Sunday, May 3, 2020

USTA Begins Taking Applications for Facility Grants Monday; ITF's Return to Tennis Guidelines; USTA and ITA Look to National Campus for Permanent Site

The USTA will begin taking applications for facility grants on Monday, with the funds distributed to be used for:

...tennis-related costs associated with reopening in 2020. The grants are not intended to cover lost income, dues or lost revenue while closed due to the pandemic. Examples of qualified tennis expenses associated with reopening include:

• Tennis balls and teaching equipment (i.e. tubes, carts, hoppers)

• Cleaning or sanitizing supplies or services (i.e. disposable gloves, disinfectant, cleaning equipment)

• No Touch Items (i.e. scanning software, automatic)

The grant application should be live here tomorrow, with Friday's release here. First come, first serve is the priority for these grants.

The ITF has released its "Return to Tennis" guidelines, similar to those that the NCAA released for all collegiate sports on Friday, with its document giving "minimum standards" and "recommended standards". It also breaks down the responsibilities for national associations, players, spectators, tournament staff, officials and organizers.

Examples of some of the suggested measures include:
  • Players remain at least 2m from one another and have no physical contact (such as a post-match handshake)
  • Players go around opposite sides of the net at changeovers
  • Players use separate sets of balls (and mark them clearly prior to play)
  • Players should not share equipment (rackets, towels, water bottles, etc)
  • Only singles matches should be played
  • Matches should be played without spectators
In the May issue of Racquet Sport Industry magazine, an article on the role the USTA's National Campus is playing in collegiate tennis contains some interesting quotes from Tim Cass, the general manager of National Campus and Collegiate Tennis, regarding future NCAA Championships. From the article:
To help fuel the growth of collegiate tennis, the USTA is currently working with the ITA to combine the NCAA Division I, II and III championships into one giant, end-of-year celebration that would be held at the National Campus. 
 “This would be unique to our sport. We want to create one big festival by bringing all NCAA divisions together, and then partner with Tennis Channel to bring college tennis to a larger audience,” Cass says. “We could perhaps include the ITA coaches’ convention at the same time and also run some college recruiting activities.”
Due to existing collegiate scheduling commitments, this initiative could not happen before 2023, and the USTA and ITA are now fine-tuning the proposal for the NCAA, according to Cass. “This celebration of our collegiate sport could have a big impact on the game and on collegiate tennis."
The NCAA had been expected to reveal its decision regarding future NCAA sites in March, but, no doubt due to the Covid-19 pandemic, that date appears to have been pushed back. The question of Oklahoma State's place in future years would need to be addressed after they were not able to host this year; the National Campus is currently scheduled to host the Division I championships in 2021, and the Division III championships in 2022. Illinois is the site of the Division I tournament in 2022 as things stand now. 

That the ITA and the USTA working toward this together, with Tennis Channel a partner, is significant, but this article was obviously written prior to March's pandemic disruption, so the questions regarding the USTA's ability to financially sustain a commitment to this project must be raised. The NCAA committee, who will make the decision, could decide the sport is better served when hosted on a college campus. But given the unavoidable austerity measures that athletic departments will have to take in the next few years, the NCAA may make a purely financial decision and go with whatever option that costs less.