The USTA released a statement today suggesting the junior competition changes passed back in March may be revised or at least revisited. Here is the statement, in its entirety:
This past Monday and Tuesday, Steve Bellamy, Robert Sasseville and Kevin Kempin were able to spend several hours speaking with USTA leadership, (Dave Haggerty, Gordon Smith, Kurt Kamperman) about the Junior Comp changes. We are pleased to say that we had a very open and candid exchange of ideas.
We shared many, if not all, of our concerns about the proposed new competitive structure, and the USTA definitely listened. We also got a better understanding of their long term objectives for making these changes. Long story short, we requested that the USTA hit the “pause button” for the 2013-2014 junior comp changes before instituting these changes. This obviously comes with some procedural challenges for the USTA, however, they were open to the recommendation and said they will discuss it internally and give it full consideration.
In addition, the USTA acknowledged that moving forward they wanted to seek input from a broader group of constituents, i.e. parents, college coaches, tournament directors. To that end, the USTA will be getting back to us with some suggestions. All in all, we felt that our meetings with the USTA were very productive, and we believe that we should all hit the “pause button” for a short time to allow the USTA to come back to us with their plans for moving forward. Recognizing that time is of the essence, we anticipate hearing back from the USTA within the next two weeks.
This is obviously good news for those of us who, while we may support some of the objectives of the changes, did not feel there was adequate input from all those who would be affected on a daily basis.
The plan as approved in March drastically decreases the number of national opportunities, where playing against others from all sections is possible, for all age groups. Here are some hard numbers on that:
BG18s 3232 national opportunities in 2009 -> 2432 in 2012 -> 542 in 2014
Only 16.77% of the opportunities will remain in 2014 vs. 2009
This is a reduction of 2690 opportunities – or a decrease of 83.23%
B16s 3104 national opportunities in 2009 -> 2432 in 2012 -> 583 in 2014
Only 18.78% of the opportunities will remain in 2014 vs. 2009
This is a reduction of 2521 opportunities – or a decrease of 81.22%
G16s 3072 national opportunities in 2009 -> 2432 in 2012 -> 583 in 2014
Only 18.75% of the opportunities will remain in 2014 vs. 2009
This is a reduction of 2489 opportunities – or a decrease of 81.25%
2944 national opportunities in 2009 -> 2304 in 2012 -> 580 in 2014
Only 19.70% of the opportunities will remain in 2014 vs. 2009
This is a reduction of 2364 opportunities – or a decrease of 80.30%
G14s 2976 national opportunities in 2009 -> 2304 in 2012 -> 580 in 2014
Only 19.49% of the opportunities will remain in 2014 vs. 2009
This is a reduction of 2396 opportunities – or a decrease of 80.51%
BG12s 2656 national opportunities in 2009 -> 2304 in 2012 -> 416 in 2014
Only 15.66% of the opportunities will remain in 2014 vs. 2009
This is a reduction of 2240 opportunities – or a decrease of 84.34%
No one has asked me, but I would much rather the USTA go to the standard worldwide tennis format of qualifying tournaments immediately preceding any and all major national events. If the majority of selections are made by sectional endorsements/rankings and a national ranking list, I would be delighted to see a 128-draw with 16 qualifiers, just like the US Open, here in Kalamazoo for the boys 16 and 18 Nationals.
Have I considered all the implications of such a format? Probably not. But (and I know I'm repeating myself from earlier posts on the topic) why are we reinventing the wheel every few years in this country? For all the good intentions, it just ends up confusing coaches, players and parents, who must figure out, all over again, what to play, when to play and where to play every time the system is revamped. Yes, point chasing is easier for the well-to-do, but the points-per-round system has proven to be, on the ITF, ATP and WTA levels where it has been in place for years, the best way to rank tennis players. No system is perfect, and those who can't abide Caroline Wozniacki or others who ascend to the top ranking without winning a slam, object loudly and clearly, to the WTA's system of rewarding those who play often. Yet the tours want their top players to show up, so any alternatives that discourage that also have consequences.
These are complicated issues that only become more so when new wrinkles are introduced. The change I'd like to see? A simple, easily summarized tournament structure that can't be changed for at least a decade. And then we could all get back to concentrating on substance of the game, not the structure.