Tennis is special. Can you think of any other sport that is played from infancy to retirement (and beyond)? It is fun, keeps you fit and agile, and can even be used as a concentration exercise to train and focus the mind. I took up tennis for the first time 3 months ago, at the age of 38, without having really played any sports at all since my school days. Nevertheless, it soon became clear to me that with motivation, determination, patience and practice, I would be able to slowly improve my technique, whilst at the same doing some cardio and having fun. Now that I am working my way up the tennis learning curve, I have started to think about the matches and tournaments that I might one day play in the amateur tennis circuit (officially termed TPRA, a.k.a. Tennis Fight Club) in Italy, where I live.
The Tennis Fight Club is the brainchild of an amateur tennis player in Italy called Max Fogazzi, who identified the demand among the majority of amateur/recreational tennis players for a system of recognition and ranking with respect to their peers. Although the Italian Tennis Federation (FIT) already organized tournaments for amateur players in Italy, the innovation that was introduced with the TPRA was a real social network of recreational tennis players who would self-organise matches and tournaments. In this network every match counts towards your Ranking and Power, even those played at your local tennis club on a Sunday afternoon with your best friend and/or tennis rival.
The Rules of Tennis Fight Club
The first rule of Tennis Fight Club is: You can talk about Tennis Fight Club. The second rule of Tennis Fight Club is: You must talk about Tennis Fight Club. Third rule of Tennis Fight Club: Someone yells stop, starts limping, cramps up, the match is over. Fourth rule: it is not only two guys to a match, but it can also be two gals / four guys / four gals / two guys and two gals.
Actually, there are many more rules to Tennis Fight Club, but the main features are:
- You sign up to the TPRA website that is run just like a social network.
- Through the website, you challenge others to play tennis (typically people that live close by), and after the match you record the score (and both have to agree before it is officially registered!)
- You can also take part in TPRA tournaments that are voluntarily organised and run by members of the network.
- You have two types of Power (basically scores), Challenge Power and Tournament Power, both of which are calculated using the results of the matches played through challenges or tournaments. The algorithm to calculate your new Power after each match is complex, but primarily considers the difference between your current Power and that of your opponent, and the percentage of games you won in the match.
- You are given a World Ranking that is calculated on a points basis – points are accumulated by playing lots of tennis. The Ranking is used to seed players in the tournaments.
- You can only play 6 challenge matches a month, and can only challenge the same person 6 times a year.
Who Plays in TPRA?
You may have picked up on the use of World Ranking above. Yes, the ranking is classified as a World Ranking because it is not only in Italy that the TPRA operates, but also in France, Spain and Switzerland. However, the circuit is rather male-dominated. There are currently about 22,000 people registered on the network, of which just under 3000 are women. But hopefully if we can spread the word, through blog posts like this, more women will get involved.
Let’s expand TPRA
I would be interested to hear whether your country has a similar social network of tennis players, and how recreational tennis is organised around the world. It would be great if the TPRA could be transported further afield – let me know in the comments below (or my Instagram post) if you have any questions on how it works, or would like to know how to set up the Tennis Fight Club in your country and I’ll pass on your feedback to the TPRA organisers.