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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

College Match Day at Notre Dame; Thirty Years of Changes in USTA Junior Competition; BNP Paribas Open Wild Cards Announced

Notre Dame's Josh Hagar talks with ESPN3's Mark Bey after clinching the Ball State match
For my Tennis Recruiting Network article on the College Match Day that I attended last Saturday at Notre Dame, I talked to three coaches, player Greg Andrews and Elissa Hill of the USTA, getting their thoughts on the doubles-last format and the reason the USTA has mandated that format for this year's College Match Days.  I remain unconvinced that this format has the best interests of the student-athletes or the existing college tennis fans at heart, for the reasons I stated back in September, when this format was revealed. As I said back then, I think we are all tired of the structure and format changes than have been inundating junior and college tennis here in the US the past several years, but I sense there are more to come.

Over at Parenting Aces, Robert Sasseville, a stalwart of junior tennis in the United States for decades, has put together a history of the USTA changes in the rankings and the junior competitive structure, and the reasons behind them. Although it is long, it is thorough and easy to follow, and should be required reading for every parent, coach, administrator and yes, player, who participates in a USTA-sanctioned event.  He explains what has changed (spoiler alert-- a lot) in society and the sport the past three decades and how they have led to the constant attempts to make the rankings and the junior competitive structure better.  Meanwhile, in the ITF junior competitive structure, I am aware of only two major changes the past 15 years--a move to a combined ranking (including singles and doubles), and no-ad for doubles, following the ATP, WTA and ITF Professional tours.  There are many complaints about the ITF's lack of vision in improving Davis Cup and Fed Cup, but there is something to be said for that stability when you see the chaos caused by those who think they always have a better way and have the power to implement those ideas, regardless of any objections.  I would love if it someone with Sassaman's depth and breadth of experience would write a similar history for Division I college tennis.

The BNP Paribas Open, which begins next Monday in Indian Wells with women's qualifying, has announced its wild card recipients.  Main draw wild cards went to Nadia Petrova and Vera Zvonareva of Russia, teenagers Donna Vekic of Croatia and Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, and Americans Donald Young, Jack Sock, Ryan Harrison, Steve Johnson(USC), Rhyne Williams(Tennessee), CoCo Vandeweghe, Shelby Rogers, Vicky Duval and Taylor Townsend. I'm puzzled why Bradley Klahn didn't receive one, as he is the No. 3 American, ranked higher than all five of the men who did get a wild card.

Qualifying wild cards were given to USC's Raymond Sarmiento and UCLA's Clay Thompson, 16-year-old Stefan Kozlov, Irina Falconi(Georgia Tech), Madison Brengle, Grace Min and Allie Kiick, all from the US.  Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis and Great Britain's Heather Watson also received qualifying wild cards.

As it has in years past, the tournament is running a pre-qualifying event, with a qualifying wild card up for grabs. UCLA's Dennis Novikov, Nick Meister and Dan Kosakowski are all entered in that tournament, now into the third round. Nicole Gibbs(Stanford), Sanaz Marand(North Carolina), Keri Wong(Clemson), Denise Muresan(Michigan) and Danielle Lao(USC) are just a few of the women competing in a very strong field. On Tuesday, 16-year-old Ena Shibahara, the 16s International Spring and USTA Winter National champion last year, beat the ITF World Junior No. 6 Louisa Chirico in a second round match. Complete draws can be found here.


wi tennis said...

itf has stayed the same and become even more of a rich kids tour. or a few sponsored kids tour. kudos to the usta for trying to address the income issue with their localization effort. it may be wrong or right. but the rich people have the advantage and the voice. Their kids are winning in the current system. Of course they are going to fight the change. In the end the court hasn't changed and you still get two serves, so just shut-up and play no matter what the scoring system or point structure for rankings is.

Richard said...

Hi Wi tennis -
If you are in a small section, you would have fought the changes too.......
But, once again, we have another commentator now telling us to "shut up"
who knows nothing of what it is like to play in a small section.

What kid wants to play the 4 same kids over and over again every SF....

The problem with "tennis folks" who make changes or comment on changes is that they don't actually live in the small sections and have no idea what they are talking about.

You might get a ten year old to go along with the process of playing the same kids over and over again, but by the time they are a teenager, they won't do it.
Many talented athletic kids will just quit tennis.

So, basically, in a small section, this is a disaster. Not one junior, coach or parent thinks this is a good idea.

Tennis5 said...

What is more attractive about ITF’s?
Well run tournaments, less cheating, different kids, MORE FUN. For the parents, clearly defined rules that don’t change every ten seconds.

I find it extremely odd that the USTA appears to be shooting themselves in the foot. They seem to have had no modeling computer software in place to plan out the 2014 USTA tournament changes.

The better players are not playing the sectionals and they don’t have enough wildcards to get the best players in this country into Kalamazoo. I am not a fan of wild cards, but if the winner of Kalamazoo gets to go to the MAIN DRAW OF THE US OPEN, this sectional quota list makes zero sense.

Also, one has to wonder where is the accountability for their own players? There is one set of rules in the USTA, but some players don’t have to follow them.

6 Florida players ( USTA PD) signed up for the USTA Level 2 in Florida
( President’s Day weekend tournament)
and pulled out two days before the tournament actually began.

These 6 players, no names please as juniors, instead went to the qualifier for the futures, some with wild cards.

If a non USTA PD junior pulled out of a national tournament two days before the actual event to play another tennis tournament, there would be penalties. But, for the PD kids, it is like they beat to their own drummer.

Igor said...

My favorite change to the USTA structure was when they decided that 12s shouldn't play nationals. Of course, they screwed up that group, but that's the way it goes when you think you always know what is best. Good analysis on Parenting Aces.

"However, in 1989 USTA Junior Competition Committee was convinced that National Championship competition for ‘12 and under players’ was too much too soon, so the members voted to eliminate all National 12 Championship play. "

dan - GA said...

College coaches are flocking to the ITF rankings as juniors are responding in kind.
This is what happens when D1 tennis is 70% foreign.

Following college tennis said...

Wi Fi, it would be more helpful if you knew the prior rules and the new rules for the USTA tournament structure before commenting.

Juniors could always enter the L1's through their sectional ranking, nothing has changed.
it is just that before the 2014 changes, you had another pathway available to you which was to enter through your national ranking or your sectional ranking.

The qualifier for Kalamazoo might now be better than the main draw of the tournament. That is the problem.

fedex versus the Post office said...

Kalamazoo and Easter Bowl for the 18's was the showcase for American juniors. Now with Kalamazoo being driven by sectional quotas, the USTA has ruined the integrity of their own tournament.

Easter Bowl for the 18's is based on an ITF ranking, and will now be the better tournament as the USTA can't screw this one up.

Americans are leaving the USTA system in masses for ITF's, it makes me wonder if there is not room for another tennis organization in this country?

Keep that Dream Alive said...

Have a Dream of playing in the Grand Slam Jrs outside the USA ..Aussie, French, and Wimby)..?? The ONLY way into those Tournaments…the tournaments every player would love to play and become part of the history of the sport…and enjoy meeting new friends..and traveling to different countries ….is thru the ITF….that is why our son played the ITF Tournaments…and yes, he has Gret Memories and Friends from the Slams thru the ITF tournaments