Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Western & Southern Open Acceptances; ACC, Big West Conferences Join in Cancellation of Fall Tennis; LTA Hires New Performance Director

Entries for the Western & Southern Open, which begins three weeks from Thursday with qualifying matches at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, were announced today.  Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem are entered in the men's field, along with defending champion Daniel Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev.

The women's field is not as impressive, with No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka and Bianca Andreescu not planning to play. Barty announced that she would also be skipping the US Open due to concerns about the pandemic.

It's likely that other big names will drop in the next week or so; the US Open entry list is scheduled to be released next week.

American men who have received direct entry:
John Isner
Taylor Fritz
Reilly Opelka

American women who have received direct entry:
Sofia Kenin
Serena Williams
Madison Keys
Alison Riske
Amanda Anisimova
Jennifer Brady
Danielle Collins
Coco Gauff

The complete list of main acceptances can be found here.

The ACC made an announcement about its fall sports, and among the sports canceled was tennis. With the ACC arguably the best tennis conference in the country, and with players from ACC schools not able to represent their institutions during the fall, the prospect of either of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association majors held in the fall happening is now decidedly unlikely.

Many college players compete throughout the fall at ITF events without representing their schools, so if those tournaments come back, that will remain an option, but they must pay their own way. Having the school pay for those ITF tournaments has been one of draws to Division I college tennis recently, so that is a blow to those who were relying on that support.

While the ACC is the first Power 5 conference to make that decision, another conference, the Big West, announced today that tennis is one of the sports affected by its decision to postpone the fall sports season.

The Big West has 11 member schools, with ten of them sponsoring women's tennis and seven sponsoring men's tennis:
Cal State Fullerton
Cal State Northridge
Cal Poly*
Long Beach State
UC Davis*
UC Irvine*
UC Riverside*
UC Santa Barbara*
UC San Diego*
*sponsor both men's and women's teams

While the Big West specifically addressed tennis in its release, other non-Power 5 conferences have previously announced they would be canceling or postponing fall sports, presumably including tennis. They are:

America East

Atlantic 10

Ivy League

Metro Atlantic

Mid-Eastern Athletic

Patriot League

Southwestern Athletic

In Player Development news, the LTA has announced the hiring of Michael Bourne as its Performance Director. Bourne, who has Olympic sport administration experience, but no background in tennis, will "oversee a national network of coaches and performance support services implementing the LTA’s Performance strategy across both the able-bodied and wheelchair programme, which sets out a clear player pathway for tennis players from junior level through to the professional game."


Wacko Waco said...

Brian Boland Resigns as the Men's Tennis Head Coach at Baylor. What's the Real Story behind the Resignation? Will Jenson Brooksby leave the Baylor Bears? Will John Roddick Apply for the Head Coach Position at Baylor? We shall see......

SeminoleG said...

Wonder when the NCAA is going to address Tennis for the classes of 2021 and 2022. No Visits no Tournaments. Swimming, Football are lobbying for some adjustments to the recruiting calendar. Maybe Tennis is also, but the silence is deafening. Hey Tennis Coaches how comfortable are you using UTR, USTA, TRN, ITF etc to recruit? Would you recruit a Player from lets say TRN that includes only Jr Events, few if any international events and NO professional events? How about a BlueChip that has few if any competitive wins agains his or her class (been beating up on younger players).

NCAA Tennis should be allowed to take the FULL GAP Year like other Sports. Football Academy Registrations for GAP year players is filling up. Many couldn't take visits and their season in question are opting to take that extra year before college. A GAP year would take some needed pressure off recruiting for some, others a way to save money, many can avoid a recruiting failure.

Players miss out more than coaches said...

College coaches are way more comfortable than you think. They don't have their eyes closed until they need a player then go check them out - they are recuiting for years ahead, not just the year at hand. They follow players along often times from middle school and yes, the results say a lot. Tennis is a small network, they can talk to each other and other players to find out who is likely to be more trouble than they are worth. Players can send coaches videos or coaches can check online for posted videos. While it's not ideal for sure, they aren't totally incapabale of recruiting over this period. Blue chips beating up on younger players? Uh ok. And UTR is an incredibly reliable gauge. The ones missing out are the players, unable to do visits and see the fit. But the coaches? They got this.

SeminoleG said...

So every other Non-revenue sport is fretting over the lack of competitive events for the 2021,2022 classes, but somehow "Tennis Coaches" got this. I often wonder why tennis is on the chopping blocks.....This view seems a bit laughable considering in one sport that had 100+ Commitments this time in 2019 has ~20 as of this month. We hear all about Seniors that commit and stop or slow their competition schedule creating angst with their perspective new coaches.
Guess Tennis Coaches know more than anyone else how a kid will look 18 months before they enter college with a 6+ month break from competition. Other sports are trying to push the recruiting calendar right or delay indefinitely because they don't and will not rely on "paper" evaluations. Yes, Home Movies are no better when you are used to "Eyes On." No wonder an ITF Top 100 Player with a 8 UTR can get a look and a USA 3 star with a 9.5 has to beg for a call back.

We will see how the 2021, 2022 recruiting classes do in the NCAAs in the next few years, my guess is there will be more surprises than normal.

This lack of competition is unprecedented and if my job were tied to getting a good recruiting class I would petition the NCAA to have some method to gather the prospects and evaluate in a safe environment. I for one was never in favor of "Combines" but given the landscape I think they are the BEST way to get the 2021, 2022 classes evaluated. USTA should consider using the National Campus when COVID gets to an acceptable rate, and with many Fall schedules canceled coaches should be free to travel. Bring them to the prospects, and that seems

Gotta wonder if "Coaches" got this then why have such an extensive USTA Jr schedule anyway?

Jon King said...

I agree with SeminoleG, no way college coaches 'got this'. And no way UTR is an 'incredibly reliable gauge' as every tournament is now strategic withdrawal after withdrawal to game the UTR rankings. We were at the UTR event at Palm Beach Atlantic last weekend. The younger girls not yet in college were comical with the withdrawals once the draws came out. See a match up vs a lower UTR player who might be skilled enough to win too many games, withdraw the night before. And have a decent match in the first round vs a higher ranked opponent, bail on the back draw as to not damage the UTR. One girl we know had the match of her life in the first round against a higher ranked opponent, she played great and you would think she would have been super happy to continue playing in a back draw match. Nope, she withdrew because the back draw opponent would have been lower ranked and could possibly mess with her UTR. Its become a massive game of how to massage the UTR rather than how to develop the players.

Agree said...

I agree with Jon on UTR. It is super sensitive to losses to lower ranked players and you can definitely ruin it by not playing your best or whatever the reason.
My son played his first tournament in FL and lost 2 matches to much lower ranked players. In a matter of week his UTR plunged 40 points. It was absolutely spectacular to see it drop like that! So I understand the fear. It is not easy to get the numbers up.

Just win said...

Fearing a drop in ranking because of losses can be fixed with one thing - winning. If a player can't win, and in fact are losing to much lower ranked players, the player doesn't deserve the ranking, it's a simple concept.

That's what parents of an average player don't see - the highest ranked players are winning consistently and always win over lower ranked players. It's not as easy at it looks for those top players - it isn't gifted to them - they win all the time because they are better. Draws and ranking systems aren't to blame. Win. That's it.

Max Ho said...

All tennis players must learn to learn to beat players ranked below them, it is a very difficult challenge because all the pressure on the higher ranked player. The problem is if you duck these situations for short term ranking gain, you are setting a player up to not be able to handle these situations when they need to win tough matches.

You have to be able to grind out matches over players you have beaten previously before you can get wins in the later rounds, by defaulting the parent tells the player its ok to avoid a tough situation. I feel the same way about back draw, by defaulting back draw you are cheating yourself potential great matches. Its OK to lose, but never ok to quit.

There are always ways to game rankings, but there are also ways to penalize defaults.

In the end short sighted parents and players lose out with these tactic, you don't win big college matches and come through in qualifying of 15k events by learning terrible habits like defaulting matches because you are afraid of a ranking drop. The goal is should not be to get a fake ranking its to become best possible player, and part of that is beating solid players below you in rankings. I am sure its frustrating but if you have good long term approach, it will work out.

Jon King said...

"Just win", but it is the system. UTR is relatively new and very powerful in the minds of kids and parents. If college coaches are increasingly using UTR as a large part of recruiting, the kids and parents must play along.

UTR events are what they are. Parents and players interpret the UTR system the way they do and withdrawals are a big part of it. If a player is penalized for losing games to a lower ranked player, they will be very cautious about playing such a player.

Of course the goal is to just win and develop the best player. But to be fair, UTR is pretty new. Its not like the Williams sisters and Halep were worried about UTR as they developed. Its not like Collins was obsessing about UTR as she was an 11th and 12th grade player angling for college. We do not know how such a system would have affected the development of players in the past since it has only become very popular over the past few years.

So now we have a system that accounts for each game won or lost vs lower and higher ranked players, that is unlike any past ranking system, kids can literally see their UTR change within 24 hours....and it is used more and more by college coaches. How on earth do we not expect more cheating and withdrawals to game the system?

SeminoleG said...

Well if the "Experience" of playing "weaker" players is so valuable than why do we see some UTR events shifting to a "Selection" based model? When you look at the landscape it is not worth the time and money to play players 2 points below or above when there is no "National" title that rewards that work you have done. YOU get no CREDIT!

For my personal example, if a kid makes 2nd round of a 25k (thru Q) loses 57,57 to a player with a UTR 2.1 higher gets NO CREDIT for a solid match in a Pro event, BUT has a bad day in a UTR and loses to a player.5 below in a 3rd set TB by 10-8. That kid's UTR goes down almost a full point. A system that does this needs to be evaluated.

In the eyes of UTR all Matches have the SAME weight, and what I find amusing is next year to watch college players with these inflated UTRs that have never played a National QF or made it past 2 rounds. Let us se how they do. I always that thought wining 5 rounds was better than 1 round 5 times.....

Every WTA/ATP match they talk about the situation, who has been thru round 2-3 or a QF/SF before, but yet UTR ignores all of that. It sees a UTR event the same as USOP.

Personally based on how Colleges are recruiting I'd never play anyone with a lower UTR, in a back-draw or a weak event. Why would the #1 Seed who's UTR is 1.5 higher than anyone in the filed play? UTR Losses are too punitive and honestly not worth the time money. Wait for the USTA and play Pt - Per - Round get a ranking and UTR will take care of itself.

Having just gone thru the recruiting process, I would avoid UTR events, and Play USTA, add to that ITF's if you have the resources. Further TRN only uses JR events, so this is another reason to avoid UTR events....

Jon King said...

Its quite possible that the UTR system may not be sustainable long term for juniors. They did step in this summer and hold events while the USTA was mostly absent. Those events were appreciated.

But long term, the entire premise of UTR for juniors might implode. Kids and parents will simply not play anyone more than a tiny bit lower than they are. The punitive effects of one bad match or one match vs a low ranked cheater is just too great. At some point the sheer number of withdrawals will make the UTR junior events unsustainable.

College Coach said...

Give the College Coaches some Credit!
They look at the players record and if they see the player being recruited dodging matches, “retiring in a match”, etc, that will play a Huge impact on if the Coach wants to recruit the individual. The Coach sees the patterns. The Coach watches these kids play before recruiting. The Coach looks up all of the players records. If a Coach doesn’t he’s probably not a Coach one would want to play for, because he probably will not be around long. Any match develops the player as a person and a tennis player. It’s not a sprint. It’s the long distance run of developing that is the key for the players success. Everyone wants instant gratification these days. Give the College Coaches some credit. Most of them have been around the block themselves. Let your kid develop!

SeminoleG said...

@Jon King we had not played a "UTR" event so many of what was said we had not experienced. BUT as we have stopped playing Jr events TRN ranking just gets lower and lower. ITF Pro Ranking goes up and UTR goes all over the place. We watched UTR and saw first hand the WD and the "Gaming" of the system. People with higher UTR's that are losing just WD!... I suggest UTR empower the TD to validate a WD or invalidate it.

Until then I suggest NOBODY finish a match they are losing against a lower UTR player. Sorry but that is just the landscape of today's Jr to College Tennis.

Play USTA. TRN and USTA ranking cary more weight than UTR.

Until UTR can credit rounds and event strength it just falls short when compared to USTA + TRN.

Jon King said...

'College Coach', we know quite a few college coaches and many recruit mostly international players. They never see most of their players in a live match except for carefully chosen recruitment video.

I would say the top 1-2 players most coaches have they can afford to put in plenty of recruiting work and money. The rest of the roster is a bit of a crap shoot except at the top well funded programs. That leaves a boat load of scholarships up for grabs by parents willing to game the system. We know many a college coach who have been disappointed by the lower quality of players once they get them live.

UTR is relatively new, more and more kids are withdrawing more and more. A college coach looking for patterns of match dodging will have their hands full in the future.

Mr. Fernandez said...

Playing USTA instead is not going to be a solution for long. Even before the virus hit, parents and kids knew the UTRs of the opponents within 2 decimal points. So the same match dodging was beginning to happen at USTAs also. UTR is rapidly gaining traction. Many USTA tournaments in the future will likely just be extensions of the UTR system, players looking to maximize their UTRs over their TRN or USTA rankings.

I see how intoxicated our kids and other kids and tennis parents are by UTR. It adjusts the next day and it ranks them against all players in the world. So if anything the power of UTR will continue to rise, and along with it, the constant search for opponents that will maximize UTR. Thus the pandemic of withdrawals will only grow.

SeminoleG said...

Interesting comments. @jon king Yes, there are a few coaches that experience buyers remorse, and some have lost their jobs! All due to poor evaluation and total reliance on these systems instead of a more complete picture. BUT if you grab a Bluechip you are protected (kinda). Honestly how many Teams have a chance at an NCAA title anyway. You can look at a few of the West Coast Universities and Budgets well over $1.5M and they have maybe a few Titles and fewer Individual Champs. A good portions of Tennis Coaches really don't have to win, thus recruiting loses importance.

@College Coach pretty sure you do your HW. I'd prefer Kids that can get thru 3-4 rounds playing sometimes twice a day over a higher UTR any day. Wouldn't you?

UTR does not capture this. If you look at results you can't even pull up the draw for an event. No links, No way to find this on the UTR site. A 10.0 that wins against two 11.0 in the same day is bigger than in 2 consecutive days. Maybe I'm wrong?

Until UTR can add weight to tournament strength and progress in a tournament it remains a less than ideal validation tool. USTA/ITF Point system is not ideal, but it did give credit by level of points awarded for more difficult event. TRN encompasses schedule strength, and other metrics.

No system is perfect but UTR has flaws for evaluating Jr Players, especially ones that don't play every week.

Max Ho said...

So what happens to kid who is regularly defaulting matches against lower ranked players when they get to college and they actually have to play a tough match? The parents or coach (or the player) has avoided difficult situations but now you actually have to play the match. Challenge match for #6 spot and deciding match with team at 3 all are most pressure situations most players will face and if you have avoided tough situations in the past these will be tougher.

Many juniors and their parents choose to play up and avoid players the same age kids to avoid tough situations, its much easier to win when players don't know your game, and you always have excuse that player is older.

Ivan Lendl said you have play up and down in tournaments because you need to play against better players to improve, but you also need to learn to win against players you should beat.

When you hear tour players talk about goals they rarely mention rankings, you have to look at the process and journey to improvement and try to ignore the short term rankings. To much focus on the scholarship can easily stunt development, you can get the scholarship and like John King said, the kid really is not that good, or doesn't even like tennis by the time they get to college (which is sadly not uncommon and not just in tennis but many other sports).

SeminoleG said...

@Max Ho... I see your point, BUT UTR does not even credit if the difference is 2.0 between players. So why would a 12.0 play a 10.0.. . In the eyes of UTR the match does nothing.

How many 0-0, 1-1 matches does a player need to develop that ability to "Play Down?" I'd argue it is a skill that is learned like any other and becomes less of a focus as you move on. I know a player that hasn't lost a Match to a "lower" Ranked or Rated player in over 2 years. I'd say they've learned that skil!

Formula of 25% Below, 50% on, and 25% above level works well in all sports. BUT the system needs to reward that 25% up or down play.

Guess my point is playing down is necessary, BUT it is not rewarded in the current system, win or lose.

As for scholarship talk, well it happens in every other Youth Sport but in Tennis it seems to be Taboo. I don't understand that. You play because you like the sport and the spoils of hard work can be a benefit and a goal. Baseball, Basketball, Football, Soccer don't have this "We cant talk about scholarship" mantra.

Marty Collins said...

Play everybody. Go hard. Coaches can see who ducks and who is brave. Yes, my dude's UTR is "suppressed", but we and all the coaches knew he the deal. No ducking. Bag secured.

tennisforlife said...

Head to Head ranking systems have suppressed junior play from the beginning of time. UTR amplifies that problem by incorporating the score and that's not going to change anytime soon. The "I'll play anyone crowd" quickly change their tune when the UTR drops a half point after losing a few games to a "pusher". There are ways for UTR to mitigate this. A hybrid PPR and H2H system has never been tried but there is no reason it couldn't work. E.G. Create UTR tier events. Access is based UTR and PPR. If you want the chance to play the high UTR players you need some points. If UTR would think out of the box they could displace the USTA in US tennis.

Max Ho said...

I understand that easy matches don't help a player, but as you continue in the tournament or back draw you play better players and level of comp gets higher, only one player wins the event so everyone else loses eventually, sometimes twice. Obviously if your rating is 2 point higher than entire draw you are playing the wrong event.

Believe it or not there is a ton of debate in AAU basketball about ranking young kids and how it kids are so worry about there rankings (Hoop Scoops rating service) that it takes away from kids development because they think they don't need to improve. There is also a huge debate that the kids play way to many events which has adverse effects:
- the kids don't care if they win games or not because there is another game the next day or next weekend
- so many games (tournaments) kids don't really work on the weak part of there games
- by time player gets to college and pro body is already breaking down.

The tough part about any year round sport is it eventually becomes like a job, many juniors don't realize they have to work even harder when they get to college and they are already burned out.

It is all even tougher if your a boy and have half the scholarship opportunities, more programs being cut and older foreign competition

College Coach said...

The two things College Coaches do not enjoy dealing with...and will not....The player being recruited who doesn't face challenges and ducks a match to save his "ranking"... and the player's parents... even before their kid is given a spot on the team...worrying about junior's place in the lineup....Good Luck to everyone in the college recruiting process.

SeminoleG said...

@marty collins - "Ducking" is not the issue, UTR is first come first serve and many of the events are a waste of valuable training days. Saw one event had some solid players and then like a waterfall slowly the best kids WD, and what is left amounts to REC Tennis. That is not how some of these events "Sell" themselves.

@Tennisforlife - BINGO, there has to be a way to reward progressing in an event, and every match needs a value. If you get crushed by someone 2.0 higher that is expected than the penalty is minor if any. If you do well you have to be rewarded.

You know you are correct when you see change, and the new ITA/UTR Circuit will be selection based UTR, that is a start. Next is to add a % as a player progresses in an event, and a "strength of event" value needs to also be included.