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Monday, September 30, 2013

Peter Wright's Open Letter to USTA; OTZ Introduces New Grip; ITA All-American Qualifying Draws

Men's head coach Peter Wright at Cal has written an open letter to USTA Chairman, President and CEO Dave Haggerty regarding the change in Division I format proposed by the USTA in conjunction with an Advisory Group of several athletic directors. The decision to adopt a format for College Match Days in which doubles is played only if the dual match is tied at 3, is viewed by Wright and many others (including me), as the death knell for college doubles. As Wright reveals in his letter below, the Pac-12 coaches recently voted against any changes to format that marginalize doubles.  Wright's letter:

An Open Letter to USTA President Haggerty, Virgil Christian (USTA), and the Athletic Director’s Advisory Group,

Thank you to the ‘Athletic Director’s Advisory Group’ for your role in examining college tennis match format and for making a recommendation to Virgil Christian and the USTA regarding USTA College Match Day.
It’s invaluable to have people of this caliber helping us focus on promoting and preserving college tennis.

While I agree with much of what is contained in your suggestions concerning the improvements that can and should be made with NCAA Tennis Championships structure, many of my colleagues and I must take strong exception to your conclusion that doubles is expendable.

The format that the Advisory Group suggested, and is being ‘tested’ by USTA College Match Day, virtually eliminates doubles (and doubles players) from college tennis matches.

The Advisory Group seems to have reached the following conclusion: If we eliminate doubles from a college tennis match, fewer tennis programs will be dropped because we will be better able to promote and televise college tennis.

I strongly disagree.

Doubles is part of the teamwork, the camaraderie, and the spirit of what makes the college tennis experience so exciting and important and impactful. Diminishing it to this extent is not only counterproductive to the sport of tennis at the college level, but in turn at the pro level. Indeed, by using the Advisory Group’s format, in their two years at Stanford, the Bryan Bros.- now considered among the greatest champions in the history of our sport - would not have played one doubles match.

At the September 17, 2013 meeting of the Pac-12 tennis coaches, the men’s and women’s coaches unanimously rejected any format that didn’t include doubles as an integral part of a college tennis match.

As for the Survey referenced in the Advisory Group’s recommendation, I never received it, and when reporting the findings, someone neglected to mention that it had a 2% response rate – far below a level that any reasonable person or committee should seriously consider as a basis to make a major decision with such far reaching consequences as here.

As for the ‘Fragile’ state of college tennis cited in the recommendation, I would be the first to acknowledge that tennis isn’t as robust as some other sports these days, but one fact must be taken into account: College tennis is on television more now than it was five years ago, and, as a result, college tennis is currently trending positively in terms of television and internet exposure.

Finally, it makes far more sense to have a comprehensive approach with high level representatives from all the major stakeholders, including the USTA, ITA, NCAA, and AD’s working together with Conference Commissioners and television executives to develop a more global solution for college tennis, rather than the ongoing piecemeal approach that seemingly contributed to us all getting to this point today.

Once again, I genuinely appreciate having such high level sports administrators weighing in and working to strengthen our sport, but I urge you to reconsider your position on doubles. There are a variety of ways to promote and protect college tennis other than eliminating doubles from college tennis matches.

Sincerely yours,

Peter Wright
Men’s Tennis Coach
University of California, Berkeley
Member of the USTA Varsity Collegiate Committee
Member of the ITA Operating Committee
Former Chairman of the NCAA Tennis Committee


Over the weekend I spent some time watching the men's Division III Central Regional championships, which were played at Western Michigan University and Stowe Stadium. The winners of the nine D-III regionals receive spots in the draw of the USTA/ITA National Small College Championships, which are next month in Fort Myers, Florida. The winners in singles and doubles of the Super Bowl, which includes winners from the Division II, Division III, NAIA and Junior College competitions, receive a place in the main draw of November's USTA/ITA Indoor Championships in New York.  The Central Regional champion is Sam Geier of Kenyon College, who defeated Deepak Sabada of the University of Chicago 7-5, 7-6(4) in this morning's final.

One of the reasons I went to the tournament was at the behest of owner David Marcus of Own The Zone Sports, a longtime sponsor of Zootennis.com.  OTZ, which has developed its own successful line of vibration dampeners, has a come out with a new biodegradable overgrip, just rolling out now. Several players on the University of Chicago team had been testing the grip for the past few weeks, and I spoke to a player who has been using the overgrip as well as Chicago head coach Jay Tee. The player mentioned the extra length of the overgrip, its absorptive properties, and its durability, calling it one of the best grips he's ever used.  I asked about the biodegradable feature of the grip, and he said it was an important benefit of the grip to him, but more as an added bonus, since the product itself was so good.

For more details on the grips, see the OTZ website, which has testimonials from coaches and players who are not subject to NCAA endorsement restrictions.

Qualifying at the All-American championships continues, with the men's pre-qualifying completed today and the first round of qualifying now underway in Tulsa.  Of the 16 players to make it out of pre-qualifying, three were freshmen: Andrew Schafer of South Carolina, Jordan Daigle of Virginia and Elliott Orkin of Florida. I can't get the SCORES link to work on the ITA tournament home page, but the qualifying draws have some of the early first round scores posted.

The women's qualifying will start on Tuesday in Pacific Palisades. Zoe Scandalis of Southern Cal was the top qualifying seed, but she has apparently moved into the main draw, with Maria Deheza of Texas A&M, a lucky loser, taking her place at the top of the draw.  The other lucky losers from pre-qualifying are Kanika Vaidya of Columbia and Mai El Kamash of Ole Miss. Top newcomer Carol Zhao of Stanford was drawn to face No. 7 seed Lorraine Guillermo of Pepperdine. See the ITA tournament home page for the singles and doubles qualifying draws.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Black Claims First Pro Title, Giron Wins Second Futures; Spain, Russia Take Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup Championships; Freshmen Shine at Riviera All-American

Anyone who saw Tornado Alicia Black's level of play at the US Open junior championships earlier this month will not be a bit surprised to learn she earned her first professional title today at the $10,000 Pro Circuit event in Amelia Island, Florida.  Although unseeded, with no WTA ranking at all, the 15-year-old from Florida defeated No. 2 seed Alexandra Mueller, ranked 449, 4-6, 6-0, 6-0.

Mueller did get one title there however, taking the doubles with Brazil's Maria-Fernanda Alves. Mueller and Alves, the top seeds, defeated the Ellison sisters, Roxanne and Sierra, 7-5, 6-3. The Ellisons, who were unseeded, played college tennis at San Diego State.

At the $10,000 men's Futures in Laguna Niguel California, UCLA's Marcos Giron won his second singles title and third overall this month, beating University of Virginia graduate Jarmere Jenkins 4-6, 6-1, 6-1. Giron, a junior, won the Claremont Futures three weeks ago, and last week won the doubles at the Costa Mesa Futures with Mackenzie McDonald.  This week he received main draw entry via a special exemption, and his win today left his singles record in Pro Circuit events this month at 13-1. He will obviously be one of the favorites for the ITA All-American Championships, which begin on Thursday.

The doubles title in Laguna Niguel went to unseeded juniors Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan and Alan Nunez Aguilera of Mexico, who beat No. 2 seeds Keith-Patrick Crowley of South Africa and Ashwin Vijayragavan of India 6-4, 6-2.

At the two Challengers this week, Donald Young and Melanie Oudin claimed the singles titles. Young, seeded No. 8, beat No. 6 seed Matthew Ebden of Australia 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the $50,000 Napa Challenger final. It was Young's second Challenger title of the year. Bobby Reynolds and JP Smith of Australia won the doubles title in Napa, beating Steve Johnson and Tim Smyczek 6-4, 7-6(2).  Neither team was seeded.

Oudin, who was unseeded at the $50,000 Party Rock Open in Las Vegas, defeated No. 6 seed CoCo Vandeweghe 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 in today's final to take her first title of 2013. Vandeweghe did rebound to take the doubles title with Tamira Paszek of Austria, beating former Michigan star Denise Muresan and former Tennessee star Caitlin Whorisky 6-4, 6-2 in the final.

At the finals of the Junior Fed Cup and Junior Davis Cup today in San Luis Potosi Mexico, top seed Russia and No. 7 seed Spain took the championships.

Russia's Darya Kasatkina and Veronika Kudermetova won their singles matches over No. 2 seed Australia's Naiktha Bains and Priscilla Hon respectively, for an insurmountable 2-0 lead.  It is Russia's fourth Junior Fed Cup title.

The third-seeded United States girls finished third, with Kaitlyn McCarthy and Katerina Stewart picking up singles wins in their match with No. 4 seed Hungary. For more on today's action, see the ITF junior website.

Spain won its fifth Junior Davis Cup title, but its first since 2004, with a 2-1 victory over No. 2 seed Korea.  Pedro Martinez Portero defeated Kukeon Kang 7-6(6), 6-3, but Seongchan Hong came back to deal Jaume Antoni Munar Clar his first loss of the week 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 to make it 1-1.  Despite the lengthy and draining loss, Munar Clar returned to the court for doubles, and he and Portero defeated Kang and Yun Seong Chung 6-3, 7-5 to claim the championship.

The US boys lost to Russia 2-0 today to finish in sixth place.  For complete scores and results, see the tournament website.

The pre-qualifying is complete at the women's ITA Riviera All-American Championships in California, with five freshmen among the eight women advancing to the qualifying round, which begins on Tuesday.  North Carolina's Jamie Loeb and Hayley Carter, Virginia's Rachel Pierson, Texas's Ratnika Batra and Florida's Belinda Woolcock all won three matches in two days to get into the qualifying draw. None were seeded, and in fact, UCLA's Chanelle Van Nguyen, the No. 7 seed, was the only seeded player to reach the qualifying draw. Loeb and Carter also advanced to the doubles qualifying. Results and draws can be found at the ITA tournament website.

The men's ITA St. Francis All-American pre-qualifying is not complete due to rain in Tulsa yesterday, but qualifying starts Monday.  The qualifying draw is available at the tournament page on the ITA website.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

US Girls Fall to Australia in Junior Fed Cup Semifinals; Westby, DeVine Win Waco ITF Titles; Virginia vs UCLA Again, in Laguna Niguel Futures Final

The United States Junior Fed Cup team saw its quest to repeat as ITF 16-and-under champions end today in San Luis Potosi Mexico, with No. 2 seed Australia defeating the No. 3 seeds 2-1.

Australia took a 1-0 lead with Priscilla Hon's 7-5, 6-4 victory over 14-year-old Michaela Gordon at No. 2 singles, but Katerina Stewart pulled the US even with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Naiktha Bains at No. 1 to send the tie to a deciding doubles match.  Bains and Hon teamed for the victory in that match, beating Stewart and Kaitlyn McCarthy 6-2, 6-3, to earn a place in the final against top seed Russia.  The United States girls will play Hungary for third place Sunday, while the US Junior Davis Cup team, who beat France 2-0 on Friday, will play top seed Russia for fifth place.

In the boys semifinals, No. 7 seed Spain, who took out Russia on Thursday, beat No. 3 seed Germany today, with Jaume Antoni Munar Clar clinching the win with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over ITF World No. 2 Alexander Zverev.  Spain will face No. 2 seed Korea, who defeated No. 6 seeds Australia 2-1 with a straight-set win in the deciding doubles.

For more on the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup, see the ITF Junior website.

At the ITF Grade 5 in Waco, Texas, No. 14 seed Madison Westby won her first ITF singles title, defeating No. 7 seed Jessica Golovin 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. Westby, a 17-year-old University of Southern California recruit, didn't drop a set until the final, beating the No. 3, No. 8 and No. 2 seeds in straight sets.  Golovin did pick up the doubles title, with she and Emma Higuchi, the No. 1 seeds, defeating No. 8 seed Jada Hart and Stephanie Hazell 6-7(4), 7-5, 10-3.

The boys champion in Waco, No. 2 seed Jake DeVine, was playing in his first ITF singles final and the Kalamazoo 16s finalist came through with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over top seed Nathan Ponwith.  DeVine had survived his friend Catalin Mateas 7-6 in the third in Friday's semifinal. Ponwith picked up the doubles title, with Reilly Opelka, with the No. 1 seeds defeating second seeds Mateas and Alfredo Perez 6-3, 6-2.

In the Grade 5 taking place in Puerto Rico this week, two more Americans picked up titles. Sixteen-year-old Robert Levine, the top seed, won his first ITF singles title without losing a set, beating unseeded Santiago Salazar of Colombia 6-0, 6-4 in the final.  Andie Daniel, also 16, won her second ITF singles title, with the No. 4 seed beat No. 3 seed Mayuka Aikawa of Japan 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 in the final.
Gui Gomez and Sami Kirberg of the US won the boys doubles, with Erica Braschi of Puerto Rico and Rianna Valdes of the US taking the girls doubles championship.

At the $10,000 Futures in Laguna Niguel, No. 4 seed Jarmere Jenkins, the 2013 NCAA singles finalist and recent Virginia graduate, will play UCLA junior Marcos Giron in Sunday's championship match.  Jenkins defeated Sahak Bazrganian 7-6(3), 6-1 in today's semifinals, with the unseeded Giron downing Noah Rubin for the second time in two weeks, this time by a 6-4, 6-3 score.

Tornado Alicia Black reached her second $10,000 Pro Circuit final, defeating qualifier Alex Cercone of the University of Florida 6-0, 6-4 to advance against No. 2 seed Alexandra Mueller in Amelia Island, Florida. Mueller beat another University of Florida qualifier, Belgium's Sofie Oyen, 6-3, 6-1. Black made her other appearance in a Pro Circuit final in 2012, where she lost to Jamie Loeb at the $10,000 tournament in Buffalo.

Former Ohio State All-American Chase Buchanan has had a great couple of months in South America, picking up three singles titles in Futures tournaments there and making a Challenger semifinal. Buchanan, the top seed, won the $10,000 Bolivia Futures today, beating No. 2 seed Hugo Delien of Bolivia 6-2, 6-3. Buchanan has now won six Futures singles titles, all of them on clay.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Redlicki Joins Brother at Duke; Hibi, Rubin and Black Reach Pro Circuit Semis; Pre-Qualifying Begins Saturday for ITA All-American Championships

If you've been visiting the Tennis Recruiting Network's website regularly the past few weeks, you know it's the time of year when top juniors give verbal commitments to coaches for next fall (or even for the fall of 2015).  Martin Redlicki had already decided he would join his brother Michael at Duke when I spoke to him at the US Open earlier this month, but I was interested to hear from him how much his brother influenced his decision.  Martin also discussed his decision to live at home while training at the USTA's Boca Raton Center after spending one semester in the dorms there, and what his plans are for the months before he joins the Blue Devils.

Three juniors who recently competed at the US Open have reached the semifinals of the Pro Circuit events taking place this week.  Unseeded 17-year-old Noah Rubin defeated Cesar Ramirez of Mexico 6-4, 6-3 today at the $10,000 Futures in Laguna Niguel California, a day after beating last week's Futures champion Haythem Abid of Tunisia, who was the No. 7 seed this week. Rubin will play UCLA junior Marcos Giron, who won the Claremont Futures two weeks ago, in Saturday's semifinal. The other semifinal will feature ITA Player of the Year Jarmere Jenkins, seeded fourth, against unseeded Sahak Bazrganian, who shocked top seed Daniel Nguyen 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 today. Jenkins needed three sets to stop USC recruit Connor Farren 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.

At the $10,000 women's tournament in Amelia Island, Florida, 15-year-old Tornado Alicia Black reached the semifinals with a 6-2, 6-3 win over 16-year-old Marie Norris and will play University of Florida senior Alex Cercone, a qualifier, on Saturday. Belgian Sofie Oyen, another Gator senior, who also qualified, will face the only seeded player left in the draw, No. 2 Alexandra Mueller. Black has also advanced to the doubles semifinals, with future Florida Gator Peggy Porter.

At the $50,000 Party Rock Open in Las Vegas, 17-year-old Mayo Hibi reached the semifinals with a 6-4, 7-6(2) win over top seed Ajla Tomljanovic, ranked 88 by the WTA.  That matches Hibi's best win of her career, as she beat Lauren Davis, then also 88, at the Portland Challenger in July. Hibi, ranked 229 and unseeded this week, will play the winner of tonight's Melanie Oudin - Chanel Simmonds match. CoCo Vandeweghe and Anna Tatishvili are in the other semifinal.

The pre-qualifying for the first Division I college major of the season starts Saturday.  The women are at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California, and the men are at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center at the University of Tulsa.  The draws for the women's tournament are much smaller, with only 64 players in the pre-qualifying, while the men have an open pre-qualifying, which doesn't fill every spot in a 256 draw, but comes close.  The women's smaller draws, which are filled with players ranked from the previous years, leave the best freshmen with the task of playing through pre-qualifying and qualifying just to get to the 32-player main draw.  UCLA's Jennifer Brady, Houston's Despoina Vogasari, Florida's Belinda Woolcock, Clemson's Jessie Rompies, Texas A&M's Rutuja Bhosale and North Carolina's Jamie Loeb and Haley Carter--all on the ITA's Top Newcomers list--are in pre-qualifying this year, while Carol Zhao of Stanford received a wild card into qualifying.  Last year, Virginia's Julia Elbaba, a freshman, took that grueling path all the way to the final, where she lost to Florida's Lauren Embree.

Eight of the 10 men on the Top Newcomers list are in qualifying for the men's All-American, welcoming a new sponsor this year in Saint Francis Health Care: UCLA's Gage Brymer, Virginia's Thai Kwiatkowski, North Carolina's Ronnie Schneider, North Carolina State's Nick Horton, Texas's George Goldhoff, South Florida's Alexandru Gozun and Oklahoma's Andrew Harris and Alexandru Ghilea.  UCLA's Mackenzie McDonald received a wild card into the main draw, and North Carolina's Brayden Schnur will not be starting school until January.  The other two main draw wild cards went to Drew Lied of Michigan State, who won the ITA Summer Circuit tournament, and Tulsa's Carlos Bautista.  The men's pre-qualifying draw can be found on the tournament home page.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

US Girls Reach Junior Fed Cup Semifinals, US Boys Join Top Seed Russia on Junior Davis Cup Sidelines; Waco ITF Semifinals Set

With a 2-1 win over France, the third-seeded US Junior Fed Cup team has reached the semifinals in San Luis Potosi Mexico, keeping alive the goal of defending the 2012 title. That team, consisting of Taylor Townsend, Louisa Chirico and Gabby Andrews, swept through the field without losing a match; this year's team of Katerina Stewart, Kaitlyn McCarthy and Michaela Gordon (who played on the US team that won the ITF 14-and-under championships in the Czech Republic last month), lost their first match today, with Stewart falling to Margot Yerolymos 7-6(1), 7-5 at No. 1 singles, after McCarthy had given the US a 1-0 by defeating Apolline Rassat 6-2, 6-1.

That left it to the doubles if the US was going to clinch a semifinal berth outright, and Gordon and McCarthy delivered the point with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Yerolymos and Rassat.  The US will play No. 2 seed Australia in Saturday's semifinal, with Australia also needing a win in the doubles to advance over No. 8 seed Brazil. Naiktha Bains got the win at No. 1 singles and teamed with Priscilla Hon for the doubles victory.

It's top seed Russia against No. 4 seed Hungary in the other girls semifinal after Russia defeated unseeded Mexico 3-0 and Hungary beat unseeded Bolivia by the same score today.

After mostly predictable results in the Junior Davis Cup the first two days, upsets surfaced today, with top seed Russia falling to No. 7 seed Spain 2-1. Jaume Antoni Munar Clar was the hero for Spain, beating Roman Safiullin 6-1, 6-2 at No. 1 singles to make it 1-1, then teaming with Pedro Martinez Portero to take the doubles over Andrey Rublev and Evgeny Tyurney. Spain will play No. 3 seed Germany, who advanced 2-1 over No. 5 seed Japan, thanks to two wins by Alexander Zverev.

The US boys, seeded fourth, fell to No. 6 seed Australia today, 2-1.  Henrik Wiersholm lost 6-3, 6-3 to Oliver Anderson at No. 2 singles. Stefan Kozlov defeated Akira Santillan 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-3 at No. 1 to make it 1-1, leaving the doubles as the tiebreaker.  Wiersholm and Tommy Paul trailed 7-6(5), 4-1 with Marc Polmans and Anderson serving for Australia, but Wiersholm and Paul got both breaks back only to get broken at 5-5, and Australia served out the 7-6(5), 7-5 victory.  Australia will play No. 2 seed Korea, who claimed its third straight 3-0 win, today's over South Africa.

For complete results, see the ITF tournament site.  For more news articles, see the ITF junior website.

The first of the ITF fall circuit tournaments in the United States is in Waco, Texas this week,  and the semifinals in singles and finals in doubles are set for the Grade 5 event.

In the boys semifinals, top seed Nathan Ponwith will play No. 11 seed Evan Zhu and No. 2 seed Jake DeVine meets No. 4 seed Catalin Mateas, in a rematch of the 16s final at the Carson International Spring Championships this April.

There are also four Americans in the girls semifinals, with No. 7 seed Jessica Golovin facing unseeded Emerald Able and No. 14 seed Madison Westby playing No. 2 seed Racquel Pedraza. Golovin beat top seed Chloe Ouellet-Pizer in the quarterfinals today.

Golovin is in the doubles final, with Emma Higuchi, as the top seeds. They will play Jada Hart and Stephanie Hazell, the No. 8 seeds, for the championship.

The boys doubles final features top seeds Reilly Opelka and Ponwith against No. 2 seeds Alfredo Perez and Mateas.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

US Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup Teams Set Up Showdowns for Semifinals; Townsend Confirms Leaving USTA; Too Many Trophies?

Today's Junior Fed Cup and Junior Davis Cup round robin action is complete, and for the second straight day, the teams from the United States posted 3-0 victories.  The fourth-seeded boys defeated Bolivia, with Henrik Wiersholm beating Stephan Koenigsfest 6-3, 7-6(3) at No. 2 singles and Stefan Kozlov downing Rodrigo Banzer 6-2, 6-3 at No. 1. Tommy Paul and Wiersholm won the doubles over Banzer and Koenigsfest 7-6(4), 6-4 for the sweep.  The boys will now play No. 6 seed Australia in Group C, with the winner advancing to the semifinals.

Group A will see top seed Russia against No. 7 seed Spain for a semifinal berth, with both teams winning 3-0 today.  Group B is also straightforward, with No. 3 Germany and No. 5 Japan, both 3-0 winners today, meeting for a place in the semifinals.

Group D is the only round robin that doesn't have two 2-0 teams. France beat South Africa today to put both those teams at 1-1, with No. 2 seed Korea at 2-0. If Korea beats South Africa Thursday, they make the semifinals, but if Korea loses and France beats Peru, three teams will be 2-1, which means the percentage of sets won will determine who advances.

The third-seeded US girls are in the same position as Korea in the boys round robin, in that a win over No. 6 France will advance them to the semifinals, as they are the only undefeated team in Group C after today's win over Colombia. Kaitlyn McCarthy beat Juliana Valero 6-0, 6-3 at No. 2 singles while Katerina Stewart needed nearly two hours to get past Maria Fernanda Herazo at No. 1 singles, 6-0, 6-7(7), 6-4.  Michaela Gordon and McCarthy won the doubles over Laura Daniela Arcinegas and Herazo 6-4, 6-1. In the other match in Group C, Slovenia defeated France 2-1, leaving both teams at 1-1. If the US should lose to France, they would still have a chance to move on depending on percentages.

In Group A, top seed Russia beat No. 5 seed Czech Republic 2-1 today and will meet unseeded hosts Mexico, also 2-0, for a place in the semifinals.

In Group B, No. 4 seed Hungary went 2-0 with a win over Egypt today, and if they beat Bolivia Wednesday, they will advance. If Bolivia and New Zealand win however, that will set up a three-way tie that will be decided by percentages.

Group D has No. 2 seed Australia meeting No. 8 seed Brazil, with the winner remaining undefeated and earning a place in the semifinals.

For the complete draws and results, see the ITF tournament website.
For more articles from Wednesday's competition see the ITF junior website.

Thanks to Steve Pratt, who is working at the Pro Circuit's $50,000 Party Rock Open in Las Vegas this week, there is now official confirmation that Taylor Townsend is no longer training at the USTA. Since the US Open, Townsend has been working with former WTA Top 5 player Zina Garrison, who has a non-profit academy in Houston, and Garrison is with Townsend in Las Vegas. Townsend lost to qualifier and Las Vegas resident Asia Muhammad in first round action today.

This CNN Open Court video report on Townsend doesn't discuss her coaching change, but does provide responses Townsend and her mother Shelia on the controversy over Townsend's fitness that surfaced at last year's US Open.

Although not specifically about tennis, this Op-Ed piece from the New York Times, written by Ashley Merryman, explores the "everyone gets a trophy" culture that has infiltrated youth sports in the United States. Tennis has for the most part avoided this participation bias, probably because it is an individual, head-to-head sport, but the title of the article "Losing is Good for You," certainly can be applied to the experience of junior tennis. An excerpt follows:

In recent eye-tracking experiments by the researchers Bradley Morris and Shannon Zentall, kids were asked to draw pictures. Those who heard praise suggesting they had an innate talent were then twice as fixated on mistakes they’d made in their pictures.

By age 4 or 5, children aren’t fooled by all the trophies. They are surprisingly accurate in identifying who excels and who struggles. Those who are outperformed know it and give up, while those who do well feel cheated when they aren’t recognized for their accomplishments. They, too, may give up.

It turns out that, once kids have some proficiency in a task, the excitement and uncertainty of real competition may become the activity’s very appeal.

If children know they will automatically get an award, what is the impetus for improvement? Why bother learning problem-solving skills, when there are never obstacles to begin with?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

US Teams Open Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup Competition with Shutout Victories; LTA Names New Chief Executive

The ITF's Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup competitions for players 16-and-under began today in San Luis Potosi Mexico, with both US teams scoring 3-0 victories in their round robin groups.

The US boys team, which consists of Stefan Kozlov, Henrik Wiersholm and Tommy Paul is seeded fourth overall and first in their round robin group.  The four round robin groups for the boys, with their overall seeding in brackets:

Group A

Group B

Group C

Group D
South Africa

The only seeded boys team to lose today was No. 8 Peru, who fell to South Africa 3-0.

In the USA's 3-0 win over the Netherlands, Weirsholm defeated Caspar Bonapart 6-0, 6-0 at No. 2,  Kozlov beat Tim Rijthoven 7-6(5), 6-4 at No. 1 and Wiersholm and Paul won the doubles 6-2, 6-3.

The US girls team, which consists of Katerina Stewart, Michaela Gordon and Kaitlyn McCarthy, is seeded third overall and first in their round robin group. The girls groups:

Group A
Czech Republic[5]

Group B
New Zealand

Group C

Group D
Slovak Republic

In the USA's 3-0 win over Slovenia, Gordon defeated Manca Pislak 6-2, 6-0 at No. 2 singles and Stewart downed Nina Potocnik 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(1). McCarthy and Gordon won the doubles when the Slovenians retired at 1-1 in the first set.

Unlike the boys competition today, which went as expected save for Peru's loss, the girls matches were quite competitive.  Top seed Russia needed to win the doubles to advance past Korea 2-1, and Mexico upset the fifth-seeded Czech Republic team.  Sandy Harwitt has more on the home team's victory in this article for the ITF Junior website.

In Group B, Bolivia beat No. 7 seed Egypt 2-1, and in Group D, both Australia and Brazil needed victories in the doubles to move past their unseeded opponents.

For complete results and draws, see the ITF tournament site.

Somewhat surprisingly, Great Britain is not represented in either competition, having failed to advance out of the European qualifying.
Whether that is of any concern to the new chief executive of the LTA is unknown, but if it is, Canadian Michael Downey will be the man addressing the problem, beginning on January 1, 2014.  Downey has been president of Tennis Canada for the past nine years.  For more on Downey's hiring and the current state of the LTA, see this article from the BBC.  For a Canadian perspective on what Downey is and is not responsible for in the resurgence of Canadian tennis recently, see this blog post from Canadian tennis journalist Tom Tebutt.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Texas A&M's Adams Wins SEC Fall Classic; Korean Junior Davis Cup and Fed Cup Teams Play New Mexico Lobos; Other College News

The first few weeks of the college tennis season are difficult to cover, with most Division I teams splitting their teams to travel to college tournaments and to Pro Circuit events. The college tournaments almost always have flights, resulting in several winners rather than one, and there's no central place to go for results, which is my excuse for not providing more coverage of them.

A few tournaments have somehow managed to get my attention, whether by twitter or email or previous exposure to them, and one of those, the Audi Napa Valley Tennis Classic, I reported on in yesterday's post.

Of the others, a big one took place last weekend in Athens, where the Bulldogs swept the titles at the Southern Intercollegiate Championships. Junior Nathan Pasha won the singles title over teammate Ben Wagland, with Wagland and Hernus Pieters taking the doubles title over Vanderbilt's Gonzales Austin and Ryan Lipman. The article of the finals is here, and the complete draws can be found here.

This past weekend, the SEC Fall Classic took place in Nashville, with Vanderbilt as host.  Texas A&M sophomore Harrison Adams, the No. 7 seed, took the singles title, defeating Georgia's Austin Smith in the final, while Lipman and Austin provided the home team with a title when they defeated Mississippi State's Jordan Angus and Malte Stropp in the doubles final. For more on Adams' title, see the Texas A&M website; for the draws and more on Lipman and Austin's win, see the Vanderbilt website.  Note that standard scoring(best of three tiebreak sets) was used for singles and that doubles went to a tiebreaker at 7-7.

The men's and women's teams at Duke host flighted tournaments in the fall. The women's flight winners  two weekends ago in Durham were Miami sophomore Kelsey Laurente,  North Carolina freshman Hayley Carter, and Texas sophomore Breaunna Addison.  The men's flight winners were Elon senior Cameron Silverman and Duke sophomores Josh Levine and Bruno Semenzato.

At the University of Virginia Ranked +1 Invitational this past weekend, Silverman won his flight. North Carolina freshman Ronnie Schneider won a flight, as did Virginia Tech sophomore Andreas Bjerrehus. Sophomore Julian Lenz of Baylor won the HEB Intercollegiate tournament in Waco, continuing the Bears dominance in that event.  At the Wolverine Invitational in Ann Arbor, Michigan sophomore Ronit Yurovsky was named the singles champion, which is decided by accumulated points in hidden dual matches. Note that tiebreakers were played at 5-5 in this tournament, and I'm assuming that also means the one-ad format was used.

In other college action, the Korean Junior Fed Cup and Junior Davis Cup teams stopped off in Albuquerque last week on their way to San Luis Potosi Mexico to play matches against the University of New Mexico's men's and women's teams while getting accustomed to the altitude. To see how the country's best 16-and-under players, including familiar names Seong Chan Hong and Ku Keong Kang (the names are styled a bit differently), fared against the Lobos, see this article.

New Mexico is also breaking ground on a new tennis facility, which it hopes to use to attract additional junior and professional tournaments, as well as major conference and national collegiate events.  For more details, see this article from the Albuquerque Journal.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Challenger, Futures Update; Bencic Picks Up First WTA Win; USD's Uros Petronijevic Wins Napa Shootout

On Saturday, I covered many of the doubles performances of the week on the professional circuit; today I'll review the singles results, as well as those doubles championships that weren't decided until today.

Nedovyesov in the 2008 ITA All-American Championships Final
In the Szczecin, Poland Challenger, which is a 106,500 Euro prize money event, the 2009 ITA player of the year Oleksandr Nedovyesov of Ukraine, the No. 7 seed,  picked up the second challenger title of his career, defeating No. 8 seed Pere Riba of Spain 6-2, 7-5 in the final. The 26-year-old Nedovyesov, who played at Oklahoma State, (if I recall correctly, he earned his Masters degree before starting to play the tour full-time) will be inside the ATP Top 120 with his victory, which is tantalizingly close to the cutoff for the 2014 Australian Open main draw.

At the $75,000 women's Pro Circuit event in Albuquerque, Shelby Rogers picked up her third challenger win of the 2013, with the No. 8 seed defeating unseeded Anna Tatishvili of Georgia 6-2, 6-3 in the final.

CoCo Vandeweghe and Eleni Danilidou of Greece, seeded third, won the doubles title, beating unseeded Melanie Oudin and Taylor Townsend 6-4, 7-6.

Georgia Tech's Kevin King and Juan Spir, who reached the ITA All-American doubles final in 2011, won the title at the Quito Challenger, saving match points in their dramatic 7-5, 6-7(9), 11-9 victory over Carlos Salamanca of Colombia and Christopher Diaz Figueroa of Guatemala.

Former University of Virginia Cavalier Ted Angelinos won his sixth Futures title today in his home country of Greece. Angelinos, the top seed, downed No. 4 seed Francois-Arthur Vibert of France 6-4, 6-4 in the championship match.

At the Costa Mesa Futures, former UCLA Bruin Haythem Abid of Tunisia defeated 17-year-old Ernesto Escobedo 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 to take the singles title, his first Futures singles title since 2009. Abid's win gave UCLA a sweep, with freshman Mackenzie McDonald and junior Marcos Giron taking the doubles title earlier in the day. McDonald and Giron defeated the South African pair of Keith-Patrick Crowley and Matt Fawcett, also unseeded, 6-3, 6-2.

At the $15,000 Futures in Canada, 2012 ITF World Junior Champion Filip Peliwo picked up his first Futures title by virtue of a walkover from fellow Canadian Phillip Bester.  The 19-year-old from Vancouver, who won the Wimbledon and US Open boys titles last year, has been climbing steadily in the ATP rankings the past 12 months. At the end of last year he was 558; when the points from this week's title are added, he will improve on his career-high of 277.

Another two-time junior slam winner, 16-year-old Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, also recorded a first today. The reigning French Open and Wimbledon girls champion picked up her first WTA main draw victory in her third attempt.  Bencic, a wild card, had lost to Venus Williams last fall in Luxembourg and to Tatishvili this summer in Sweden, before beating 2010 US Open girls champion Daria Gavrilova of Russia, a qualifier, 6-2, 5-7, 7-5 today in the WTA Premier event in Tokyo. Bencic will play No. 7 seed Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in the second round.

At the Audi Napa Valley Tennis Classic at Meadowood Resort, University of San Diego sophomore Uros Petronijevic went undefeated over the three-day event, then captured the Solinco Wild Card shootout that decides the overall winner and a Futures wild card. Petronijevic defeated Alabama's Daniil Proskura 10-8 in the final.  Seven of the eight round robin winners went undefeated in their groups, all of them college players.  None of the eight USTA juniors made the shootout, with Taylor Fritz coming closest, going 2-1, but losing out in his round robin group to Stanford's Maciek Romanowicz, who also was 2-1, but had a better sets-won percentage.

Sunday's results are available at the ITA website.  For more on Petronijevic's win, see the USD athletics website. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Escobedo Reaches Costa Mesa Futures Final; USTA Junior Boys Compete with College Players at Napa; Doubles Titles, Finals for Former Collegians

On Friday, 17-year-old Ernesto Escobedo defeated fellow teen Connor Farren 7-6(2), 6-2 to reach his first Futures semifinal, and today the unseeded teen surprised No. 7 seed Jeff Dadamo by exactly the same score to earn a place in the final of the $10,000 Costa Mesa Futures Sunday.

Escobedo will face unseeded Haythem Abid of Tunisia, who avenged his semifinal loss last week to Marcos Giron at the Claremont Futures. Abid a former UCLA Bruin, ended Claremont champion and current UCLA Bruin Giron's Futures winning streak today 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Giron did reach the doubles final, with UCLA freshman Mackenzie McDonald, and they will play the South African pair of Keith-Patrick Crowley and Matt Fawcett in Sunday's championship match.

It may be harvest season in Napa Valley, but some larger spherical objects are also getting attention there now, with the Audi Napa Valley Tennis Classic this weekend and the inaugural Napa Valley $50,000 Challenger next week. The Meadowood Resort has hosted the Tennis Classic, a men's collegiate tournament, for 13 years, but since 2010, junior boys have been invited to compete in the round robin event.  On Sunday, the tournament concludes with a match tiebreaker shootout to determine the overall winner from the eight players topping their round robin groups.  This year the USTA juniors competing are:  Taylor Fritz, Kalman Boyd, Martin Redlicki, Mitch Stewart, Lane Leschly, Sameer Kumar, Tom Fawcett and Jake DeVine. In Friday's round robin play, Fritz and Boyd were the only winners. The ITA has Friday's results and the schedule for today and Sunday on its website.  Ken Thomas of radiotennis.com is also providing free live streaming audio coverage.

The success of former collegians in professional doubles competition continued today. Dom Inglot, 2009 NCAA doubles champion at Virginia, is playing with Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan this week in the ATP event in St. Petersburg, Russia, with regular partner Treat Huey competing in Asia after playing the Philippines Davis Cup tie. (I spoke with Inglot and Huey at the US Open recently and that interview was published yesterday at the Tennis Recruiting Network). Unseeded, Inglot and Istomin beat No. 2 seeds Max Mirnyi of Belarus and Hori Tecau of Romania in the first round, and have reached Sunday's final against top seeds David Marrero and Fernando Verdasco of Spain.  In the other ATP tournament this week in Metz, France, former SMU star Johan Brunstrom of Sweden, playing with South Africa's Raven Klaasen, will play Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Nicolas Mahut of France for the doubles championship.

In Challenger-level competition, British brothers Ken and Neal Skupski, both LSU alumni, claimed their fourth challenger title of the year today, winning the 106,500 Euro event in Poland. The No. 3 seeds defeated unseeded Italians Andrea Arnaboldi and Alessandro Giannessi 6-4, 1-6, 10-7 in the final.  At the $125,000 Challenger in Taiwan, 2008 NCAA doubles champion Robert Farah of USC and Juan Sebastian Cabal, both from Colombia, are in the doubles final as the top seeds after a close win over Huey and former Illinois standout Ruben Gonzales of the Philippines in the semifinals.   Austin Krajicek, who won the 2011 NCAA doubles title while at Texas A&M, and former Tennessee star Tennys Sandgren won the doubles championship at 64,000 Euro Challenger in Turkey. Krajicek and Sandgren, the No. 2 seeds, defeated No. 4 seeds Brydan Klein of Great Britain and Dane Propoggia of Australia 7-6(4), 6-4 in the final.  In the Quito, Ecuador $35,000 Challenger, former Georgia Tech stars Kevin King and Juan Spir have reached the doubles final unseeded.

In Futures doubles action, former Fresno State star Remi Boutillier of France won the doubles title in this week's $15,000 event in France, recent Michigan grad Evan King won his second straight Futures title, this time with former Florida Gator Sekou Bangoura, Jr. at a $15,000 tournament in Canada, and former Tennessee Volunteer Mateo Fago won the doubles title at this week's $10,000 tournament in his home country of Italy.

Friday, September 20, 2013

My Q and A with Treat Huey and Dominic Inglot; TCU, Tulane Kick Off Tennis Channel's Inside College Tennis Program; ITF Grade 1 Yucatan Cup Switches to Clay, Grade A in Mexico Moves to Year-End

Earlier this month at the US Open in New York, I was able to sit down with former University of Virginia All-Americans Treat Huey and Dom Inglot to talk about their climb to the upper echelons of the ATP doubles rankings.  Huey and Inglot had earlier that day lost their quarterfinal doubles match to Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Marcelo Melo of Brazil, but showed few signs of disappointment in the interview, which was my first opportunity to talk to either of them at length since they graduated.

The Tennis Recruiting Network published the resulting Q and A today.

Below are two photos from Huey's and Inglot's college days; Huey with Somdev Devvarman and Inglot with Michael Shabaz.

Huey and Devvarman, champions of 2007 ITA All-American
Shabaz and Inglot, 2009 NCAA champions

This week has been full of conversation about college doubles and about college tennis on television, with the interview linked above addressing the former (Huey and Inglot are not, unsurprisingly, in favor of doubles last), and this bit of news about the latter.

The TCU and Tulane men's and women's tennis teams will be featured in a Tennis Channel program called "Inside College Tennis," hosted by former LSU women's head coach Tony Minnis.  This release from TCU describes the 30-minute program as a behind-the-scenes look at college tennis. Filming at the TCU campus in Fort Worth was just completed, with the program's premier airing in December.

The ITF announced a few days ago that its Grade 1 Yucatan Cup in Mexico, held the week preceding the Eddie Herr, will move to clay this year, from hard courts.  The junior circuit now has three weeks of major clay tournaments to end the year: Yucatan, Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl.

In addition, the Grade A Abierto Juvenil Mexicano, traditionally held over Christmas and New Year's, but counted as the first ITF tournament of the new calendar year, will move to the end of the year in 2014.

Several years ago, the Yucatan Cup was immediately after the Orange Bowl, but that caused scheduling difficulties, with limited flights to the Yucatan often causing travel problems for those still playing at the Orange Bowl, so that tournament was shifted. Having back-to-back Grade As could add some spice to the ITF world junior champion races, which haven't been too exciting recently, but I'm not sure why the move is taking place, unless it's just to have the calendar year coincide better with the actual dates of the tournament.  So in 2014, there will be an extra Grade A, with Abierto Juvenil held in both January and December, and in 2015, there will be one less Grade A than usual.  The release announcing the change says the ITF calendar for the first half of 2014 will be published next month.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

USTA Announces Junior Davis and Fed Cup Teams; How Much Time Will ITA Experimental Format Actually Save?; Sean Karl Posts Two Wins at SEC Fall Classic

The USTA announced the six players--three boys and three girls--who will represent the United States at the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup competitions in San Luis Potosi Mexico next week.

The girls team for the 16-and-under competition is Katerina Stewart, Kaitlyn McCarthy and Michaela Gordon.  Tornado Alicia Black, who is the highest ranked US girl age-eligible for the competition, said at the US Open that she was not invited to be on the team.

The boys team consists of Stefan Kozlov, who played for the US Junior Davis Cup team last year as a 14-year-old, Tommy Paul and Henrik Wiersholm.

The complete USTA release is available here.

The ITF website, which will provide daily coverage of the competition beginning next Tuesday, posted this preview today.

The format experiment controversy in Division I college tennis continues to rage, and although I know many of you don't read the comments to any given post, I encourage you to do so on this issue, as valuable perspectives and suggestions have been made.  Alex Mott provided a sample survey for student-athletes, who, as we know from last year's reaction to the NCAA committee's changes, are a significant stakeholder in these decisions, but once again seem to have been marginalized.

Jeff Sackmann at Heavy Topspin has again used his knowledge of professional tennis databases to provide an estimate of just how much time the ITA's alternative format will save, if you subscribe to the theory--still a contentious one--that Division I college tennis matches are uniformly too long and must be shortened to keep the sport viable. This kind of analysis is vital to the discussion, so please take a few minutes to study Jeff's conclusions on the time saved by going to 1-ad and to tiebreakers at 5-5 in a set.

I will add that my husband, who was closely involved with the Division III NCAA championships held here in Kalamazoo last May, said their 16-team tournament (8 men's teams and 8 women's teams) stayed on schedule because they had access to 18 courts, meaning that the doubles(all three matches count for separate points) for the following matches could begin on schedule regardless of the status of the singles from the previous matches. That doesn't change the length of a match, of course, but it does keep the tournament's first day (two days in the 32-team Division I scenario we now have) from finishing after midnight, which is regularly the case now.

Indisputably the best news of the tennis week came today, when Sean Karl, the Tennessee recruit who was diagnosed with cancer last October, returned to competitive tennis as a freshman at the University of Tennessee last week, and this week won his first two singles matches at the SEC Fall Classic, hosted by Vanderbilt.  Amanda Pruitt from the Tennessee Sports Information department has more on Karl's day at UTSports.com.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

ITA Proposes Format Experiment with One-Ad Scoring, 5-all Tiebreakers, and Doubles First

Intercollegiate Tennis Association Executive Director David Benjamin sent a letter to Division I college coaches last night, outlining an alternative format that will be experimented with in January and February of 2014. A copy of that letter, which also contains the format implemented for the USTA College Match Days, appears below.

I have already voiced my preference for no-ad in doubles on the basis of it being an accepted format in professional tennis, but I do not like the one-ad concept for doubles or singles. However, I do believe this format experiment is the result of a legitimate process by those with the most at stake in Division I college tennis, and although the shotgun nature of it is disturbing, I will keep an open mind about it.

Again, I believe it's necessary to examine the premise that these experiments will result in shorter match times (I'm hoping Jeff Sackmann will assist us here if he can) and that shorter match times will lead to increased fan support/television exposure. I imagine those claims were behind the no-ad format that Division I adopted in 1971. In 1989, with the format not adopted on any other level, traditional scoring was restored. I hope this change is a noble experiment with a much shorter lifespan.

Dear Coach:


I would like to update you concerning recent discussions about the Division I dual meet format, and the decision made last week by the ITA Division I Operating Committee.

As you know, the past academic year we dedicated a great deal of time to this issue, and the ITA Operating Committee decided at its spring meeting in Champaign to "tweak" the current format by mandating that (effective August 2013) the doubles pro-set will consist of a tiebreaker at 7-all rather than at 8-all (the NCAA tennis committee has agreed to use this same format in the 2014 NCAA Team Championships).

Late last spring, the USTA created an "Advisory Group" that included eight NCAA Division I Athletic Directors from a variety of conferences and regions, as well as NCAA staff. As explained in a letter that the USTA sent a week ago to Conference Commissioners and SWA's: "the {goal} was ... to help improve the college tennis product and experience - for players, for fans, for coaches, and for television... and to make the college tennis season and match more exciting and relevant."

This advisory group, after several conference calls in August, met in NYC during the US Open. It has recommended that a new dual meet format be experimented with during the USTA College Match Days in the spring of 2014. The format suggested by the Advisory Group is as follows:

Singles first. The singles matches will come first; numbers 1-6 singles will be played to start each team dual match. The integrity of singles will remain the same. They will be best-of-three sets, worth one point each toward the team result in the dual match. As is currently the case, four points are required to win the team match.

Doubles tiebreakers. In the case of a (3-3) tie after the singles results, then three doubles matches would be played using 10-point super tie-breakers to decide the outcome. This would create college tennis' version of "overtime." The team that wins at least two of the three doubles matches receives the decisive point and wins the match.

"Clinch" format. Once four points have been reached ("clinching" the match), the remaining matches shall not be completed.
Team warm-up. Players will be expected to warm-up with their own team prior to the scheduled match time and will not warm-up against their opponent before the first point is played.

The ITA was not involved in the discussions of the Advisory Group, but it is our understanding, based on a number of meetings with USTA staff during the Open, that the primary goal of this format change would be to make the dual meet time sensitive (ideally less than three hours in length), and in doing so, create a team event that would be more TV friendly and more attractive to the tennis fan.

Over the past several weeks we have had extensive format discussions with a number of ITA Coaches who were in town during the Open, as well as many phone calls with coaches not able to make it to NYC. While many of the ITA coaches agreed with the goal of the USTA and the Advisory Group of finding a dual meet team format that might prove more time sensitive (and as such more viable for TV and more fan friendly), most of the coaches were very concerned that an inevitable consequence of the proposed format would be to reduce very significantly, if not entirely, the amount of doubles played in team competition.  In fact, when Mike and Bob Bryan were asked about this during the Open, they stated that if this proposed format had been used during their Stanford career, for at least one full year they would have never played a doubles match in any of the team matches (and this was confirmed by their coach, Dick Gould).

In follow up to these wide-ranging conversations, the ITA Division I Operating Committee held a highly-focused conference call. After a great deal of vigorous discussion, the committee voted to mandate experimentation in the winter of 2014 (January/February) with a new dual meet format that will represent a dynamic change from the current team format. The new ITA format will be time sensitive (under three hours), but still emphasize the importance of doubles in the college team match. The following is the ITA dual meet format for experimentation:

The dual meet will consist of three doubles matches played first (worth a total of one point), followed by six singles matches, each individual match worth a point. Four points are required to win the team match.

The three doubles matches will each consist of one set to 6, with one-ad scoring and a tie-breaker at 5-all.  Once a team has won two doubles matches, the remaining doubles match will stop (NB. this "clinch" policy is the current rule in the ITA National Indoor Team Championships and the NCAA Team Championships).

Six singles matches will follow the doubles, each singles match two out of three sets, with each set using one-ad scoring, and a tie-breaker at 5 all.

Once four points have been reached ("clinching" the team match), the remaining matches shall not be completed (as in the doubles point, this "clinch" policy is the current rule in the ITA Indoor Team Championships and the NCAA Team Championships). 

There will be no warm-up against opponent before the first point is played in doubles and singles: players will be expected to warm-up with their own team prior to the scheduled match time (it should be noted that this "no warm-up against opponent" rule is tentative: a final decision about this will be made by the ITA Operating Committee at its annual meeting this December).

It should be understood that the ITA Operating Committee is fully supportive of the USTA College Match Day concept as a promising initiative to create greater exposure on TV, increase the local fan base for college tennis and provide a valuable opportunity to experiment with format.

At the same time, the ITA Operating Committee strongly supports a dual meet format that keeps doubles as an integral part of the team match. As already explained, we are mandating extensive experimentation with the ITA format in the first two months of 2014, and we are recommending to the USTA that it also experiment with the ITA format during some of the College Match Days.

In closing, I would like to thank the members of the ITA Division I Operating Committee, as well as other key coaches, for all of the time and energy that they have devoted to these very important discussions. And I would also like to make it clear that the long-standing partnership between the ITA and the USTA remains very important, and we will continue to work together in our shared mission of growing and promoting college tennis at all levels.


David A Benjamin
Executive Director
Intercollegiate Tennis
Association (ITA)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Kozlov, Makarova Head ITF B1 Pan American Closed Fields; Clocking College Tennis Matches; Tornado Black Feature; Cincinnati Bids for NCAA Team Tournaments

The acceptances have been posted for next month's ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed in Tulsa, one of the biggest ITF junior events in held in the United States. I will again be providing live coverage of the event, which begins on October 7th at the beautiful Michael D. Case Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Tulsa.

At the time of acceptance (last week, I believe) only four Top 100 boys, all from the US are in the field: Stefan Kozlov, Spencer Papa, Michael Mmoh and Francis Tiafoe.  The girls field has eight Top 100 players: Christina Makarova, Katrine Steffensen, Michaela Gordon, Renata Zarazua, Usue Arconada, Madison Bourguignon, Rianna Valdes and Dasha Ivanova. All but Zarazua are from the US.

The acceptance list and tournament fact sheet are now available at the ITF Junior website.

I will be providing more on the Division I college tennis format changes later this week, when I receive the final ITA (counter)proposals, but Jeff Sackmann at the Heavy Topspin website provides some hard numbers on match length (on the professional level) and tries to quantify how much time will be saved by the no-ad option, rather than the no-doubles option that the USTA advisory committee has approved for the College Match Days. He also attempts to figure out why college matches take so long, and if it's a statistical problem or a data problem.  We're fortunate Jeff has taken an interest in this, because there's a dearth of true statistical analysis in these discussions.

US Open girls finalist Tornado Alicia Black is featured in this article at ESPN W.

The Lindner Family Tennis Center, home of the Western and Southern Open
And finally, the Cincinnati Business Courier reports that the city is bidding on 12 NCAA championships, including the Division I men's and women's tournaments in 2015, 2017 and 2018. They would be held at the Lindner Family Tennis Center, where the ATP/WTA Western and Southern Open is played every August.  With all the new Division I tennis facilities planned or completed recently, I know there will be plenty of competition for Cincinnati.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Another Stab at College Tennis Format Change: USTA's College Match Days Move Doubles Last and Only if Match Tied

Below is the letter sent to schools who have agreed to host the 20 College Match Days being marketed by the USTA in the 2014 dual match season.

I heard about this USTA Advisory Group for the first time at the US Open, talking about it with many Division I men's college coaches. Until I received a copy of this letter, I was not sure what the motives or actual changes would be, but this letter explains them, although it is careful to talk about the format changes in terms of "experiments" and "testing." There are several reasons I was taken aback by this initiative, including, in no particular order:

  • Bypassing the Intercollegiate Tennis Association for a "fresh perspective" is patronizing and arrogant
  • Doubles, an exceptional product at the NCAA Division I level, is completely marginalized by this format
  • Doubles provides the most likely pathway to professional tennis for college players, yet it is being de-emphasized. The Bryan brothers would never have played doubles in a dual match at Stanford under this format
  • A belief in the importance of television in raising the profile of college tennis is outdated in the live streaming culture we now inhabit
  • I'm skeptical of selling out a sport's format in a search for casual fans

I know we are all suffering from "change fatigue" at both the junior and collegiate levels after the past two years of upheaval. I sincerely hope I don't come across as anti-experiment or anti-change--I think I can be against these specific changes, and not against change. I can see the argument for no-ad scoring in doubles, since that is the format in ITF and ATP/WTA play, and I would like to see if that (and the elimination of warmups) would change the 3 hour and 20 minute average match time cited.

I'm annoyed by the survey, which mentions the 100,000 surveys sent (I didn't get one; I don't fit the 20-mile radius criteria), but not the number returned. If I were asked the ideal length of a college football game, I would surely say three hours or less, but I don't expect my desires in that regard would or should lead to a change in the way the game is structured. Football games are routinely 3 hours and 30 minutes long, and yet who is doing surveys or calling for change there?

College tennis contains some of the brightest, most innovative people I know. They love the sport, teach it well and appreciate its best qualities. Let those people, not "Advisory Groups," diagnose and treat the problems they detect. They know best.

September 10, 2013

In January 2013, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) created a Youth & Collegiate Tennis Division. This was a bold step for the national governing body for tennis, and includes a significant investment in resources toward junior and collegiate varsity play.  The USTA believes that collegiate varsity tennis has a tremendous impact – from an aspirational perspective – on youth tennis and on the sport as a whole.

The NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Tennis Committee report of July 2012 referenced “the fragile state of college tennis.”  A contributing factor to this “fragile state” is the staggering number (138) of college tennis programs that have been dropped since 2003.  The USTA is especially concerned with the viability, sustainability, and growth of the sport at the varsity collegiate level.

As part of the investment in youth and collegiate tennis, the USTA piloted the College MatchDay concept in 2013 with four matches in an effort to improve and shine a spotlight on men’s and women’s college tennis across the United States.  Each of the four matches benefited from considerable marketing and exposure, and the attendance was also positively impacted.  The USTA is willing to financially support another 20 College MatchDays (10 men’s and 10 women’s) during the 2014 spring season, and will work with a broadcast partner to televise these matches nationally.  The USTA hopes that College MatchDay can be used as a vehicle to try new formats that may improve the collegiate dual match experience for student-athletes, fans, and television viewers.    

The USTA created an Advisory Group in May 2013.  This group includes NCAA Division I Athletic Directors (see Appendix A) from a variety of conferences and regions across the country, as well as representatives from the NCAA. 

Historically the USTA has worked closely with the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA).  However, due to the fact that the ITA has been actively engaged in these debates on format changes for a number of years, the USTA chose to not have the ITA at these initial Advisory Group meetings in order to assure a fresh perspective.  The USTA fully intends to continue to work in partnership with the ITA moving forward. 

In preparation for these Advisory Group meetings, a survey was sent to approximately 100,000 USTA members who live within a 20-mile radius of a top-50 ranked men’s and/or women’s Division I tennis program in July 2013. The vast majority (91.1%) of respondents indicated that the ideal length of a dual-match should be three hours or less – far shorter than the current average match length of 3 hours and 40 minutes[1]. Furthermore, 62.8% indicated that matches should last less than 2.5 hours. The ITA also studied approximately 1,500 Division I men’s and women’s matches from the 2013 spring season and the average match length was approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes.  Executives from digital and broadcast media outlets indicated that the ideal match length should fall between 2.5 and 3 hours.

Having met multiple times over the course of the summer, the Advisory Group carefully reviewed each aspect of college tennis and suggested three primary areas of focus while keeping the student-athlete experience as the main priority:
1)     Increasing the number of fans attending college tennis matches;
2)     Increasing local and national media coverage of college tennis;
3)     Highlighting singles competition in the dual match format.

For many years, the ITA and NCAA have been looking at ways to address both time and length challenges facing both college dual matches and the NCAA tennis championships.  With this as a guiding principle, the Advisory Group unanimously recommended (the margin was unanimous; neither the USTA nor the NCAA voted) that the following be piloted during the 2014 College MatchDays. 
·       Singles first. The singles matches will come first; numbers 1-6 singles will be played to start each team dual match.  The integrity of singles will remain the same.  They will be best-of-three sets, worth one point each toward the team result in the dual match.  As is currently the case, four points are required to win the team match.
·       Doubles tie-breakers. In the case of a (3-3) tie after the singles results, then three doubles matches would be played using 10-point super tie-breakers to decide the outcome.  This would create college tennis’ version of “overtime.” The team that wins at least two of the three doubles matches receives the decisive point and wins the match.
·       “Clinch” format. Once four points have been reached (“clinching” the match), the remaining matches shall not be completed.
·       Team warm-up. Players will be expected to warm-up with their own team prior to the scheduled match time and will not warm-up against their opponent before the first point is played.

Furthermore, the consensus of the Advisory Group was that the possibility of a “split season” should also be explored.  This is independent from the College MatchDay recommendations.  Specifically, a split season might entail:
·       Establishing NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships at the end of the fall season
·       Modifying the year-end NCAA Championships to include team competition only
·       Adjusting the NCAA Team Championship schedule to allow for a weekend (and/or Monday) final

Any format changes require testing and experimentation.  The USTA and the College Tennis Advisory Group suggest that these proposed changes to the dual match be “piloted” during the College MatchDay events scheduled for 2014 and look forward to receiving meaningful feedback from all stakeholders.  Further exploration of the “split season” idea is also recommended. 

Subsequent to the Advisory Group meetings, the ITA met with several key Division I men’s and women’s college coaches who were attending the 2013 US Open and USTA semi-annual meetings to also discuss some potential match formats that are time-sensitive.  The ITA and this group of coaches suggested that the 2013 fall season and first several months of the 2014 season be used to experiment with an alternative time-sensitive match format.  The specific format that the ITA – and this group of coaches – recommends will be widely communicated in short order. 

Appendix A
Athletic Directory Advisory Group Roster
Jon Oliver
Executive Associate AD
University of Virginia
Marcy Girton
Chief of Staff for Athletics
Texas A&M University
Ian McCaw
Director of Athletics
Baylor University
Big 12
Greg McGarity
Director of Athletics
University of Georgia
Mike Thomas
Director of Athletics
University of Illinois
Big Ten
Cary Groth
(Former) Director of Athletics
University of Nevada, Reno
Mountain West
Tim Cass
Deputy Athletic Director
University of New Mexico
Mountain West
Thomas Beckett
September 10, 2013

[1] As reported at the 2013 NCAA Team Championships.  These matches were “clinch / clinch” format, so as soon as doubles was decided, play paused; as soon as the fourth point was won during singles, the match ended.