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Most (adult) tournaments I've entered have divisions indicated by NTRP level - i.e. MW(3.0, 4.0) means that men and women who are rated 3.0 or 4.0 can enter. Some of them, though, are listed as MWOp.

What does "open" mean? Does it just mean that people of any rating can enter, but they would be matched up (at least in early rounds) with players who have similar ratings, or does it mean that it's a free-for-all, where the tournament director could match up a 2.5 player with a 5.0 player?

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    It's cheaper than a tennis lesson and if there's double elimination, you'll automatically get to play against 2 pros for like $30. I think it's a steal. – user1141 Feb 27 '13 at 20:43
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According to the definition on the USTA site:

Open division are open to players of all ages.

In this context, open appears to refer strictly to the age of the player, and not the rating.

  • I very much hope you're right! – EmmyS Feb 16 '12 at 15:01
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Like JW said, they are open to players of all ages, but most importantly, they are open to all skill levels also - which means they are the most competitive. Many professional level tour events have the name "Open" in them (French Open, US Open, Australian Open, etc) because they are "Open level" events - meaning anyone can enter the qualifying (or pre-qualifying) draws if they're willing to pay the entry fee. You will usually only see professional level players enter though, because most open divisions are full of very talented players.

Another reason why open divisions exist are because at the higher skill levels of the game they are fewer players available to put into a tournament draw so they have to combine the upper skill level players together to have enough. They are plenty of players generally at the 2.5-4.5 level, but at 5.0 and above there generally aren't enough 5.0, 5.5, 6.0, etc. to have a division or "draw" just for that specific skill level. With an "open" division, anyone above, say the 4.5 level can enter and generally expect to draw an opponent that is of similar skill level.

To answer the last part of your question - generally a tournament director doesn't know the rating level of a player in open divisions unless they have self-rated or already have a USTA rating - but most people at the lower rating level (like 2.5) know enough not to enter themselves into the open draw of a tournament. I have never been a tournament director (though I know some people that have) and they generally know the names of most players that enter their open division and know that they belong there.

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    Well, this is a tournament at a small park district club, so I doubt there will be professional-level players there. I can also guarantee that the tournament director will NOT know the names of most of the people entered. And NTRP rating is required on the entry form, so the director will know the rating of every player before creating the draw. – EmmyS Feb 16 '12 at 15:01
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    In that case it is a little surprising to have an Open draw, since those are usually offered only for higher level players. I am guessing the NTRP divisions end at 4.0 and open is for 4.5 and above? – jamauss Feb 16 '12 at 15:20
  • No, that's my point. The entire tournament is listed as "open division". Anyone can register and must include their rating, but it's not listed as "MW(2.5,3.0,3.5,4.0, Op)" or anything like that. Here's what the site says: "MW(Op)s,SE; X(Op)d,SE". – EmmyS Feb 16 '12 at 17:29
  • Oh - my only guess then it that the number of participants doesn't warrant divisions for different skill levels and they're just leaving the whole thing open because there will be varying levels of skill. – jamauss Feb 17 '12 at 0:35
  • In other words, my 3.0 self could absolutely end up playing someone who's 5.0. Wonderful! Just what my self-esteem needs :o) – EmmyS Feb 17 '12 at 15:30

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