As a precursor to this post, you might want to go back and read my earlier post on the USTA ranking system and how it works. That done, let’s talk about life in limbo aka The Alternate List.
With the new smaller draws at the USTA tournaments, there is likely to be an alternate list for most age divisions. The alternate list is simply a document listing the registered players who were not ranked highly enough to make it into the main draw but who, in the event that a main-draw player decides to withdraw from the tournament before the first match is played, might get to play. This list is ordered by ranking so that the higher your ranking, the better your chances of making it into the main draw.
For local tournaments, being on the alternate list isn’t really that big a deal. After all, you live close to the tournament facility, so finding out last-minute that you get to play is okay. But, when a tournament is out of town and requires travel and hotel reservations (and maybe even missing a little school), the alternate list is a big, fat pain.
My son and I are living in limbo right now. There is a Southern Level 3 tournament this coming weekend about 2 1/2 hours from where we live. Under the new rules, 32 kids get to play in each age division, 28 taken from the age group itself and 4 taken from the younger age group. In this weekend’s tourney in the 16U boys, in addition to the 32 in the main draw, there are 33 boys on the alternate list – my son is #5.
[Interesting aside: the only age group in this tournament that DOESN’T have an alternate list is the 10U where they have to play on the short courts with the low-compression balls; in fact, there are only 10 girls and 14 boys competing in the 10U. The 12U boys have an alternate list of 19 and the 12U girls have an alternate list of 5, probably due to so many of the younger kids playing up.]
When you’re on the alternate list, you cannot sign up for another tournament unless you remove yourself from that alternate list. At #5, it’s hard to know whether or not my son will get into the main draw at this point. There is no other Southern Level 3 tournament this week, but there is a Southern Level 4 tournament a little further away that he would like to play IF he doesn’t get into the Level 3. We are hovering in limbo!
Solution? Win matches to improve his ranking so my son automatically gets into the main draw of these tournaments. Obstacle? His ranking isn’t high enough yet to guarantee entry into the main draw of these tournaments to earn the necessary points. Anyone else see the irony here? Maybe another rule change is in order!