I have been given several explanations in the past about computer ratings; “it’s not just your wins, but your quality losses that affect your rating, you know, losing closely to top players” or “it’s not only who you beat, but who your opponents beat that affect your rating as well”; and “your combo matches, tri-level matches, and mixed doubles matches don’t count towards ratings” . I’ve seen a set of doubles partners that played exclusively together, one got bumped up the other didn’t. I’ve seen a guy get bumped up from 4.0 to 4.5, go 4-2 at the 4.5 level, then get bumped down to 4.0 for the following season only to get bumped back up again to 4.5 the following season. I’ve known guys who have tanked matches to stay down and still get bumped up. I sometimes wonder if the USTA rating computer and the college football BCS computer are one in the same.
At the end of the movie War Games, Joshua the computer realizes that playing Global Thermonuclear War is pointless. Which is basically what it feels like trying to figure out how the USTA ratings are determined. Hopefully we all don’t come to the same conclusion about playing tennis that Joshua did about playing Global Thermonuclear War, “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?”