Backdraw Woes


My son and I were at a Designated tournament (Southern level 2) this past weekend at one of our favorite spots: Mobile Tennis Center in Mobile, Alabama. Even though it’s a 5-hour drive from our house, we try to get down to Mobile for the majority of the tournaments there, mostly due to the stellar work of Scott and Lorraine Novak, the tournament directors for these events. But, I digress . . .

For 2014, the Points per Round tables for these Designated tournaments dramatically changed. However, the biggest change came in two other areas. Prior to 2014, these designated events counted toward a player’s national ranking; now, that is no longer the case. Also, prior to 2014, the backdraws of these designated events were played to completion, usually ending some time on Monday afternoon; now, that is no longer the case either (see box below).

Level 2


Draw sizes will be 64 draws with feed in matches stopping after play completed on Sunday. Players from lower division will be considered on their lower division standing. 1/8 of the draw is taken from the younger age players in the top 80 who are still eligible in the younger age group. Doubles will begin Friday no earlier than 5:00 PM local time.

Now, there have been times that I’ve been upset or even outraged over something junior tennis related that I’ve later realized didn’t matter one iota to my son. So, when it looked like my son was going to get through all of his backdraw matches last Sunday only to hop in the car and drive home a day before the tournament was officially over, I decided to ask him how he felt about the fact that he wouldn’t have the opportunity to see the backdraw through to completion. Maybe he would be glad to be done after playing 3 tough matches in a day? Maybe he was okay with not missing another day of school?

His answer was NO. No, he was not glad to be done. No, he would be fine missing a day of school if it meant having the chance to actually WIN the backdraw. No, he did not like feeling as though he was abandoning the tournament. And no, he did not like the way the point tables are structured so that his wins don’t even count in his ranking.

Okay, maybe my son is an anomaly? Maybe the other kids feel differently? So, I asked around. Guess what? An overwhelming majority of the players felt the exact same way as my son. They want the chance to finish what they start. They don’t want to be one of 8 players reaching the same level in the draw – they want the chance to be The One Who Fought Through And Won the backdraw.

I’m really hoping our section changes the way these Designated tournaments are structured in 2015. The way things stand now, if a player gets a tough first-round opponent in the main draw, there really is very little incentive to stick around and fight through the backdraw. Rather than have the main draw quarterfinal losers feed into the backdraw, why not have a separate consolation draw for them and allow those who have already played multiple backdraw matches to have the chance of being the one who comes back and wins the whole thing?

I’ve heard from so many college coaches who say they love seeing kids fight back after a disappointing main draw loss to go deep in the backdraw. They say it shows character. They say it shows the competitive spirit.

Please Southern Section, let the kids play the backdraw!

P.S. Please take a few minutes and nominate your favorite Tournament Director(s) for our inaugural Best Tournament Director Award before the December 1st deadline! Click here for the nomination form.

27 Comments on “Backdraw Woes”

  1. New format for backdraw in our section provide a special draw for quarterfinal losers to play to completion for 5th place. However to accomplish this first and second round losers only play a limited back draw – if you lose first round play back draw against another first round loser and if you win,play loser from second round match and then both players are finished. For the unlucky player who loses to the 1st seed that player will only get 2 more possible matches

  2. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is any perfect solution. Here is what happens in the Florida section. Some designateds are a round of 32 and some are a round of 64. In the Round of 64 we play all the matches out in the back draw, though we have two separate back draws, one with losers in one of the first two rounds, and a second separate back draw for R16 losers in to which QF losers feed in. In this system, every match is played out and there are three consolation matches on Monday. However, what we almost always see in every age group in both genders, is a significant number of walkovers, where the back draw matches don’t get played. The new point scheme in Florida awards only a minimal number of points per back draw win and so, particularly, for the R1 and R2 round losers, there is little incentive point wise to play. In Florida, where more than half the kids who play competitively are homeschooled, the missing school issue is much less of a concern, but the value of the consolation wins has been minimized to the point where the incentive to play, at least from a point and ranking standpoint, has been significantly lessened. For a good player, if they lose in the first two rounds, even if they win that back draw, the tournament will not count towards their rankings. Many parents, as a result, decide to forego play, rather than absorb the expense of additional nights of hotel and other costs.

    As far as the National rankings, the truth is that for anyone in the top 200, the designated points for the back draw rarely made an impact in their rankings. In 2013, for example, winning the main draw of a Designated (L5) only resulted in 50 national points. Making the finals of the back draw earned something like 10 points or so. Again, for players ranked in the top 200, those results either didn’t count or didn’t have significant impact. Even with the 2014 point adjustments, given that a L3 win is worth 650 and L4 is worth 250, if we kept the same ratios, an L5 main draw win would only be worth about 100 points, which would mean a back draw finalist would probably only get about 20 or 25 national points. Again, not necessarily enough to impact the ranking of a top 200 player.

    The challenge I see with both the Southern and Florida sections is that it makes no sense to me that we have such different policies in two neighboring sections. It makes no sense that we base acceptance to National tournaments on sectional rankings and then have arbitrary differences in rules, and as a result, arbitrary differences in awarding of points and determining rankings. To me this is another example of where the USTA needs to provide some national leadership and have a single approach. My preference would be to play it out. It can’t be bad for kids to play additional matches — that is why they entered the tournament and that is how they get better. My point above, is that the supporting structure should encourage that play, by recognizing the accomplishment and providing more than just marginal points. On the flip side, there are parents who believe that, given the amount of missed school days, that unless their children are in the main draw, it’s not worth the time and expense to play. Having those matches available, however, does not eliminate that option and those parents can choose to withdraw their child if they like.

    Good luck changing the Southern approach. I think you make a valid point and I have a hard time understanding how the system can justify stopping at the quarterfinals in the back draw.

  3. What is so frustrating for me is that this is a continuation of a complaint from last year that still doesn’t seem to be resolved.

    Hello USTA. Any thought on ever fixing this? Different sectionals have completely different rules of what counts for sectional points. We were told this would be fixed for 2014, and now it is almost 2015.

    You can not have California count every national towards a sectional ranking, and then limit the other sections to just TWO nationals.

    How long are we going to discuss this?

    If California can make every national count, then every other section needs to have the same rules so that is FAIR.

    Really is now the excuse going to be that only Patrick could fix this?
    Are there any other people that work there?

    1. Bingo- sections should move toward compatibility with national. That said, I’m not sure national has the power to compel sections to conform.

  4. Backdraws are extremely important…. i cant believe consciously not finishing a backdraw is an option….not taking points into consideration just the experience of playing matches can not be replaced in clinics or practice matches. a player can always be improving and match play is vital whether in the main draw or back draw. Wow! another example of dumbing down tennis in the hopes of making a short term dollar. Myopia has brought US tennis to its knees.

    1. I do think this is all part of USTA’s stated goal of reducing costs and missed days of school. It certainly goes against USTA’s stated goal of producing top players.

  5. When making such decisions I always say, “I would rather upset people who dont want to play rather than upsetting the people who want to play.” I think this philosophy is consistent in “growing the game of tennis”

  6. Our son played last weekend in Mobile also and was in the position you describe… was a seed so had a bye in the first round, lost to a tough opponent in his first match, only playing one singles match on Saturday. He went on to play 3 matches on Sunday but by his third match at 4:00 pm, he was pretty worn out and faced an opponent who had only played once that day. Not a big deal but he went on the court knowing he was going home win or lose and was facing a boatload of homework and midnight arrival at home. Our only incentive for staying around at that point was that we knew he was facing a good opponent and would get good match experience by staying.

    I think if families have made the commitment to a long trip to Mobile (or wherever), USTA should not limit the opportunity to play matches, regardless of points. The point situation should also be addressed as a separate issue and is just increasing the separation between top players and would be contenders.

    We have a son who plays in college now and are in our 10th year of USTA junior tennis participation. It’s hard to understand how the USTA decision making process doesn’t seem to react to or reflect the experience and input of real participants.

  7. Totally agree with Florida Cindy about the disparities among sections being a mistake and with pretty much everything else she said. Florida’s new system mostly works, except, that if a player doesn’t make the quarters the back draws aren’t terribly attractive, especially if it means missing school.
    One added issue: despite the smaller rewards in designateds (including no national points), most players are noe forced to play them until the bitter end in their age group if they hope to stay in the top 11 in their age group and “make quota” to play level 1s. So kids are playing more than ever, traveling more, making it more, rather than less, expensive for parents.

  8. I always approached the back-draw from the perspective that it was part of the tournament. If you start the tournament, you finish the tournament. The only other consideration is health, but barring that, you WILL finish what you start.

    The comments about the back-draw not being worth the cost of hotel, food, gas, etc, are bunk. You already budgeted that expense in the assumption that you would be winning. What’s the difference between main, and back draws? Nobody is paying your kid to play. Every tournament is just practice, so use it. I have seen very talented players go into back-draw and intentionally work on things that they wouldn’t, in a more competitive match. How often will your player serve-and-volley in a close match? Probably not often. Why not make it a goal of doing it every point in a match that you could otherwise win easily?

    I have seen parents sign their kids up for some seasonal team sport, and the first time junior complains that they don’t like it, the parent lets them quit. I can’t disagree more with that mindset. As a former US Marine, I can attest to the fact that going into boot camp, virtually every recruit’s concept of what they can do is woefully inaccurate. We have no idea what we can do, until forced by circumstance to actually do it.

    If you let your kid quit, they won’t reach beyond what is easy. I don’t know any highly successful people who stopped at “easy”.

    1. Lin, my article isn’t about letting a kid pull out of the backdraw. It’s about the sanctioned format of the tournament wherein the backdraw isn’t played to completion. In the case of our Southern L2 tournaments, the backdraw is abandoned at the end of the day on Sunday even though the tournament main draw is played through Monday. In other words, players are not given the option of playing through to the final round of the backdraw; they only get to play through to the quarterfinals in the backdraw.

  9. Play it out, (32 draw)using current National level 2 format in Oct…. Qrtr playoffs…and 1st and 2nd round loser back draws
    More significant matches under pressure with more reward incentive (points)
    Every experienced coach will tell you More matchplay…
    we (US players) don’t play enough sets matches like we used to or …other countries do today

    POINTS DICTATE playing choices… restructure to encourage more play
    and reflect accomplishment and ability of the player at ONE COMMON STANDARD,
    weight each sections national points earned with strength quotient based on
    common national performance?

    While Section needs and self determination of scheduling and logistics are important and should remain, the nationally currency (points) should not have different values
    imagine if each state had its own currency?

    Coaches, parents, players and USTA admin and committees can figure the consensus GOALS
    of performance, opportunities, equity, fairness, consideration of self determined state needs.logistics,
    to achieve a points system that reflects these goals
    perhaps at a top college levels as a project supervised by top professors?

    more tournaments for more personal choices and freedoms.

    For National level 1 Championships Selection PLEASE go back to pre 2014
    Balanced Multi pathways
    1/2 sectional quotas
    Natl Standings list
    Natl Championship list

    the 2014 case study/ experiment was inequitable and inaccurate at best compensating on the fly, struggling at legitimacy.

    PLAN IT OUT with realistic logistics for review BEFORE approving changes or new programs

    Most Corps, Govt agencies, Organizations have the functional Prospectus,Plan Before approving/funding new projects.

    With the internet, missing school 10-16 days a year is no big deal. It prepares them for the college tennis experience of self responsibility and time management.

    Could US tennis benefit by the USTA looking to the basic US political and economic models to meet our needs and goals

    Balance of powers states and national rights ?

    Freedoms and human nature incentives of capitalism with a balance of socialist state support
    for those in need?

  10. Lisa, I understand that. I wasn’t directly addressing your stated topic, but rather the inevitable divergence into the rationale of not putting emphasis on back-draw as the lack of points, or cost to stay. Apologies if I helped distract from the original intent.

    1. No worries, Lin! 🙂 For the record, I agree with you 100%. I’m just really hoping this discussion will help lead to some positive changes for 2015. A mom can hope, right?

  11. Lin and I occasionally (or rarely) agree about topics. I think this is one we totally agree upon. How much that means to the tennis world is very debatable. But, Lin brings up spot on topics in regards to match play, backdraws, and always wanting to improve….this is the essence of a player that wants to be great. For a section or sections not to recognize the great opportunities to improve a player’s game in a junior back draw is a myopic disgrace to jr. tennis development. Not only should the sectional tournament committee be appalled but the sectional junior competition committees should be even more appalled!

    unfortunately, this is where the USTA breaks down…the USTA can not communicate between committees! and boards! and presidents! and Volunteers! and employees! and the list goes on and on and on… Left hand does not know what the right hand is doing!….

    One of the best suggestions i can give is for anyone that cares about junior competitive tennis in the United States is to apply to be on the junior competitive committee of their sections. Lisa (sorry Lisa but you are nominated) can keep a database of who has applied and who has been accepted to be on the junior competitive committees. Same can be done for tournament committees. Once someone establishes a simple database everyone will see what waste of talent has been omitted from such important committees.

    The politics of the USTA is based on a perpetual myopic revolving door….action is needed.

  12. Coach Parent Mike G…addresses great points….I encourage everyone to read through his #15 thread….I would add that there needs to be a World Ranking Within the USTA junior ranking…I am not an expert on how the numbers or statistics would work but obviously a round of 32 Level 4 ITF win should apply to a certain amount of USTA national points. Or a quarterfinal win at a Level 2 ITF gives a certain amount of USTA national points…this type of thinking would re-ignite junior tennis in the united states!

    What path would you choose for a junior player? Important concept is there would be choices! and the seedings at Kalamazoo or San Diego what make more sense.

  13. Lisa, “the autonomy of the sections” is a bunch of crap….USTA National runs everything! the most important example i can give you is the USTA website which is controlled by National! without the website the sections are powerless! The sections have very, very, very limited autonomy. the sections do what national wants them to do.

  14. My kids are getting their feet wet playing level 3’s in the South this fall and I appreciate the fact that we can get four high quality matches in two days. At a recent event in Hilton Head, my son won his semifinal backdraw and made some real development in mental toughness on the court. He wasn’t very concerned about finishing the event but happy that he got to play three good matches. They had some extra trophies and flipped a coin to see which “finalist” would get to take it home. ( My son lost, but he was ok with it ) HHI is 8 hours from our house and with just two matches and then serious traffic in Columbia, SC, we didn’t get home until 10pm. My kids were stressing all week about homework projects due on monday and it was a balancing act to get everything completed before we went on the trip. Looking into the future with Level 2’s and 1A events during the school year I’m not sure how a public school kid can realistically play and not incur the wrath of the school administration. To play one of these events and then go deep in singles and doubles that is two days of missed school… Not going to happen with our family. I love the idea of playing it out, but unless you have a homeschooler or understanding private school administration, you are looking at a very limited regional or national schedule during the school year.

    I would love to see some type of qualification system enacted for some of the level 2 and level 1A southern events where deserving kids could play their way into a tournament. They could hold a qualifying event at a local club two weeks before the main event and the winner would get a slot in the main draw of 64 or 128. Anybody from the section could come and play it. The deck is stacked against people that cannot afford to travel to gain points to play against very good competition.

    When I was growing up in the Middle States section in the 1980’s we only had a backdraw for sectional events and nothing local. I am very happy that on a local level throughout the South there are tons of FICs through the quarters and FMLC’s… It adds up to much more development and fun for the kids.

    1. Paul, my son is in public high school, and, yes, making up work when he misses a day or two for a tournament is rough for sure. For the Designated last week, he chose NOT to play doubles because he had already missed a day of school that week for the prior weekend’s Closed Regional and didn’t want to miss another in order to make the 5-hour drive to Mobile in time for a 5pm doubles start time on Friday. Choices – we all have to make them, and I guess my stance with the junior schedule is that I’d like to have lots of options on the table to choose between. I do like your idea of a qualification system kind of like what SoCal does – maybe that should be an option for these higher-level events?

  15. Lisa, we are 8 weeks away from the start of 2015, and there is no calendar of tournaments?
    What about parents who want to buy non refundable tickets in advance to save money.

  16. And Paul, all schools seem to have the same number of days that you are allowed to be out.
    Ten days. The trick is to to leave 2-3 days for being ill.

  17. Yea, it’s almost November no schedule! No ability to plan travel and get the best deals. All these points are valid BUT big issue is planing until you can get a schedule out we can’t plan.

  18. I applaud the effort to shorten the events quite frankly. I think the Southern L3 2-day format is terrific for those of us who send our kids to traditional schools. It should not be necessary to homeschool to be a successful junior tennis player and these 4-5 day tourneys almost force it upon us. I could make an argument that shortening these tourneys could open tennis up to more people and eventually improve the sport here in the US.

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