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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

ITF World Tennis Tour Juniors Rule Changes for 2020: Coaching Out, No Let Rule Stays

The ITF has published its new Junior Circuit rules for 2020 and I don't see a huge number of major changes this year.  The big news is the discontinuation of the changeover coaching trial implemented in 2019.

Last year, at Grade A and Grade 1 events, when a chair umpire was present, a player could request a consultation with a coach, on a changeover, once per set. The coach had to register with the ITF supervisor prior to the start of the tournament.

In announcing that the trial would not be continued, the ITF release said:  Significant analysis was undertaken of the use of on-court coaching in 2019: how often it was used; at which stage of the match; and whether it had an effect on the result of the match. Players and coaches were also surveyed and asked their opinion about the advantages, and any drawbacks, of on-court coaching; how often they used it; and whether they supported its permanent introduction. As a result of this research, the ITF Juniors Committee decided not to introduce on-court coaching as a permanent feature of the ITF World Tennis Tour Juniors.

I don't know if any of those surveys were ever released, but I have not heard that they are available to the public. Unlike many in the tennis community, I don't have strong feelings one way or the other on coaching in tennis. I do think it is more appropriate to have it in juniors than elsewhere, but apparently the ITF found little support for this initiative, so coaching will go back to being done on the sly at junior events.
Cannon Kingsley talks with his coach at 2019 US Open Junior Championships
The ITF may not allow coaching any longer, but the junior slams are not obligated to follow their rules, even if the junior slams are ITF Grade A designated events. The Australian Open did allow coaching during junior matches this year, and the US Open has allowed it for several years now, so for the slams, those decisions will be made independently.

The rule allowing service lets to be played continues, and with this the third year, I don't see any reason to expect that to change. Again, an exception exists for the junior slams; Wimbledon does not use this rule for its Junior Championships, but it customary now throughout the rest of the ITF Junior Circuit.

The junior slam exception also applies to the ITF's heat rule, which remains unchanged from 2018. The Australian Open used its own system for matches this year, and junior matches were suspended one day, but AO has a much higher threshold than that appearing in the ITF regulations.

As I do every year, I encourage everyone to read the entire junior regulations. I admit I don't look forward to doing it every January, but when I do, I always learn something. At the very least, read the ITF's synopsis of the changes for 2020, and look through the full regulations for the underlined parts, which represent changes for this year. Below are some of the items that are new for 2020:
  • One of the most common changes in the past few years has been point adjustments, and the new point schedule has raised the points granted substantially, in both singles and doubles, for Grades A, 1 and 2. The only round not receiving more points is the winner of a junior slam or a Grade A; all others, including slam and Grade A finalists, will receive more points. I'm not sure what problem this solves, it would be nice if this was the last such change for a while.
  • There is a new 16-and-under Regional Reserved category for entry into Grade 2s through Grade 5s, but this agreement is between the ITF and Tennis Europe and COSAT, the South American federation, so will not impact those in North America. 
  • The minimum numbers of players in a Grade 1 draw has been reduced from 48 to 32. 
  • There is a new regulation requiring a Grade A to have a minimum number of entries--64--or risk a decreased number of points the following year. I'm not sure if this is directed at the new Grade A last fall in South Africa, which did not have a qualifying tournament and still failed to fill the draw, with 63 in the boys main draw and 61 in the girls main draw.
  • Junior draws are to be done in public and individuals are welcome to witness the procedure after notifying the supervisor that they would like to be present.
  • Juniors who attain a Top 200 ITF junior ranking are required to complete anti-doping and integrity modules on the ITF Knowledge educational website within three months of moving into the Top 200.
  • Warmups will use the 1-5-1 model the ATP and WTA now have, but without chair umpires in 90 percent of the matches, I don't see how this can possibly be enforced at the junior level.
  • There has been an increase in the number of tournaments that year-end Top 20 juniors can receive exempt entry into this year, from three to five. 
  • There are now 3 places reserved for ITF Top 100 Juniors at $15,000 World Tennis Tour events.


Brian Shaw said...

The problem with coaching is some kids can afford to travel with very experienced coaches, others maybe with just a parent with no tennis knowledge. So it could be an unfair advantage. Like Collette said, it will now go back to happening on the sly, with hidden signals or in a language the officials do not understand, like always.

Interesting draws are now done in public if a player requests. Lots of interesting draws over the years have favored well connected parents/coaches.