Few Significant Changes in ITF Junior Rules for 2011; Mid-Atlantic Section Drops Match Tiebreaker for Selected Junior Tournaments
I can't say I really look forward to my annual review of the changes in the ITF Junior Rules and Regulations, but this year I was hopeful that what I considered the most misguided of the 2010 changes, the prohibition of using private housing for hospitality required for Grades A, 1, 2, and 3, would have been rescinded for 2011. As I mentioned in my Eight Intriguing Questions for 2011, the 2010 change led four tournaments on the U.S. ITF schedule to move down to level 4s, where housing is not part of the tournament's obligation. Unfortunately, the ITF Junior Competitions Committee, chaired by former USTA president Lucy Garvin, seems to have decided that rather than drop the "hotel only" requirement, it should be expanded. One of the new regulations prohibits Grades 4 and 5 from using private housing for hospitality, although I'm not sure how widespread this practice was. If you were in a position to offer hospitality, why wouldn't you request a higher grade level? In any case, I can't see any Grade 4 or 5 ITF junior tournament paying hotel bills for all its players. The ITF Junior Team regulations for 2011 include a new, similar prohibition. "Private housing shall not be used by host
nations as a form of hospitality."
The ultimate irony in all this is the accommodations at the Wimbledon Junior Championships. Players stay, not in hotels, but in the dorms at Roehampton University, which from the accounts I've heard, are a far cry from say, the Grand Hyatt, where the juniors are housed during the US Open. As I've learned in the past few years, junior slams are not strictly governed by the ITF's rules and regulations (Sean Berman can be an Australian, Wimbledon can refuse to implement no-ad doubles, etc.); this is another exception to add to the list.
There don't appear to be any significant changes in the ITF regulations this year. They've added that juniors cannot accept money, directly or indirectly, to play in an ITF sanctioned event (I hadn't heard this was a widespread problem, but maybe it had come to their attention recently), and there are clarifications in the suspension points section, as well as a detailed list of exceptions to the rule that a player may not compete in another tournament during the same dates if they have been accepted into and committed to play an ITF Junior event. This rule was obviously so frequently violated that the exceptions are basically there to describe all the good reasons a junior would have for playing elsewhere, which basic boil down to "more important competition."
See the ITF junior website for a pdf of the Rules and Regulations for 2011. Changes for this year are underlined.
Former Clemson men's coach Chuck Kriese, now at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in Maryland, posted an entry to his blog a few days ago with the news that the Middle Atlantic section was not following the USTA national push to finish split-set matches with a match tiebreaker in lieu of a third set. Instead, the Middle Atlantic will play best of three tiebreak sets Level I and Level II tournaments in the section. This is a complicated issue, and the people that Kriese quotes understand that. I just covered a USTA Regional tournament where the match tiebreaker was used, and even with it, and very little rain, play on two of the three nights went past 8:30 p.m. Obviously, if all facilities were the size of Mobile's Tennis Center, or tournaments were four days instead of three, playing out the matches wouldn't lead to such long days. But trying to give players plenty of competition while not disrupting their academic commitments means something has to give somewhere. And I disagree about the health issues he dismisses. I've seen some scary things at the Boys 18s Clay Courts in Florida in July, and it's not as if they don't have a heat index at say, the Australian Open, which mandates stoppage in play until temperatures drop.
I think including doubles in this discussion mostly just confuses the issue. It has been obvious for some time that the ATP, WTA and ITF do not believe it is a significant part of the game. I actually prefer the eight-game pro set to the no-ad, match tiebreak mutation that now passes for doubles everywhere but the slams and USTA tournaments. At least it has the advantage of preparing the juniors for college tennis.
Kriese maintains that most parents, coaches and players are against the match tiebreaker. I would love to hear from you in the comments section if you agree or disagree with his positions and the action taken by the Middle Atlantic section.