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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Top US Juniors Offer Their Thoughts on No-Ad Scoring for NCAA Division I Tennis

Top seeds in the 18s being introduced at Kalamazoo's opening ceremonies

I've been conducting my usual post-match interviews this week in Kalamazoo's famous Fischer Tower, and in addition to asking about the matches, I've taken the opportunity to ask those players who are still amateurs their thoughts on the format change announced last week by the NCAA.

The question was a simple one.  Will no-ad scoring have an impact your decision to turn pro or go to college?

Collin Altamirano: (verbally committed to Virginia)
"It will. It's a big impact, because the guys on tour, at grand slams, play three out of five. When they're trying to shorten college tennis, it kind of makes it a different game in a way. I don't know if it benefits you or makes you worse, but it's just so different. I'm curious. I might try it, see how it is and go from there."

Jared Donaldson:
My results are always the basis for me signing pro or going to college, obviously. If I feel like, in this upcoming year, if I have a really bad year, it's going to make the decision that much tougher. But now with the no-ad scoring--my goal is to win slams, that's what I want to do--but depending on if I end up going to school for a year or four years, playing no-ad scoring?

Federer isn't playing no-ad scoring, Djokovic isn't playing no-ad scoring, Nadal, if those are my competitors, I'm not really getting the same training. Because at the end of the day, we're all training out here, even when we're playing our matches, we're all looking to get better. That's not what those guys are doing, so why should I be doing that, when that's the level I want to play at.

Noah Rubin: (rising freshman, Wake Forest)
It's not how I feel about it, it's just that pros is ad.  It's very simple. We go to school to get the best tennis we can, to prepare for professional tennis, which is what a lot of these guys are doing and the fact that they're changing the rules just so it could be quicker for TV and stuff like this is a little absurd.  And they wonder why American tennis is where it is.

It's because they do all these shortcuts, trying to find what is the best way, and they've never had the right mentality. They're just hindering the game. If I had any (staying in school for a) second year thoughts in my head, they're gone.  If you want more kids at my level and a level above, you can't change these rules. The coaches of these players are going to look and say, no, this is not going to be good practice, it's not the same.

No offense to whoever is on the committee, but if they went through this whole tournament and asked people who are going and even not going to college, everyone would want ads.

Taylor Fritz:
I don't really think that would affect the decision on college tennis for me, but I could see how it would influence others, because you want to be playing matches like it's a pro match. If you're going to college, and a lot of people going to college want to transition into the pros, and you're doing all these crazy different rules, it's not really realistic.

Francis Tiafoe:
I think it's a joke to be honest. I'm not going to say anything bad, but why are you shortening the matches? You play college to play as many matches as you can, good, long, tough matches against good players. You're going to go from playing no-ad in singles to a Futures playing regular scoring? People are saying it's for TV time or whatever? It's a joke. You want to play the same format as you're playing in a real professional match. I think it's a terrible decision. The committee did a bad job there. But for whatever reason, they did that and college players have to do it. You can't really complain, because both players are doing that.

But as for me, I didn't really think about it, but yeah, for me, I might as well just go an play regular tennis.  For doubles, okay, I understand, doubles maybe, because all ITFs do that, but singles? It's a joke.

Michael Mmoh:
I've heard a lot of people say it would impact them a lot, but I don't think it would impact me that much. At the end of the day, you're still working on your game, still playing matches, it's just one small tweak that you can get used to once you're in college, and get used to once you're in the pros again. So I don't think it's that much of a deal.  I do disagree with it, and I've heard a lot of players say it's a huge deal.


Bazinga said...

These juniors need to smell the coffee and accept change, for change is inevitable. Their games are nowhere near what it will take to play professional tennis. They could do relative well in Futures, which are played by a lot of the college players anyway, but the next step is huge. Remember, the NCAA is trying to look out for the best interests of the student-athletic, with emphasis on the ‘student’ aspect.

Most of these juniors will flounder when they realize the commitments they have to face playing collegiate tennis, from marginal practice sessions to full-time students. I guarantee most professors could care less they are an athlete and won’t give them kitchen passes for missing classes, tests, etc.
If American juniors don’t want to play college tennis, don’t worry. There are a myriad of foreign players chomping at the bit to take their place on team rosters. From my experience, most coaches actually prefer foreign players over Americans.

Unknown said...

These players need to worry more about getting a great college education and positioning themselves the best they can to enter the real world after college. 99%+ of these guys aren't going to make it on the pro tour anyway. Quit your bitching, enjoy your four years with your teammates, and be grateful for the opportunity you have been given.

NCAA is ... said...

NCAA is not about promoting the student-athlete. They are about creating products they can sell to television and the public so they can continue to take in billions of dollars off the backs of young athletes

Jim Wright said...

I have talked to a former player that is now an assistant coach. She is livid and questioning her value to help her kids improve.

I have talked to a head coach that has not decided yet. I was surprised to learn that when he played college tennis he played no ad. Apparently change took place years ago to use standard scoring to improve college tennis. To take the 100% opposite stance now has to raise questions.

There will be kids both native and foreign that will elect to go pro in lieu of college if these changes are implemented. The quality of college tennis from that standpoint will decrease.

Would not surprise me to see some move to D-3 if the opportunity for growth is better.

I have no desire to watch no ad and I probably see 20 matches a year. Win 43% of your points but lose 0 and 0. That can be the result with no add. Not sure how that helps increase fans and grow the sport.

The NCAA statement says they have worked with USTA and ITA. What they don't say is they worked with players and/or fans. They state emphatically that this will increase fan support. On what facts or studies do they make that statement.

And by the way, they have not been "given"; they have "earned".

LoveTheGame said...

People are blinded right now by the real problem....the Big Football conferences are talking about splitting away from the NCAA and only playing each other.

What that means is smaller schools are going to make even less money than they do today. Which means non-rev sports are in big trouble.

Why do you think Adam Steinberg has been dying to leave Pepperdine? They may not even be a D1 tennis program in 5 years. This Major conference change almost happened a few years ago where the Pac10/big 12 merge could have happened and would have left a few schools holding a bag.

The ITA may be grasping at straws about no-ad, but they realize they have to do something or college tennis will go away or only be played by 50-100 schools max. They have to get attention and make the NCAA championships more attractive to viewers. They may not be right about shortening matches, but the fact they are willing to try something is a positive.

In terms of no-ad,the format doesn't really matter. The best players will still win the majority of the time. So will the best teams. There will be more upsets bc to break someone you now only have to win one point on their serve at deuce, as opposed to 2 in a row. The third set breaker will force players to concentrate more each point and will give an advantage to big servers, who statistically may have an edge on service points. You will not need to be in as good of shape as before, but it may help reduce injuries which is a problem for college tennis. If a school loses one of their top players, the level of the whole team drops dramatically. It is similar to the NFL where they now protect QB's. They found that too many were getting injured which affected the level of play. Now qb's are protected and injuries are much lower at that position. Better for viewership.

People have said this before, but it is true - Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, etc still win the majority of tournaments where 2/3 is played. And they win the majority of 3/5. If they went to no ad, they would still win consistently. It doesn't really matter that much. It is a slight adjustment with the scoring, but is not a game changer.

College tennis has not been a breeding ground of professional tennis since the ealy 90's. There are no statistics to support that is changing or will change.

Players who are ready to play pro tennis or want to play pro tennis and have funding to give it a go for 5 years minimum should go out and play pro tennis. They may not make it, but there are no guarantees in life anyways. You can always go back to college or pursue other avenues if that's what you want.

It is great that all these young players have opinions, but the real issue is college tennis may not exist in a few years if people do no open their eyes. I can think of only one school that has it's scholarships endowed, Stanford. Other than that, a University could cut a program any time they want.

Changing the format may not be better for the game, but you have to take chances to improve, survive, and last in anything. Status quo is not working....more and more programs are being cut every year. Instead of talking about how bad the format is, why not come up with solutions that could help grow the sport?

Ben said...

The real question which is not being asked or commented on here is whether no-ad scoring creates a better experience for the thousands of D1 college players who are not realistically aspiring to play pro tennis(excluding the many college players who take a post grad gap year on the futures tour). College prepares only a handful of kids for pro tennis. What is good for a Donaldson or Kozlov should only be a minor consideration in this decision.

I don't have a strong view on this but I would love to hear those against the change articulate why it's negative for the partial scholarship 5 star recruit who is playing tennis as a means to enhance what is primarily an educational experience - these are the constituents who's opinions we need to hear.

As an aside I just can't get my head around the Noah Rubin/Wake Forest situation. Why would they dish out a +/-60k scholarship to a kid who has zero intention of even attempting to graduate. Can't imagine the rank and file boosters of the school find that attractive. Discredits the institution in my opinion.

Aaron Gross said...

There can be debate as to whether college tennis matches need to be shortened and even the merits of no-ad scoring. But it seems like the one thing that can't be debated is the utter lack imagination in going about trying to figure out how to shorten matches, or make matches more entertaining to watch. Take away the no-ad scoring and our changes are chopping 2 games of an already de-emphasised doubles match, which is arguably the most exciting part of a college tennis match and to no longer warm-up with your opponent? Basketball figured out adding a 3 point line, volleyball switched scoring so that every point counted, soccer/hockey have shootouts. College Tennis' major "cutting edge" changes have been playing lets on serve and pro sets in doubles. And now, here is this defining moment where the NCAA decides they want to infuse more excitement into the sport and this is what we get? How about a little outside the box thinking? I have had coaches who have been doing this longer then and are smarter then me that have pushed for some form of a 4 singles/1 doubles or 3 singles/2 doubles system where on a 6 court facility all matches would go on at the same time. All 2 out of 3 sets. If you want no-ad scoring to make sure that you have a 120 minute match- ok. Require every D1 program to have some form of a large and very visible scoreboard that all fans can see that is able to keep track of all 5 or 6 matches. It could be electronic or just a big board that the schools physical plant comes up with. Fans can keep track of every match at the same time and shift attention depending on what is going on and where. To keep from pigeonholing players as just "doubles" players, you could put a maximum percentage of doubles matches for each individual in the rules. For nearly every coach in the US that understands how important doubles is to the enjoyment of the players and the fans and how helpful it is in the players development- you could add weight to the doubles, rather then continueing to subtract weight. I know we like to hold up Isner, Becker, Devarmman, etc as poster players for college tennis. But the reality is that the list of doubles guys that have played college tennis is way longer then singles. College tennis is an awesome training ground for players to earn money playing doubles in the pros. And lastly, with the system that I mentioned- we could play some double headers to get more matches in. One 2 hour match, with a few of the players playing doubles would allow to play a 9am match and 3pm match. If someone had a particularly grueling singles match in the morning, you might shift them to doubles for the afternoon match. Anyway- there are probably better ideas then I just proposed. And I do agree that we shouldn't be afraid of change. But the changes being made are just so basic and obvious. They feel like they are made by people that don't know college tennis very well. This may not be fair. I don't know who exactly made the changes. But how about a little bit more outside the box thinking then this? Aaron Gross University of Portland Men's Tennis

Special said...

How about using a clock like in soccer. Play for 45 minutes. The ref adds some stopage time. Take a 15 minute break, and do it once more. And as a team, award 3 points for a win, a 1 for a tie.

Pritz said...

Yes...we need to think outside of the box...try this on...each match consists of 21 points...three 8 game pro sets in doubles and 6 singles matches going two sets with a super tie breaker in the third. Each doubles match is worth one point and each singles match is worth 3 points( a point for each set and a point for the breaker with a player getting 3 points for a straight set win)...When a team reaches 11 points, the match is clinched. No add scoring in 8 game doubles pro set, regular scoring in singles. This would keep the doubles at 8 game pro set and each pro set would count. Players winning a set in singles would be rewarded and the super tie breakers could be electrifying....Doubles worth 3 points, singles worth 18 points with 11 points clinching.

Paul said...

ITA and USTA need better leaders with vision, a realistic view of the future of tennis, better communication skills, and good business sense. Please consider the following:

1. The tennis coaches on these committees are not businessmen. They do not know how to run a large organization. They do not know how and when to make major changes to their product.

2. No major change in scoring in any sport should be made without communication with the coaches, players and fans. It takes a lot of discussion, trials, and statistic gathering. You don't just make a major change and then say "we had to do something".

3. Changing the way matches are scored will not bring out new fans, will not keep fans at matches longer and will not make TV want to cover college tennis.

4. TV will cover college tennis if college tennis pays for it. College tennis cannot afford TV. College tennis will end up hurting itself by chasing TV. TV will cover any sport that has the fan base and sponsors to pay them large dollars. In today's world there are better and less expensive ways to cover tennis, i.e., live streaming. If college tennis can get enough people to watch via live internet streaming, then go to TV and consider changing the scoring rules. You don't change your business model based on the hope of TV. TV is not the answer.

5. Is college tennis about development or entertainment? It is more about development than entertainment. It is not about entertainment at the college level. It will not sustain itself with ticket sales and fan base like football and basketball. Be realistic. Don't change the sport for unrealistic dreams.

6. College tennis has been losing programs on the men's side to a large degree since Title IX was passed. It is not due to scoring. These particular scoring changes will not bring out new fans. They will not spark the interest of old or new fans. More interesting and innovative ideas need to be put on the table.

Tennis needs your input. Please write to the ITA, NCAA and college coaches to express your opinion.

Paul said...

What sports are exciting and why?

College Football: Speed and violence. Teamwork. Took a long while for it to get on TV.

College Basketball: Speed, agility, slam dunks, teamwork.

College Volleyball: This sport has a lot of potential because of the spikes and teamwork.

College Tennis: Singles just doesn't cut it. Too many long rallies from behind the baseline. Doubles is the sport that has potential. Overheads and quick volleys are exciting. This is where college tennis needs to focus its attention. This is also the sport which is most likely to have the most college players playing pro tennis.

Pritz said...

Fascinating conversation. I agree that doubles tends to be more fun to watch for spectators. We may have to also look at the presentation of the matches. How much more fun than the format Dick Gould used in the 70s...those riveting indoor evening matches at Maples Pavilion. The problem may be that tennis is just not the happening sport in the USA right now and college tennis reflects that. Whether the changes are with scoring,presentation, administration or some combination of the three, this needs to be a thoughtful, meaningful discussion with all parties involved and a real " vision " for Division 1 tennis...meanwhile D3 tennis is thriving with great educational and entertainment value.

Different strokes for different folks, said...

College volleyball exciting? Are you kidding? That was a very subjective and opinionated post with no basis in fact.

Everyone has their own opinion of what is exciting, for some, every point of tennis is, others, not so much. I find football dull as watching corn grow. Couldn't drag me to a volleyball game, ugh.

personal preferences said...

Agree with Different strokes/folks that doubles being the exciting part of college tennis is completely subjective. As a player, almost everyone I've met through the game of tennis enjoys watching singles way more than doubles. Until a survey representing everyone interested in watching college tennis is taken, there's nothing that really backs such a claim.

Shawn - TN said...

1) Doubles has the most excitement for television viewing.
2) Most college fans enjoy watching doubles over singles..
But, why are we gearing everything to what has the best television or fan potential? Shouldn't the men be playing tennis to develop themselves for the pro game? Why else would anyone with potential to be a pro play college tennis?

K. Minor said...

I think the answer is keep the regular scoring but run it like a golf show. You don't swatch every hole of golf. Have the TV broadcast on tape delay and let the producers cut away from matches to other matches and make it fit in the timeslot. Most matches will fit in the 3 hour slot and if it's going long then 'due to time constraints we now join the deciding matches at...' Producers get paid to cut and make the end product appealing. Give them an hour time delay and they'll make it work.

Will Segraves said...

After having heard for all the facts from a close friend who is on the committee, I must say that I understand better the changes and why they are being done.
People are not all going to agree but a couple of sepcifics I like are.
1. They are keeping doubles (albeit a little shorter) but at least thye are not getting rid of it.
2. They may be moving the Individual National Championships to the Fall season and doubles would 2 out of 3 sets! and I like that
3. In the Spring the Singles will be 2/3 full sets with no ad. I am not a huge fan of no ad but at least it is not the 10 point super breaker for the 3rd
4. These changes will help College Tennis get on TV.
I have a son that is at a pretty high level and if I can see him play on TV someday I don't much care if the scoring is no-ad
5. From what I was told Mens College Tennis could be a casualty if some changes are not made. So I have to support some reasonable change.
Just a few thouughts from me coming from what I was told.

I think maybe at least give a try for a year or two and see if the TV aspect helps to motivate colleges to keep Mens Tennis Programs as well as inspire young American Tennis players to want to get good enough to get some TV time!!

Lisa Stone said...

Will, you might want to listen to today's ParentingAces radio show - there were some awesome college coaches (as well as Colette herself!) on air with me today offering some great insights on what's happening out there. The podcast will be online this afternoon at www.parentingaces.com/radio-show

Tennis_Dad said...

The change to no-ad scoring is terrible for college tennis. Why change the fundamental nature of the sport, in hopes that someone will televise it? College tennis is as unlikely to generate television revenues as college soccer, lacrosse, volleyball or wrestling. Even if the committee is for some reason convinced that there is a place for shortened college tennis matches, you'd be better off going to simultaneous 4 singles, 1 doubles -- i.e. best of 5 points wins the match. That doesn't change a fundamental aspect of the sport. Using the same logic as this committee, college baseball players should start with a 1-1 count; or college golf matches should only last 9 holes..... The answer to get more fans is not to eliminate warm-ups and go to no-ad. It's to market the sport itself better on campus to the students and fans. Are USTA Juniors and the pro tour all going to follow suit and change to no warm ups and no-ad? Of course not. These changes are pointing college tennis in the direction of Team Tennis. It's a pretty ridiculous yet substantial change for college tennis players, who have all grown up playing real tennis with traditional scoring....

Will Segraves said...

Well I repsect that everyone is entitled to their opinions. I certainly have expressed mine on many occassions when it comes to USTA PD issues etc. But for the College Tennis I did not feel I had much in the way of facts to go on. Now I feel like I appreciate what both sides are saying. There is much more detail than what I could express in a post. Like I said I am not a big fan of No-Ad, but my kid routinely plays 10 point TBs which I also dont like, but somehow he still live a normal life. These changes are not going to be the ones that would have really upset me like elimating doubles altogether or have singles sets to 4-4 etc.
Doubles will still have an important role and singels is a full 2/3 sets but withn no-ad. That about 3 hours which is more tennis than I could play in a row right now!
Just my opinion, you are all welcome to yours as well.

Brent said...

I do agree that, if faced with a choice, I prefer no-ad with full best 2 out of 3, as opposed to ad with a 10 point supertiebreaker but would prefer they not implement either.

One of the key premises here is that, in order to support any of the 'shortening' efforts, you have to both believe that these changes will result in materially more TV coverage, and you have to believe that that increased TV coverage is necessary for the survival of the sport at the college level. I fundamentally disagree with the premise that any changes will result in materially more TV coverage, thus eliminating the primary rationale for pursuing change in the first place. What other precedent would someone point to for fundamental rules changes resulting in a change in TV coverage?

Will Segraves said...

What I heard about tennis getting on TV was that some of the big 5 conferneces are getting their own confernce tv networks and they need to fill time with programming. If tennis can find a format to fill no more than 3 hours then apparently these networks could be putting a good deal of tennis programming on. If College tennis does not find a format to suit this then College tennis could be on the outside and become vulnerable to getting cut by ADs and Presidents.
Anyway, this is what I have been told. I definately would prefer not to shrink any of the college format if it were not for me thinking that a good deal of College Tennis on TV would be worth going to no - ad etc.

conundrum said...

the irony of it all is that people with actual experience on tour are pretty positive about the idea of how playing no-ad (pressure points) can help someone get ready for pro tennis. former players, tour coaches, etc. the most vocal are parents, etc, people with little idea of what goes into pro tennis.

fan said...

To Will Segraves/
On your first post:
2. They may be moving the Individual National Championships to the Fall season and doubles would 2 out of 3 sets! :
Which are u talking about, ITA or NCAA, since WAATC and NIIC ARE played during the Fall. And the NCAA announcement says that they will implement match TB in lieu of 3rd. I'm confused.