Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Update on USTA Junior Sectionals, with Southern, SoCal Now in Late July; ITA Commits to Summer Circuit; Division III ITA Regional Winners Announced

I've been trying to keep up with the status of the USTA summer junior sectional events, which have always been one of the primary ways a player can earn entry into the USTA Clay Courts and the USTA National Hard Courts. Now that July's Clay Court Championships have been canceled, that leaves only the August Nationals as a target, but how the competitors will be selected for those events remains something of a mystery, since many sections have postponed or canceled their sectional events.

Two of the biggest sections geographically, Southern and Midwest, have dates for their sectionals, with Southern's now scheduled for July 30-August 5. Kalamazoo begins on August 7 this year, so those results will not have any impact on the entries for that event, assuming it is played (fingers crossed).  The Midwest section has moved its sectional to November 7-9, and it will be played indoors with a 64-draw.

Southern California has its Sectional rescheduled for July 25-August 2.

Northern California has suspended all USTA events through July 31. Florida, Southwest, Texas and Caribbean have postponed their previously scheduled sectional closed events, and I believe Pacific Northwest has as well. Intermountain has referred to its event as canceled. The other sections--Northern, Missouri Valley, Hawaii, New England, Eastern, Middle States and Mid-Atlantic--do not address the junior sectional events directly, with the websites currently giving May 31st as the date before which no USTA-sanctioned events can be held.

Again, I do not know how selections will be made for the National Championships, given this long hiatus in the USTA Junior Competition schedule, but this patchwork of sectional tournament scheduling shows both the strength and the weakness of the de-centralized nature of USTA governance.

On Tuesday, the ITA posted the brief note below on its Summer Circuit website confirming that it plans to pursue at least some of the events, which allow local play, usually on college campuses, between high schoolers, incoming freshmen and active collegians.
The ITA continues to closely monitor the situation surrounding Coronavirus (COVID-19). When it comes to decision-making, our commitment is to protect the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, and programs, as well as families and fans. We are pleased to be a leader in helping the country open back up safely beginning with the 2020 Oracle ITA Summer Circuit. We are preparing to move forward with the circuit and promote tennis as a social distancing sport.
According to the event page, tomorrow is the first day to sign up for a summer membership, with registration available for weeks 1 and 2 (June 20-29) beginning May 25th. Other registration dates for the rest of the seven-week circuit are available here. With so little competition available this summer, including no ITF or USTA Pro Circuit events until after July 31st, these events, reduced from their usual number due to the pandemic, could be very popular this year.

The ITA Division III Regional Award winners were announced today. Unlike Division I, which is broken down into 12 regions, Division III has just four: Northeast, Atlantic South, Central and West. The men's list is here; the women's list is here.


Jon King said...

I think the USTA has got to get back to basics first. Local tournaments. It used to be that juniors played locals for a longer time, then started traveling to sectionals, etc. These days as soon as a kid gets some ranking points they stop playing local and start to travel. The USTA should start with baby steps, local tournaments so players do not have to travel. We are in Florida, it would be a lot easier to have 3-4 local tournaments each weekend in SE. Florida, 1-2 in SW Florida, 1 in Central, 1 each in NE, NW. Other areas around the US should do the same.

Start small and encourage kids to compete locally again. Work out the safety protocols. Sectionals and nationals should be cancelled for 2020, the standings have been frozen for so long, might as well play locals and readjust to more recent standings. Use locals to work out the system, then bring back travel tournaments next year.

ITF juniors is a more difficult situation with all the travel required. I would think ITF juniors would cancel 2020 and let juniors play in their own country for a while.

We also need to see if the predicted large 2nd wave actually happens this fall and winter. Makes no sense to schedule travel tournaments for October-December when we have no idea if we will be in the midst of a 2nd wave.