Tennis Ladder Rules

Written by michele m. howard
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Tennis Ladder Rules
Playing a tennis ladder helps improve your skills. (tennis image by Galina Barskaya from

Tennis ladders are designed to give players the opportunity to meet others of similar ability and to improve their skills. There is no one kind of tennis ladder, and there is no one way to run one. There are ladders for singles or doubles, juniors, adults, men only or women only. The key to a successful ladder is to enforce the time rules, encourage players to make challenges regardless of their position and to keep it updated on a regular basis.

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Organising the Ladder

Tennis ladders can be set up based on a player's NTRP (National Tennis Rating Program) rating. This is a system designed to rate players in several levels according to their skill level and playing style. Other ladders are set up using a totally random order regardless of skill level, while others position players depending on their registration date and time.

Challenge Rules

Some ladders may only allow players to challenge three positions above. For example, if you are in position number 10, you can only challenge players in positions seven, eight or nine. Other ladders are set up so that players in the top 10 positions are allowed to challenge players as many as four positions ahead. Players in positions 11 through 20 are allowed to challenge players as many as six positions ahead; however, they cannot challenge higher than position seven.

Format Rules

A ladder may have players play a regular best-of-three-set match with regular scoring and a 12-point tiebreaker if the score becomes tied at 6 games each. An alternate format is to have players play a 10-game pro set. With this format, the first player to win 10 games, with a margin of two games, is the winner. If the game score becomes tied at 10 games each, a 12-point tiebreaker is played to determine the winner. The winner of the tiebreaker must be the first player to win seven points with a margin of two. In the tiebreaker, if the score is tied at 6 points each, play continues until one player has a two-point lead.

Ladder Movement

Players move up and down the ladder according to the results of their challenges. If a player challenges and wins, he takes over the challenged player's ladder position and everyone between the two players moves down one spot. For example, if player number four challenges and beats player number two, player number four takes over position two, player number two moves down to position three and player number three moves to position four.

Miscellaneous Rules

The USTA rules of tennis are used for all matches regardless of the format. Challenged players must respond to a challenge within a reasonable amount of time to keep the ladder moving. This can be 48 hours, 72 hours or 5 days. If there is no acceptance of a challenge, it is considered a forfeit by the challenged player. Both players should provide a new, unopened can of balls. One can will be opened and used for the match. The loser takes the used balls and the winner takes the unopened can. The winner of the challenge reports the score to the ladder administrator within a specified time, such as 24 hours or 48 hours. Players are not allowed to make a new challenge until a previous one has been completed.

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