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Monday, February 4, 2019

Reviewing ITF Junior Circuit Rule Changes for 2019; Duke Women Top Recruiting Class Rankings

Every January I spend several afternoons reading the ITF junior circuit rule changes for the year, and although I try to spotlight ones I think are most relevant to most players, I don't always get that right. Last year, I didn't notice how drastic the change in the heat rule was, and it turned out adoption of the suspension of play criteria led to major disruptions at the US Open Junior Championships last year, and even, much to everyone's amazement, at the Orange Bowl in December.

I had hoped that rule would be revisited this year to a Wet-Bulb Globe Temperature more reasonable than the one implemented for 2018, but that has not happened, so expect many more suspensions of play or changes in the schedules for tournaments in 2019.  I was puzzled that the juniors continued to play at the Australian Open last month long after that WBGT number had been surpassed, but it turns out that a slam can institute their own rules, even for juniors, if they wish, and in Australia, they did just that. Whether the US Open will come up with something to override the ITF's heat rule this year remains to be seen.

Another rule that did not change was that of playing let serves, which was instituted in 2018.  I wrote about this change for the Tennis Recruiting network last spring, and while it has yet to be adopted on any other level of ITF or professional tennis, I believe it is here to stay in ITF junior play.

A junior doubles team takes advantage of coaching at US Open
As for rules that did change, a big one involves coaching, which is now allowed at Grade As and Grade 1s when there is a chair umpire. Again, the US Open juniors have allowed coaching for two years, but it is not confined to changeovers, as is specified here.

If you are a coach who would like to take advantage of this rule, I would suggest having a copy of the page it appears on in the Rules and Regulations (page 53) easily accessible at these tournaments. Although most officials study the rule changes, counting on every single one being aware of the new rule is too optimistic. And that goes for any other rule change that involves interpretation by the officials at the tournament (rather than at the ITF itself).

Because the serve clock is present for juniors only at the US Open, and most of the matches played on the ITF junior circuit are not chaired, the change this year from 20 seconds between points to 25 seconds between points probably looks like a more important change than it actually is.  Rarely enforced, the 20-second rule moving to the ATP/WTA/slam standard of 25 seconds is not likely to change the behavior of officials or players on the ITF junior circuit.

In the attire regulations, girls are now allowed to wear leggings. That's another rule, like the time between points, that hasn't been strictly enforced at every ITF junior tournament.

And of course, there are a great many changes related to the ITF's World Tennis Tour, which sets aside five spots in the WTT $15,000 tournaments for Top 100 juniors. It's interesting that having a birthday late in the year is going to be much more valuable for those who finish in the Top 100 in the year they turn 18 in juniors. The following year, until they turn 19, they can use that ranking to enter $15Ks, but as soon as they turn 19, that route of entry is no longer open to them.

There are a whole host of other changes, a few of which I'll just include in bullet points:

  • player nationality will be determined at registration by a current valid passport
  • no bathroom break or rest period before match tiebreaker in doubles
  • priority in entry given to junior slams when entered in both WTT events and junior slams in same week
  • tournament must offer same size qualifying draws for boys and girls (if there are not enough players to fill a draw, sizes may vary)
  • no "world champion," team or individual, can be named in 12s age divisions

The complete 2019 rules and regulations are available here, and the changes for 2019 are underlined.

The Tennis Recruiting Network has released its first women's recruiting class rankings for 2019, with the Duke women at No. 1, followed by UCLA, Texas Tech, Yale and Oklahoma State. I am one of the contributors to this twice-yearly ranking process that TRN does. Duke was also No. 1 in the men's rankings, which were published last week.