Sunday, September 19, 2010

Changes in USTA National Tournaments for 2011; Fish Sends McEnroe Out a Winner in Davis Cup

Last month the USTA announced changes for the 2011 National Junior schedule. At one point, consideration was being given to dropping the Spring Nationals and turning the Winter Nationals into an indoor event, but the final set of changes approved by the Junior Competition committee did not include anything as dramatic as that.

National Open draw size is being reduced from 64 to 32, shortened to three days in length, and only the finalists are assured entry into the subsequent National Championship. The Regional Level 3s are limited to four specified dates throughout the year. The 14s Nationals will join the 12s as compass draws, and the 14s clays and hard courts will be 128 draws, not 192. Going to a 128 draw with a qualifier has long been a wish of mine for Kalamazoo, but the Clays and the Hard Courts remain 192-draws for 16s and 18s. The Interscholastic 18s championships have been eliminated.

I've never been sold on the National Open concept and have attended very few of them, but I do wonder if it would be worthwhile, that is, economically feasible, to host a National Open for just one age group with such a small number of fee-paying participants. There aren't many economies of scale with 32 players total.

I assume the philosophy behind this change is to have juniors play more in their districts and sections and travel less, thereby reducing the cost. It also seems more accommodating to those who have chosen to remain in regular school. But the true ramifications of the changes probably won't be known for several years, and unintended consequences have a way of altering the best of intentions.

For the complete list of the changes for 2011, see usta.com.

Today was a very exciting day in Davis Cup. The United States avoided relegation from the World Group thanks to Mardy Fish, who defeated Santiago Giraldo of Colombia 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 4-6, 8-6 in Bogota, to give the U.S. a 3-1 win. Fish was involved in winning all three points, taking the opening rubber on Friday and teaming with John Isner yesterday to take the doubles point from former USC all-American Robert Farah and Carlos Salamanca in four sets. For more on the tie, Patrick McEnroe's last as Captain, see daviscup.com. Ryan Harrison was expected to play the dead rubber, but due to rain, it was cancelled.

France waltzed to December's Davis Cup final with a 5-0 win over Argentina, but their opponent wasn't known until the fifth rubber between Serbia and the Czech Republic. Trailing 2-1 after losing the doubles Saturday, Novak Djokovic and Janko Tipsarevic put Serbia in the final with singles victories today. France will travel to Serbia to decide the 2011 Davis Cup.

In another exciting match, India came back from 2-0 down at home to defeat Brazil and retain its place in the World Group. Rohan Bopanna was the hero, taking the fifth rubber over Ricardo Mello after former Virginia Cavalier Somdev Devvarman had beaten Thomas Bellucci, 7-6(3), 4-0 ret. to even the tie at 2. Bopanna, who reached the U.S. Open men's doubles final last week, is barely in the top 500 in singles, but his 6-3, 7-6(2,) 6-3 win over 75th-ranked Mello indicates just how inspirational Davis Cup competition can be.


tennis said...

By my rough calculation the number of draw spots in level 2/3 national tournaments will be reduced from around 2500 to 1500. This new system i expect will make it much harder to accumulate enough points at the level 4/5 tournaments to jump to the level 2/3 tournaments. Once you are in the level 2/3 points zone it will be easy to stay there. I understand the desire to reduce the cost of travel to national tournaments but i don't think cutting spots like this will do anything to benefit less well of families trying to climb the tennis ranking ladder to get recruited to a good college. At the end of the day I think the effect will be the opposite and rankings will be more affected by your economic situation. I think this may turn out to be an 'own goal" by the USTA. I am surprised there has not been more push back and why the proposals were not submitted for any comment by the people/players affected. The changes seems to have been driven by the national survey done a couple of years ago which focused on the cost of travel etc.

Glad my kis is already in college... said...

Well, if the USTA wants the cream to rise to the top...this new system will do it.

A lot of kids, who are ranked 25-100 in tough sections like So Cal & Fla. will ultimately be frozen out of national level tourneys. We all know that each section has their best 5 players, no on can beat them, so all the other kids are not going to have any way to effectively get recognized by playing national tourneys anf get a national ranking. Unfortunately, I think this new system will actually deter the second tier kids from playing or getting recognized by colleges.
I thank god my son is already in college, he received a partial tennis scholarship and his highest national ranking was 85 but he hovered around 120 in all age groups. In this new system he would not qualify for any national tourneys, he was always toward the lower portion of the acceptance lists but he was always good to win a few rounds in the main, a few rounds in the back draw (take out a seed or two if he was lucky)and get himself recognized with some national points....just no the top kid.

Good luck USTA, I am glad we are done with junior tennis because he would have been shut out with this new system!!

wi tennis said...

I understand that it's bad about the reduced draws, but I believe the USTA is doing this to encourage players to play in their section. The majority of people don't have the money to afford flights, hotels, entry fees, food to a national tournament. It's making the game more accessible to all! Isn't that what everyone is calling for? Also, if the draws are reduced for nationals, college coaches will go to more sectional tournaments. This is because only the top programs will even have a chance at players if there are 32 in a National. It will reduce the cost for college coaches, too! If you're good, college coaches will find you! ...no matter what your ranking is!

I do understand that players will always play against many of the same players, but that will give them incentive to get better to qualify for nationals!

I'm not saying it's a perfect system, but let's continue to look at the big picture.

playing local said...

Well if they want the kids to play more tournaments in their section an obvious thing would be to increase the points associated with those tournaments. The boys 16's draw in last weekends So Cal designated was 256. The winner after 8 matched gets 88 points 23 points more than winning one back draw match at a National Open. If you are going to exclude large groups of kids from the National events at least give them a realistic shot at getting enough points to get in. College recruiting is based mainly on the tennisrecuiting rankings but this new system will make it that much harder for up and coming kids to get the strength of schedule matches that are needed to raise their rankings. I can't think of another sport limiting competitive access in this way.

Alex said...

I have two issues with these changes.First as far as kids aging up this year they should have been given a full year notice of the change so they could have adjusted their tournament schedule if they were good enough and played up to have a chance to build points in the older age group.The other issue is in a region like the Southern which stretches from Louisiana to Kentucky to North Carolina the travel costs to do our regional tournaments is actually more then to do nationals due to the smaller town locations these are held in( Macon,Little Rock, Lexington, Columbus Ga., Raleigh etc.) and the higher airline costs associated the smaller airports. Basically no reduction in travel costs and less access to compete at the highest levels. It feels like the USTA has given up in particular on the 14 to 16 yr. olds who are not already TOP 30 since these are the most critical years in developing the juniors competitive skillsets.
Additionally the new ITF rules for level 1-3 tournaments in the US requires them to pay for hotel accomodations as opposed to private housing. This has resulted in most US ITF tournaments downgrading to Level 4 to exempt themselves from this. Therefore it it will be very hard to get the ITF rankings up if you are based in the US.Just seems like everything is hitting these kids at one time. That being said it seems like Europe is looking like the place to develop if you are in this group and maybe in the long run that will be a blessing in disguise as one will certainly be exposed to the more"hungry" international juniors we always here about?

wi tennis said...

They probably do need to make some point adjustments, but hopefully they will do that. I understand it's difficult in the Southern section, but they can't base every decision on what's best for the Southern section.