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Monday, September 30, 2013

Peter Wright's Open Letter to USTA; OTZ Introduces New Grip; ITA All-American Qualifying Draws

Men's head coach Peter Wright at Cal has written an open letter to USTA Chairman, President and CEO Dave Haggerty regarding the change in Division I format proposed by the USTA in conjunction with an Advisory Group of several athletic directors. The decision to adopt a format for College Match Days in which doubles is played only if the dual match is tied at 3, is viewed by Wright and many others (including me), as the death knell for college doubles. As Wright reveals in his letter below, the Pac-12 coaches recently voted against any changes to format that marginalize doubles.  Wright's letter:

An Open Letter to USTA President Haggerty, Virgil Christian (USTA), and the Athletic Director’s Advisory Group,

Thank you to the ‘Athletic Director’s Advisory Group’ for your role in examining college tennis match format and for making a recommendation to Virgil Christian and the USTA regarding USTA College Match Day.
It’s invaluable to have people of this caliber helping us focus on promoting and preserving college tennis.

While I agree with much of what is contained in your suggestions concerning the improvements that can and should be made with NCAA Tennis Championships structure, many of my colleagues and I must take strong exception to your conclusion that doubles is expendable.

The format that the Advisory Group suggested, and is being ‘tested’ by USTA College Match Day, virtually eliminates doubles (and doubles players) from college tennis matches.

The Advisory Group seems to have reached the following conclusion: If we eliminate doubles from a college tennis match, fewer tennis programs will be dropped because we will be better able to promote and televise college tennis.

I strongly disagree.

Doubles is part of the teamwork, the camaraderie, and the spirit of what makes the college tennis experience so exciting and important and impactful. Diminishing it to this extent is not only counterproductive to the sport of tennis at the college level, but in turn at the pro level. Indeed, by using the Advisory Group’s format, in their two years at Stanford, the Bryan Bros.- now considered among the greatest champions in the history of our sport - would not have played one doubles match.

At the September 17, 2013 meeting of the Pac-12 tennis coaches, the men’s and women’s coaches unanimously rejected any format that didn’t include doubles as an integral part of a college tennis match.

As for the Survey referenced in the Advisory Group’s recommendation, I never received it, and when reporting the findings, someone neglected to mention that it had a 2% response rate – far below a level that any reasonable person or committee should seriously consider as a basis to make a major decision with such far reaching consequences as here.

As for the ‘Fragile’ state of college tennis cited in the recommendation, I would be the first to acknowledge that tennis isn’t as robust as some other sports these days, but one fact must be taken into account: College tennis is on television more now than it was five years ago, and, as a result, college tennis is currently trending positively in terms of television and internet exposure.

Finally, it makes far more sense to have a comprehensive approach with high level representatives from all the major stakeholders, including the USTA, ITA, NCAA, and AD’s working together with Conference Commissioners and television executives to develop a more global solution for college tennis, rather than the ongoing piecemeal approach that seemingly contributed to us all getting to this point today.

Once again, I genuinely appreciate having such high level sports administrators weighing in and working to strengthen our sport, but I urge you to reconsider your position on doubles. There are a variety of ways to promote and protect college tennis other than eliminating doubles from college tennis matches.

Sincerely yours,

Peter Wright
Men’s Tennis Coach
University of California, Berkeley
Member of the USTA Varsity Collegiate Committee
Member of the ITA Operating Committee
Former Chairman of the NCAA Tennis Committee


Over the weekend I spent some time watching the men's Division III Central Regional championships, which were played at Western Michigan University and Stowe Stadium. The winners of the nine D-III regionals receive spots in the draw of the USTA/ITA National Small College Championships, which are next month in Fort Myers, Florida. The winners in singles and doubles of the Super Bowl, which includes winners from the Division II, Division III, NAIA and Junior College competitions, receive a place in the main draw of November's USTA/ITA Indoor Championships in New York.  The Central Regional champion is Sam Geier of Kenyon College, who defeated Deepak Sabada of the University of Chicago 7-5, 7-6(4) in this morning's final.

One of the reasons I went to the tournament was at the behest of owner David Marcus of Own The Zone Sports, a longtime sponsor of Zootennis.com.  OTZ, which has developed its own successful line of vibration dampeners, has a come out with a new biodegradable overgrip, just rolling out now. Several players on the University of Chicago team had been testing the grip for the past few weeks, and I spoke to a player who has been using the overgrip as well as Chicago head coach Jay Tee. The player mentioned the extra length of the overgrip, its absorptive properties, and its durability, calling it one of the best grips he's ever used.  I asked about the biodegradable feature of the grip, and he said it was an important benefit of the grip to him, but more as an added bonus, since the product itself was so good.

For more details on the grips, see the OTZ website, which has testimonials from coaches and players who are not subject to NCAA endorsement restrictions.

Qualifying at the All-American championships continues, with the men's pre-qualifying completed today and the first round of qualifying now underway in Tulsa.  Of the 16 players to make it out of pre-qualifying, three were freshmen: Andrew Schafer of South Carolina, Jordan Daigle of Virginia and Elliott Orkin of Florida. I can't get the SCORES link to work on the ITA tournament home page, but the qualifying draws have some of the early first round scores posted.

The women's qualifying will start on Tuesday in Pacific Palisades. Zoe Scandalis of Southern Cal was the top qualifying seed, but she has apparently moved into the main draw, with Maria Deheza of Texas A&M, a lucky loser, taking her place at the top of the draw.  The other lucky losers from pre-qualifying are Kanika Vaidya of Columbia and Mai El Kamash of Ole Miss. Top newcomer Carol Zhao of Stanford was drawn to face No. 7 seed Lorraine Guillermo of Pepperdine. See the ITA tournament home page for the singles and doubles qualifying draws.


George Opelka said...

Well constructed response from Coach Wright. It's refreshing to read constructive criticism that isn't laced with disparaging commentary directed at USTA leadership. The Bryan brothers illustration of the proposed changes is absolutely deafening. On a positive note, the proposed changes is great PR for college tennis. I will definitely venture out to watch some college tennis this year!

Austin said...

The solution is pretty simple and a no-brainer, the people trying to make these changes need to ask every single person involved with college tennis their opinion. If 5% want these changes I would be shocked, and if they cant get more than that on board then this issue needs to be dropped, forever.