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Tennis Organization Of The Month December 2015

SSV - Serve, Stroke & Volley

(San Diego, California)


What is SSV?

SSV is advertised as an "objective method for measuring tennis ability." The premise is that other ratings or ranking systems are subjective because they only measure match results without any regard for a player's real abilities, while SSV is evaluating a player's abilities against themselve.

SSV ratings create a standard method, a benchmark to compare players' level of play regardless of age and gender. SSV ratings are divided into 10 levels of play, from beginner to expert.


From the SSV Tennis Ratings Guidebook

The SSV Tennis Rating Concept
The relative ability of tennis players can be determined by objectively measuring the Control and Power aspects of a player hitting the five basic tennis strokes:

  • serve
  • forehand
  • backhand
  • forehand volley
  • backhand volley

SSV Standard Unit of Measure
Assigning a value to the location of the first bounce for Control and the location of the second bounce for Power is the SSV Standard Unit of Measure.

SSV Rating Score Sheet
The SSV Score is determined by adding

  • SSV Points
  • SSV Mobility Bonus Points

Who Founded SSV?

SSV- Serve, Stroke & Volley was founded by San Diegan Neil Johnson more than 40 years ago. Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, resides lives in Escondido, California. He played high school and college tennis and created and patented the first objective method for measuring tennis ability in 1970.

In 1974 Neil Johnson ran the first Serve, Stroke & Volley tennis basic skills competition similar to Football's "Punt, Pass & Kick". In 2000 he created an interactive internet database for the rating system and in 2010 he created a series of tournaments titled SSV San Diego Junior Grand Prix.

Neil Johnson/s primary business is video productions. The firm is run by one of his sons while Neil funds the SSV program for the most parts out of pocket. The little money its making goes to office and staff expenses. His son Randy runs all activities in the Los Angeles area while Neil concentrates more on San Diego.

According to the SSV introductory video on their web site, 80% of tournament winners are players with the highest SSV scores. At this time, most SSV activities are concentrating on junior tennis but Neil is hoping to find more coaches and clubs introducing SSV to their adult players. In San Diego, close to 1,500 kids are currently SSV rated and playing SSV Grand Prix tournaments.

How do SSV Ratings Clinics work?

The 10-15 minute on-court test consists of testing forehand, backhand, forehand volley, backhand volley, and a running mobility drill. The scores are entered in the SSV web site and an SSV Tennis Rating is being returned.
Most coaches charge between $20 and $30 for the test. There is no fee for coaches to SSV.


The US governing body of tennis, forever defending the superiority of their proprietory NTRP ratings system, has recently come a little closer to acknowledging that NTRP and SSV can actually work together and complement each other. Since the USTA has never had a rating system for junior players, this would actually be a timely move with far reaching, positive consequences.

SSV and High School Tennis

San Diego High School coaches use SSV as a means for student tryouts and to rate the improvements of their players after a specified period of time.

SSV Grand Prix Tournaments

SSV Grand Prix tournaments distinguish themselve from "regular" USTA sanctioned tournaments in many ways. They are 1-day tournaments and therefore don't "destroy" a family's weekend (or 2 weekends). They are round robin with flights of 4 players or teams. The format is 1 set. 6 games, no-ad. And.. they disregard age and gender. Wheher you are a boy, girl, woman or man, when your SSV rating is e.g. 135 you are ready to play each other!

SSV and adult players - The Bay Club

Tom Shea is Director of Tennis at The Bay Club, formerly Pacific Athletic Club, in the Carmel Valley area of San Diego. He is using the SSV ratings for all juniors and for many adult players. He measures his players in the beginning of a program or a series of lessons, and then again at the end. SSV can give him a clear understanding how the player's abilities have progressed.

In the adult leagues program he uses SSV ratings to measure where on the NTRP scale his players really are. The reasons are diverse, but being a 3.5, wanting to be a 3.5, or really being a 3.0 is a well known issue with adult league players. SSV steps in and tells a player in no uncertain terms where they stand - without club politics or other elements clouding the issue.

Tom Shea finds the humorous side of human beings realizing ther rating is really lower than they want it to be: "It's like breaking up with your girlfriend. In your heart you hate it, but in your mind you understand it."

It is easy to see that a USTA adult league captain can evaluate his or her chances whether the team has a chance to go to sectionals or nationals much more accurate once all team members have SSV ratings.

Congratulations to SSV Serve, Stroke & Volley for becoming our Tennis Organization of the Month for December 2015.


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