canada, with analyses being added by Bobby Knight from College Tennis Today. Knight notes that of the Men’s list, six players are in their second year of study out of four, while five of the women will be graduating this summer, leaving plenty of scope for new entries into the top 10 this time next year.
What does it all mean, though? The numbers are fairly arbitrary unless we compare them in some way to examples from professional tennis. Let’s start with the one fairly stand-out performer, and the player most likely to turn to professional tennis once his collegiate career comes to an end: Cameron Norrie.
We’ve already seen Cam dip his toes into the waters of the pro tour this year, having attempted qualifying for an ATP 250 event in New Zealand before successfully reaching the first round through qualifying of the Irving Challenger in Texas, close by to where he studies. He even won a Futures title in October in Mansfield, Texas last year to claim his first and as yet only pro tour title.
But how exactly does his Universal Tennis Rating of 14.80 place him in terms of the Brits we follow week-in week-out on the tour? Where should we expect Norrie to fall once he’s played a full year of professional tennis tournaments? Below left is the current top 10 Brits overall, ranked according to their Universal Tennis Ratings correct at the time of writing.
It’s clear that Norrie is already one of our best players in terms of ability, ahead of the likes of Ed Corrie, Alex Ward and even out-of-form British Number Five James Ward. But is this statistic backed up by results? Would Norrie hold his own against those around him on this list?
Well, yes. En route to his aforementioned maiden ITF title in October last year, Norrie faced top seed Liam Broady in the quarter-finals and won 6-3 6-3. Broady at the time was ranked #210 in the world, with Norrie outside the top 1000, but the two have a very similar UTR and Norrie gave us a good reason to trust those ratings with a straight sets victory.
Whether Norrie could defeat the likes of James Ward or give Brydan Klein or Dan Evans a run for their money remains to be seen, but the accuracy of the UTR has been proven before with analyses not just on this website, so the chances are high that once Norrie transitions onto the pro tour, he’ll at least make it as far as the top 300, if not become a regular and successful presence on the ATP Challenger Tour.
What about the rest of them? Clearly Cameron is head and shoulders above the rest of the Brits in college, but that isn’t to say the others won’t improve enough to go on and forge decent professional careers. Ryan Peniston has a UTR of 14.03 and is the second best male Brit at the moment, but with just over 0.5 separating him and the rest of the top 10, it’s all much of a muchness. James Marsalek has a UTR of 14.04, which suggests Peniston is looking at making the top 500 at least, while Mark Whitehouse and Robbie Ridout have UTRs of 13.47 and 13.46 respectively, suggesting those at the bottom of this list would be able to crack the top 1000 if they make no progress from now until the end of their college careers.
How about the ladies? This is a tough one: the current crop of British females at college in the States is not one that ever really succeeded at junior level, and in terms of the general standard of women’s tennis at college, the Brits don’t really stack up, with only two ladies currently in the ITA Collegiate Rankings Top 125.
With a UTR of 10.75, Daneika Borthwick is the brightest prospect across the pond, but she barely makes the top 30 compared to the rest of the Brits on the pro tour and the junior tour. She’s behind the likes of Beth Askew, Mirabelle Njoze and youngster Ali Collins, and just ahead of Lucy Brown, Laura Deigman and Georgina Axon, which would probably place her just inside the top 1000 in terms of WTA Rankings. As a senior, there’s not a huge amount of time for her to improve while still at college, so it will be interesting to see if she attempts to forge a professional career or goes on to leave the tennis world behind and find a ‘real job’.
If we take Sophie Watts, another senior graduating this summer, then it becomes even more difficult to see a future in the pro game, although not impossible if she got her scheduling right. Watts’ UTR of 10.16 puts her ahead of WTA-Ranked Brits Jazzamay Drew and Aimee Gibson and other familiar names at national level, including Mollie Crouch and Dominique Covington. It’s a far cry from the elite of the game, but Watts would definitely be able to compete in the upper levels of the national game at the very least once she graduates in the summer.
It remains to be seen what paths each of our college athletes will take once they graduate; the top 10 men and women certainly have the option to go pro, should they wish to take it. Whatever happens, we’ll make sure to update you all in the summer with our graduating athletes and their next steps as they seek to forge a career post-college.
About Mark Gregory
25-year-old University of St Andrews graduate with a rather insane passion for British Tennis. Boston United fan (don't ask). Favourite tennis player: the Brummie bunch - Dan Evans and Lloyd Glasspool.