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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

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changes, the prohibition of using private housing for hospitality required for Grades A, 1, 2, and 3, would have been rescinded for 2011.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.


dont get it said...

why not one game play to 21?

will have similar effect on mental development. usta again?

>> said...

The matchtiebreak is without question a hindrance in the development of young players. I wish the U.S.T.A. would do away with them period. The only person it helps is the Tournament Director. Stamina has been and should always be a major part of the game. The more you shorten matches the less time the players have to deal with pressure which is what they should be trying to learn at the junior level. We talk about the days when America was dominant. In those days you were allowed to play 3 events: 2 singles age groups and doubles. It was common to play 4 singles matches in 1 day and a doubles match as well. All 2 out of 3 sets. You didnt have to but you could. Many kids did. Nobody complained. You were allowed 1 hr between singles matches and 30 minutes for a doubles match. When you went to a tournament you were there to play tennis all day. No whining about needing to be somewhere else or the tournament running an hour behind. If you didnt need food you were playing basketball or throwing the football with your friends till they called your match. No worrying about who you played and not talking to them before the match. Bragging rights among friends was everything.
Kids choose to play an individual sport for a reason. No dependence on anyone else. The thrill of one on one competition and me proving I'm better than you. If you're not better that day get back to work and practice till you get it. No participation ribbons to make people feel better. If you arent successful figure out why and deal with it.
Americans need to rediscover this mentality. Just my thoughts which I'm sure will be strongly disagreed with but having been in the game my whole life thats the way I see it.

Fitness said...

Good points. Except for increased knowledge of sports science and welfare (that usta ignores) that has occurred. Athletes need more than an hour to cool down , eat drink and again warm up . Most other organizations understand this. Not usta

agree said...

Absolutely agree the matchtiebreak is not in the juniors best interest and facilities that cannot handle the draw sizes especially after the reduction in draw size should just not sponsor them.

Brian Sullivan said...

the match tiebreaker is a joke that rewards noone and teaches bad habits. I see this almost every weekend along with other great ideas such as starting sets at 2-2. the USTA and the tournament directors are more interested in money than player development.

? said...

I do not understand why my 13 yr old son is playing a match tiebreak for the third set and my wife is playing a third set in 4.0 league play. Makes no sense.

Lisa S said...

i agree with "?" but here's another side to things . . .when weather becomes an issue in terms of finishing tournaments, it gets incredibly frustrating, especially for those kids who are trying to get the points to improve their rankings so they can get to the next level of tournament play. i'm not sure what is the right answer, but i do know that my 14 yr old son HATES playing match tiebreakers instead of the 3rd set and HATES the short-scoring (starting sets at 2-2)!

seen it said...

is there anything at usta sanctioned tournaments that encourages proper development or is it all for profit?

Mary said...

I agree with the above comments, as a mom of a junior player, who wants to play college tennis, they need to learn how to play a full third set and I also agree that if the player wants to play in 2 age divisions they should be allowed to- provided there are spots in the tournament.

My daughter played softball and there were tournaments when 12 year olds were taking the field at 11 p.m. because of rain delays- so why can't 16 and 18 year olds start matches after 8 p.m.? Yes, there needs to be time for rest and in heat, a heat rule enforced but other than that, we're never going to be able to compete at the highest levels if we don't start teaching juniors now what it's really about.

Been there said...

Brian Sullivan

the usta does not even understand player development

mjc151 said...

I've been watching and experiencing junior tournaments around the world for a number of years. Third set tie-breakers have no place in USTA tennis; they short-circuit the junior development process both mentally and physically at a time in a junior player's life when they have the greatest ability to adapt and grow.

gsm said...

As a middle aged USTA League player, I like the match TB. I always have a chance against younger, fitter guys, because I only have to be able to play 1 set really well to have a chance. Also, matches typically are over in less than 90 minutes. Thankfully (for me),chances are much greater for an upset.

From a junior perspective, I agree with everyone else & Kriese.

At tournaments back when, it seemed that a junior might play 3 matches in a day (2 out of 3), 2 singles/1 dubs or some combination & that wasn't a big deal.