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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)


Jeff said...

Why can't people just let those involved in college tennis do what's best for college tennis! After all wasn't it a coach (Paul Scarpa of Furman) who came up with the current scoring system. If nothing else, let the coaches and athletic directors make those kinds of decisions. That's what they are there for. The product may not be suitable for TV in its current format, but in todays world, its perfect for internet viewing. Live streaming gives the parents and followers of both American an foreign tennis players the opportunity to watch them, in action, from anywhere in the world. And for them the more the merrier.

AR Hacked Off said...

I would like for the ITA to release the information gathered last year from the Referees who were required to turn in match times start and finish (single/doubles) and see if match times were excessive or not.
Just way to rushed and it seems like only a select few are making the rules and then throw it onto the coaches.

love-tennis said...

It scares me to have the athletic directors involved. They don't know tennis. If you don't know tennis, then you don't know what you are messing with.

Hey USTA & ITA..... said...

The letter says......

"The integrity of singles will remain the same"


The integrity of doubles is......NON-EXISTANT and they do not care.

Its ridiculous to hear about shortening matches because of TV. What TV coverage?

The USTA does NOT care about doubles. All they care about is doing 2 crosscourt / 1 down-the-line drills for hours to every player no matter the game style. They do not teach the return of serve, volleys or transition. Lastly, the USTA does not care about college tennis, this could be their way to get their players to turn pro if they turn the format into a disaster.

Its sad that the Bryans would have NEVER played a doubles match at Stanford.

This is about DEVELOPMENT. Doubles is critical for development and teamwork.

If you really want tennis to be "exciting" for the fans and shorten the matches then why not screw the singles and only play the doubles. That is what majority of recreational players play and where the loudest cheers come from in the stands. Makes as much sense as what is being proposed.

Tmom said...

I think we need drug testing for the entire U STA leadership and those proposing the NCAA changes. Any body else on board?

strother martin said...

"What we've got here...is a failure to communicate.." We need a Wayne Bryan Rant!! Coach...Where are You??:)

Unknown said...

After reading the ITA letter and the USTA College Format suggestions, they seem diametrically opposed. ITA says doubles first(albeit with tiebreaker ay 7-7 instead of current 8-8, USTA says singles first. Who will win that battle? Do not be confused, singles first will weaken college tennis. Why will they even have individual doubles competition in the NCAA tournament when so many of the top teams will have clinched early throughout the year that they are not match sharp.

tennis fan said...

Not sure what TV is going to put College Tennis on and for that matter who is going to watch it. If you are interested in College tennis you live stream it and watch but the current system is long and it does take a committed crowd to sit though the entire current dual match. I think some thoughts of changing the scoring completely should be considered
My proposal:
-4 singles (2 out of 3 sets, regular scoring)
-2 doubles (ATP scoring)
all matches are worth one point and played at the same time. If tied at 3-3 a 10 point breaker will be played by any player chosen by the coach. This will make doubles very important and require a coach to choose who will play doubles or singles. Time will not be an option because all matches will be played at the same time. More players would play, currently most teams use 6-7 players, under this proposal 8 players would play each match. Coaches would need to develop and recruit doubles players.
How would you change it...?

David Bradbury said...

The great majority of tennis diehards here have no problem with the length of the current matches. Nothing will ever convince them that any change needs to be made.

I wonder how many of them regularly attend dual matches and sit through 4 to 5 hours of tennis if it is a close match or even if it is not stay until the singles matches are played to a conclusion with a lack of a clinch rule. Also if you have to travel an hour or two or more round trip and/or work for a living getting to the Friday matches is impossible and it becomes a very long day and a huge detriment to attending even on the weekends for a 1 PM Sunday match.

I think this proposal made by the college coaches via ITA is better than the athletic director group advisory group's proposal where doubles is essentially eliminated.

This ITA proposal is just for January and February, so nothing changes this year when conference play starts and the NCAA format remains the same. I suppose it could in 2015, but I expect that the coaches and players hate any changes and will try to stop it.

Many doubt the TV aspect. With the many new conference networks and the growing number of sports channels, I happen to think that college tennis can get on some of these, but only if the matches are shorter. Streaming is improving, but who really stares at your computer screen or internet TV for up to 4 or 5 hours when streaming happens. The video quality is still not that great at many schools and you can only watch one match at a time.

Wondering said...

Colette, the NCAA finals, both the men's and women's, were lengthy affairs. Although dramatic matches, it sounds like the USTA, ADs and some fans would rather not have matches in this fashion.

Did you hear any coaches or fans in Champaign complain and criticize the NCAA team Finals matches this year? Or would you say the fans/coaches enjoyed those matches?

How many college matches has PMac attended? said...

The USTA cares so little for junior tennis in this country and now they are trying to ruin college tennis too.

In juniors, we have these ridiculous tie breakers as a 3rd set in the back draw. There is no testing of mental strength or physical endurance.
Every junior, coach and parent I know is adamantly opposed to the tie breaker.

In Clays this past summer, 2013, they made the back draws start at
2-2 for the first set, then there was a second set, and then the tie breaker.....

So, now after the USTA destroyed junior tennis on every level wiping out tournaments, cuts to the beloved Kalamazoo, and with the joke of 5'11 boys playing on a ten and under court due to new age restrictions, they have turned their eye on college tennis. Frightening.

Don't Mess with Tennis said...

Choice is the key here. Why are these governing bodies trying to implement change for change sake? As many have said, those interested in tennis will watch what they want, when they want. If someone has travel or work concerns, will 1 hour (or 2) make a big difference in their lives? When an airline has scheduled a flight to take off at a certain time and it does not, do you just not go on the trip? Tennis, like MANY other college athletics WILL NEVER generate enough revenue (or fan support for that matter) to become the next football. basketball, hockey etc. These sports can and do support the rest of an institutions NON-REVENUE PRODUCING SPORTS (yes, there are sports that fall into this category). Come to think of it, I am not a fan of watching college GOLF. I think we should suggest that athletic directors and golf's "experts" experiment with making golf more attractive by reducing the number of holes to say... 11 or 12 and by moving all the tees forward say... a hundred yards or so. That should make these long and boring golf matches end sooner and also help to attract a television viewing audience. No one that is involved in this debate from the actual "participant" side (that I know of) has any interest in seeing these changes made. I find it comical that the powers that be, deem it necessary to experiment in the name of "making the game more attractive to fans and television". There is an adage; "If it's not broken, don't fix it" that holds true here. PLEASE find another college sport to "make more attractive"- golf, swimming, field hockey, soccer, badminton and gymnastics all come to mind as ones that do not have large television viewing OR attendance figures. Don't Mess with Tennis. Fix Golf Now!

russ said...

Off topic for a second: What's up with Garza retiring again to Escobedo? First time in Claremont: 2-0. This time in Costa Mesa he won a game 2-1. Twice in two weeks. Seriously, the ATP should look into this.

Mr Ed said...

Shout out to the USTA....Please stay out of College Tennis...get involved with College Equestrian or College Rifle...or Water Polo...:)) History always repeats itself.... "Hi..Yo..Silver..Away"

Unknown said...

Suggested student athlete questionnaire - First draft

1)Do you play mens or womens tennis?
2)What division tennis do you play?
3)What conference do you play in?
4)Do you currently start during the team spring season?
5)Do you approve of the current format for college tennis?
6)Do you have aspirations of playing professional tennis on the ATP or WTA tours?


1)Would you approve a change for doubles to a single set to 6 games with a tiebreaker played at 5-all
2)Would you approve of a change for doubles to one-ad scoring?
3)Would you approve of a change for doubles to no-ad scoring?
4)Would you approve of a change for doubles to best 2 out of 3 sets?
5)Would you approve of a change to abandoning remaining doubles matches once the point is clinched regardless of circumstance (conference matches for example)?
6)Would you approve of a change to abandoning remaining doubles matches once the point is clinched with the exception of conference matches?

1)Would you approve of a change to one-ad scoring for singles?
2)Would you approve of change for singles where tiebreakers would be played at 5-all?
3)Would you approve of a change to abandoning remaining singles matches once the point is clinched regardless of circumstance (conference matches for example)?
4)Would you approve of a change to abandoning remaining singles matches once the point is clinched with the exception of conference matches?

1)How many fans attend an average match?
2)Is television coverage of your tennis match an important factor in considering where you chose to place tennis?
3)Have you ever streamed or watched on television a college match that did not involve your team?
4)Would you approve of a change where singles were played first and doubles were only played in the event of a tie?
5)Would you approve of a change where singles were played first and doubles were only played in the event of a tie in which the doubles matches were only 10 point tiebreakers?
6)Are your college tennis matches too long?
7)Do you think the length of a college tennis match impacts the number of fans who choose to attend a match?
8)Should concerns over television and fan enjoyment of a college match affect the format of college tennis?

Save College Tennis said...


With all the harsh comments directed towards the USTA, do we know WHO is making these decisions within the USTA? Is it Player Development? Is it the Board of Directors? Is it Community Tennis? Is it Gordon Smith?

Why has NO ONE from the USTA said anything to the public? They are sitting there like a piƱata taking shot after shot.

We need to bring back Evan King and Bob Van Overbeek again.

Colette Lewis said...

@Andrew Mott:
Thank you for the suggested survey. The student-athletes should be involved from the beginning on any change like this.

Colette Lewis said...

@Save College Tennis:

Youth and Collegiate Tennis are now under the USTA's Community Tennis division, headed by Kurt Kamperman. Scott Schultz is the Managing Director of Youth and Collegiate Tennis, with Virgil Christian Director of Market Development & College Tennis

Tmom said...

Am I missing something? Is there some other sight promoting these changes???? How, when and why do these people get together to diminish US tennis? The junior community is up in arms, now the college community.
How is this happening?

Unknown said...

They should keep player warm-up. If there are TV days, the warm-up starts X minutes before the hour.