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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Top College Players Give Their Thoughts on No-Ad Format

Whether no-ad will return to college tennis or not is now an open question, given the NCAA Division I Championships Cabinet's recent decision to table the proposed format change that included it.

I spoke to all 16 participants in last week's inaugural American Collegiate Invitational at the US Open about no-ad, and the responses varied, primarily along gender lines. (It should be noted that my solicitation of the players' thoughts and their responses were made under the assumption that no-ad would be the format for the 2014-15 season, which is now far from certain).  The women had much less positive to say about it than the men, and I'm not sure why that would be the case.

One theory is the men are more receptive to it because they actually used it in their experimental format this past winter.  Another theory is that players are taking their cues from their coaches, with the women's coaches not supporting it as several of the men's coaches have done.  A third theory I've heard centers on game style, with women viewing their games as unlikely to thrive in a format that could reward the big serve, first-strike game style favored more by men.  The fourth reason could be as mundane as a small sample size, with 16 players hardly representative of the hundreds who will be surveyed on the topic, if the NCAA Cabinet's request is implemented.

Olivia Janowicz, Florida (2013-14 final year of eligibility )
Last fall we were training for it; heard rumors we might be playing it at All-Americans, so I played a couple of practice sets against Brianna[Morgan] and other teammates, and I really disliked it. But maybe in a match, it's different.

I feel like it kind of favors the worse player--people get lucky--and to have ads I feel is really beneficial, especially for a team like Florida. We love long matches. Roland [Thornqvist] will have to change what he's doing, maybe be more aggressive, which our team is pretty well suited to now. Me personally, I don't like it. I'm glad I'm done, I guess. It's the only reason I'm glad I'm done, otherwise, I would have stayed forever.

Mackenzie McDonald, UCLA (sophomore) 
I still think the better players will win. It's definitely going to be different. I think it will teach players to play each point and every point. When there's deuces sometimes you play loose a couple points; you really have to work for the first couple now.  It'll be interesting, I'm not sure how it will be. But I still think the better players will win, there's not going to be too much of an outcome change.

In terms of me making a decision of going pro based off the format, I don't think this is a tremendous difference. For me, I'm going to go pro when I'm ready to go pro. It's not going to change that.

Jennifer Brady, UCLA (sophomore)
It's kind of disappointing. I don't really like it. Every person I've talked to doesn't like it. It's just not, like, tennis. You won't have those eight-minute long games; it'll be 40-all deuce, boom, over.  I feel sometimes if you go deuce ad, deuce ad, that can eventually decide the set or the match. I feel the ad's really important.

Greg Andrews, Notre Dame (2014 graduate)
We played it in the first part of the [dual match] season and I didn't think it affected college tennis too much. I think 99 times out of a 100, the better player is still going to win, and it really makes for some exciting situations. That's ultimately the goal, to have exciting, tense tennis matches, and I think it can contribute to that. I wouldn't say I'm totally for it, but I think it's going to be okay and college tennis is till going to be a lot of fun.

Alexandra Cercone, Florida (2013-14 final year of eligibility)
I feel sorry for everybody else (having to play it).  They have their reasons for doing it, and I understand it boils down to money a lot of times. We'll see how it goes.  If it does end up helping collegiate tennis, attracting more fans, then I think it's a small sacrifice that the players should be willing to make.  But it's definitely going to be an adjustment for the coaches and the players.  It's definitely going to shorten it up a little bit, but tenacity is going to be an important factor regardless of the format.

Jared Hiltzik, Illinois (junior)
I like it, I think it's good. I think that it puts a lot of pressure on you, which is good for people. I feel sometimes people don't want no-ad because they don't want the pressure. But if you thrive under pressure, it's really something different. When I was injured for eight weeks during the dual match season, it was really my first time on the sidelines watching tennis, and the no-ad scoring was so much more enjoyable for me to watch. When I was watching the normal scoring, I was getting pretty bored out there, even with teammates. It just kept going on and on. So I think no-ad will be good.

Hayley Carter, North Carolina (sophomore)
I would prefer it to be how it is. How it is is perfect in my opinion, but obviously not in others' [opinions].  But I'm lucky to be in college, and I will take whatever format comes my way and try my best.  My coach is telling me it's good for development, closing out games, so I think I need to take that mentality. I need to take it as a positive, something to work on, to focus every single game and in that way it can be better for me. But obviously, I would like things to stay the way they are. But change happens.

Raymond Sarmiento, Southern California (2013-14 final year of eligibility)
I know a lot of people don't like it. It's not necessarily the point play, it's the bigger picture. Football is taking all these resources and putting it back into football. So realistically the format being shorter is just a way to keep college tennis afloat.

In terms of playing it, we played a little bit of it last year, and it's good. I like it, it's okay. You really have to focus on every point, and that's what I like. There are some negative effects to it. If you get down 15-0, 30-0, there's only so much you can do to recover. Definitely the matches go by quicker. But if you are playing against UCLA or Virginia, the top schools, it's always going to be a high level, no matter what format you play.

Danielle Collins, Virginia (junior)
It's a shame that a bunch of people, who are on a committee, get to decide these things and don't listen to the opinions and the views of the players. It's not fair to us. It's just really unfortunate that they made this decision. I think that it's a big mistake. I'm really disappointed with their decision and how they decided on it. It's just embarrassing for the sport, it really is.

I don't see women's college tennis, or even men's college tennis, getting a lot of TV coverage, if that is the main reason they're changing formats. There are other ways to speed up matches, maybe getting ball kids, which I think would be a pretty cool experience for younger kids.  I just think there's other options.

If Federer, Nada, Serena and Sharapova, if they were playing no-ad matches, the outcome of who won the tournaments would have been completely different. It's just really embarrassing, I could go on and on about it.

Clay Thompson, UCLA (2013-14 final year of eligibility)
Honestly, I think it's not too big of a deal. I enjoyed playing it in the first couple of months of college tennis this year. Being a big server, it puts me at a little bit of a disadvantage, obviously, but I think it's fun. It teaches you how to play the pressure point better. You have to play that deuce point and that is the end-all point. So playing under that sort of pressure will help you in the pros; if it's 30-40, you'll say, oh I used to play these no-ad points all the time. 

The hype of it being so terrible to development, I can't agree with that. From my standpoint, it really doesn't make that big of a difference; if anything, it teaches you to play the bigger points better.

Kristie Ahn, Stanford (2013-14 final year of eligibility)
I was talking to someone about it yesterday, and I can't imagine what I would do if I had to play it.  I was thinking I'd talk to my opponent before to see if we could agree to break the record for the longest match, just lob every ball to prove the point that you actually can't put a timer on a tennis match.

You have four big names, Stevie [Johnson[, Brad [Klahn[, Mallory [Burdette[, [Nicole] Gibbs, who went through at least three years of college, and I feel we finally have that pathway made--that college is a legitimate stepping stone to the professionals--and now they're just going to take that away. To me, that's just a bit ridiculous.

Alex Sarkissian, Pepperdine (2013-14 final year of eligibility)
We experimented with it for about a month at the beginning of the season and I thought it was fun. It makes it a little bit more exciting. Whoever wins the deuce point--it builds up a lot of excitement for the players and the audience. I enjoyed playing it, and it kind of speeds up the game as well, and that's the goal, isn't it? To get on ESPN, or try to get it televised. I think it should help, make it a little more interesting to watch.

Julia Elbaba, Virginia (junior)
I'm not a fan. I'm strongly not a fan.  I think it's changing the rules of tennis, cheating the game.  For doubles okay, that's fine, but for singles, that's a huge change.  Going to deuce and the next point wins it, for the fans, it might be more exciting, knowing that it's deuce, everybody gather around and see who wins that point, but I feel you can get lucky, winning that point. It's just not the true game.

Peter Kobelt, Ohio State (2013-14 last year of eligibility)
I think it may give an advantage to the weaker team. At the end of the day, I do think it makes the matches shorter, but it takes away the integrity of the sport.

It's an experiment, coaches voted for it, some are happy with it, some are not happy with it, but at the end of the day it's still competing.  The rules change but the team that plays the best and competes the hardest usually will come out an win.

I think I'm happy that I'm out (and not playing no-ad).  There's not much you can do if you're a (current) player. But it's kind of nice to be on the outside looking in on that kind of stuff.

Jamie Loeb, North Carolina (sophomore)
I'm personally not a fan of it. I know Brian [Kalbas] our coach is a fan of it, because it makes every point important, which I understand. But I think it benefits the weaker players--anyone can win, so it makes the playing field much more level. 

In a way it's good, because it makes you focus more--you have to win this point, it's very important--rather than say I can miss and come back. It's going to be pretty hard to come back from 0-40 games and win those games. I see some benefits, but like I said, there's some downside to it. But everyone has to do it.

Marcos Giron, UCLA (turned pro after junior year 2013-14)
I think there's pros and cons to it. It definitely makes you tougher on big points and really focusing on the first couple of points of each game is very important.

But I don't think they should have the no-ad for the NCAAs (individual tournaments) with a wild card into the US Open on the line.  Sometimes I think it can favor the bigger server.

There are pros and cons to it, but I think they should just stay with how the world plays tennis.


George Opelka said...

In my humble opinion, a private ballot without names is the only way to get a true reading of the players position towards the proposed changes.

Matt said...

I would like to see the ITA allow schools to play whatever format they choose for regular season matches. If some of the top programs choose no-ad and players/recruits are truly opposed to it, they can transfer or choose other programs that utilize traditional scoring. Maybe the balance of power would shift and coaches pushing this agenda would get the message or maybe no-ad would win out? Either way, this seems a much better way of moving toward a consensus than some cockamamie survey.

George Opelka said...

Cockamamie surveys play a key role in the success of corporate America. If conducted properly, surveys are extremely valuable tools when dealing with change management. And that's all surveys are... tools that yield results to help smart people make difficult decisions. I'd rather have a board making informed decisions using empirical data from players, coaches, etc...

Regardless, this is a case of you're either strongly in favor or strongly opposed to the proposed change. With that said, run with a decision and let's get on down the road.

Matt said...

"Properly" being the key word. My point is that based on recent trends from the ITA/NCAA tennis committees, I am fully expecting them to circulate the following survey: "Which of the following options would you prefer to shorten matches to under 3 hours: A) No-Ad or B) 3rd set supertiebreaks."

When 60% choose A, they will then claim they did a survey and players/coaches are solidly in favor of these changes *rolls eyes*.

Austin said...

With all due respect Colette, you are just being stubborn now. If you feel that this is hurting college tennis, don't you think you're hurting college tennis even more by not covering it live? I am a big fan of the blog and I get it's a personal decision, but it is very hypocritical of you to want to promote college tennis, yet you are straying away from it. Please drop the stubborn act and accept change to help better this sport!

Colette Lewis said...

I don't see how I'm being hypocritical. I've taken no oath to support Division I college tennis. I covered it because I loved it. I don't love it in its current iteration, so I am not covering it live.

I have tried to present all viewpoints in my role as journalist, especially those of the players themselves, who do not have a power base within the ITA or NCAA.

Shawn said...

Two thoughts, this is a blog that basically provides no to little money for Colette. Give it a break, Austin.

Ok Colette, i enjoyed reading the player's positions, but as it was NOT anonymous, one has to wonder if it is really their thoughts?

Enjoyed reading the NY Times article, thought it was hilarious how the USTA PD flip flops all over the place, contradicting themselves so many times over the years.

It's bad to play college tennis, it's good to play college tennis until that is we decide you should leave school and be on the pro tour even though you didn't finish college tennis ( screw the team).

And that's the problem, you can't be wishy washy about following a dream when someone is telling you what to do.

If you want to be a pro, you have to grind it out on the tour, week after week, month after month, and skip the classroom, homework, papers, tests, parties, girls, drinking, etc.

And most importantly it has to be your dream.
Our junior players or their parents are too focused on what happens if you don't become a pro.
How can you live a dream worrying that you are going to fail?

Words from an insider said...

"....accept change to help better this sport!"
Spoken like an insider.... Blindly follow what we tell you to do until it doesn't work out, and we reinvent the whole thing again.