Five Questions For… Anne Worcester, President of Universal Tennis

Anne Worcester

In 2019 Anne Worcester was named President of Universal Tennis, the company behind the increasingly popular Universal Tennis Rating (UTR). UTR is a results-based rating system that rates all players on the same 16-point scale regardless of age, gender or location. Worcester has three decades of experience working in professional tennis. She was the first female CEO of the WTA and served as the Tournament Director of the Connecticut Open for 21 years, developing it into one of the world’s best attended women’s tennis events and a player favorite.

She has also given back to the community, including as co-founder of the New Haven Youth Tennis & Education (New HYTEs) program, which serves economically disadvantaged inner city youth.

1. Over the past year we’ve been hearing a lot about UTR and how it makes tennis “more affordable, accessible and fun for all players.” How does UTR accomplish this mission?

At Universal Tennis, our goal is to facilitate a global growth in the game by supporting more opportunities for local play. We want to make it easier for people to get out on the court and find opportunities to play, whatever their level is, wherever they are. 

At the core of UTR is the Universal Tennis Rating (UTR Powered by Oracle) a tennis rating system that rates players of all ages, genders, skill levels and geographies together - similar to a golf handicap. When players have a UTR, they have an accurate measurement of their skill level and can use the UTR Platform to find compatible and fun matches. Tennis pros and organizers are using the UTR Platform to organize fun and flexible events. Here in the Bay Area, players can find  anything from “3 matches in 3 hours” to large-scale community tennis events like the Kunal Patel San Francisco Championships held at the Berkeley Tennis Club last September, where players of all levels were able to enter into the tournament to play up to compete against pros like Sam Querrey and Steve Johnson, and a shot at the $30K prize. 

Whether you are a high school team tennis player, a world-ranked junior, college player or an adult league player, all tennis players can get rated on the world’s most accurate tennis rating system, track their progress, find compatible hits and events wherever they are, and be a part of the world’s largest global tennis community. 

2. How does a UTR rating differ from one’s USTA rating or a pro’s ranking in a tournament?

UTR provides players with an accurate, real-time reflection of their current skill level, so a player’s UTR can fluctuate every time they play.  A player’s UTR is calculated based on three factors: their most recent matches, the number of games won and the strength of the competition. Today, tennis analysts are using UTR to provide insights into player performance; for example Tennis Channel has integrated UTR into their broadcasts for two years and Tennis Australia recently integrated UTR into the 2020 Australian Open’s media coverage and global broadcasts. 

When you look at a pro player’s UTR versus their ranking, many times you will see that the difference in skill level between the top players is not as large as the pro rankings reflect. Milos Raonic and Andre Rublev are a great example of this. According to their ATP rankings, Raonic is #37 and Rublev is #14. But according to their UTRs, they are much closer - Raonic is a  UTR 15.74, and Rublev is a UTR 15.73. We can see this play out on the court, too. For example, at this year’s Australian Open, American Cici Bellis (ranked #600) defeated Germany’s Tatjana Maria (ranked #81) in what many called an upset. However, a comparison of their UTRs showed that this was not an upset. Bellis’ world ranking was so low due to a 2019 injury, but because UTR reflects current play, her higher UTR 12.65 showed that she would outperform Maria (UTR 12.51), and she did. 

3. As someone who has spent her entire career in leadership roles in women’s professional tennis, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen over the years?

For sure, the global expansion of tennis is one of the biggest changes I have seen. As former CEO of the preeminent sport for women in the world, I’ve seen the women’s tour grow to 55 tournaments in 35 countries with players from more than 100 countries, and global television broadcasts in more than 180 countries. The interest in pro and grassroots tennis continues to grow and spread throughout the world, which means there is an incredible opportunity to get more and more people playing the sport.  If kids are inspired by watching Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open, it needs to be easier for them to find opportunities to play at home and fall in love with the game. This is why it’s so important for tennis to have a global rating like UTR that connects players across one single standard and creates more opportunities, connections and pathways for players of all levels.

4. You are very involved in supporting programs that provide tennis and mentoring to disadvantaged youth. What inspires you about these programs?

Throughout my career, I have always been passionate about leveraging tennis to build and strengthen communities. As the 21 year Tournament Director of the Connecticut Open, I am most proud that the USTA and others in the Tennis Industry held up the WTA/ATP tournament as a leading example of leveraging a large-scale international sporting event to impact the community in a healthy, active and positive way, especially among youth.  For me, tennis is an important vehicle - it’s all about providing opportunities for youth that will improve their lives and give them a chance to become confident, successful adults. Together with Alex Dorato at Yale, I am the proud co-founder of New Haven Youth Tennis & Education (known as New HYTEs), now in its 16th year, which offers year-round tennis, education and mentoring programs to kids from under-resourced communities in New Haven.

5. What advice would you give girls who might be considering playing tennis in college or professionally?

If you have the drive, the commitment and the true desire to compete in college or professional tennis, then go for it! College tennis is a fantastic way to continue your education and your passion for the game, gain valuable life skills and experience the benefits of being part of a team. Going pro can be a lonely, difficult road, but if you are mentally tough, love the game and have the drive, then go out there and chase your dream. And for all female players who want to go pro, I highly recommend taking advantage of the WTA’s wonderful Sports Science & Medicine programs (Mentoring, Education and more) which will help you with the transition to the global WTA tour.