The Curtis Consolation Draw

It is mid-April, and I have just become aware of a change to the junior competition protocol for the Southern section that I want to share with the rest of you. Historically, the Southern section has been a testing ground for several rule changes in junior tennis, so even if your junior doesn’t live or compete in the South, you should familiarize yourself with this latest tweak. It’s probably coming to your section very soon!

The change I’m referring to is in the way the consolation draw is handled in Southern Level 2 events, specifically the addition of a second backdraw called the Curtis Draw. Here’s how it works . . .

If a player loses in the first or second round of a Southern L2 tournament (these tournaments use a 64-player draw), then they feed into the regular consolation draw. However, if a player loses in the Round of 16 or Quarterfinals, then they feed into the Curtis Draw. Neither of these two draws plays the Finals match though both draws do have matches on the final day of the tournament, typically Monday, requiring players to miss a day of school.

So why do the L2s need two separate consolation draws? According to USTA Southern, previously the Round of 16 losers on Sunday morning did not play again until Monday thus having only one match on Sunday.  Use of the Curtis consolation where the Round of 16 losers and Quarterfinal losers are in one draw provides for a consolation match on Sunday afternoon for the Round of 16 losers (the Quarterfinal losers will have played that Quarters match on Sunday afternoon) and then two more matches in that draw on Monday.

In theory, the Curtis draw looks good since it allows the regular consolation draw to continue moving without having to wait for R16 and QF players to feed in on Sunday. Ideally it will allow for faster play overall and not hamper the tournament director with timing challenges.

However, I am hearing some concern about the point tables for the L2 regular consolation draws in terms of the maximum number of ranking points available. If a player loses in either the first or 2nd round in the main draw, then the maximum number of points possible is either 100 or 135 depending on in which round the loss occurs. The small number of ranking points may not be worth the cost of sticking around the tournament – both in terms of money and missed school – for some families. USTA Southern assured me that they are evaluating the point table for the consolation draw to see if some adjustments are warranted.

NOTE from Maria Cercone at USTA Southern (April 20, 2017): Just wanted to let you know that the committee approved a point change for the Curtis Level 2 tournament. The 1st and 2nd rd losers (1st Consolation) will receive 40 points per win , instead of 25. We saw an issue and we fixed it! It will be retroactive for all the players that played last week.

In the most recent L2 held in Alabama, there were three backdraw walkovers in the Boys 14s and three in the Girls 14s while there were three backdraw walkovers in the Boys 18s and seven in the Girls 18s which would be expected in the older age group due to the fact that these players are typically in high school and missing school is much more significant at that age. (Whew! That was a long sentence – sorry!) Out of 32 players in a backdraw these are not huge numbers but still worth the USTA looking into moving forward.

In contrast to the regular consolation draw, the Curtis draw offers much more significant ranking points, 60 points for each match won in the Curtis draw versus 25 for each match won in the regular consies, again with neither draw playing out the Final round. In real terms, that means a player who loses in the R16 of the main draw still has the potential to earn a total of 324 ranking points, 360 if they lose in the Quarters. Again, to compare, a player who loses in the first round of the main draw then feeds into the regular backdraw has the potential to earn 100 ranking points, 135 points if they lose in the 2nd round. Just to reiterate, that means a player in the regular backdraw has the potential to earn only 50 additional ranking points by staying through Monday and missing an extra day of school (not to mention paying for an additional night in a hotel) while a player in the Curtis draw could earn 120 additional ranking points. That’s a pretty significant difference, especially when you look at the ranking lists and study the point spreads between the players.

Interestingly, this past weekend’s L2 was the first of 2017 to utilize the Curtis Draw even though there have already been two L2s this year. One parent told me they had no idea the new backdraw was being used until they arrived at the tournament. I looked at the tournament website on TennisLink, and there is no mention of the Curtis Draw in the Important Info area (click here).

I asked the folks at USTA Southern why they decided to change things mid-year and how they notified participants of the change. They told me that the changes had been discussed earlier but weren’t finalized until right before this latest L2. Participants were not notified directly (still one of my pet peeves since the tournament director collects email addresses for participants when they register for the tournament!) but the information was posted on the USTA Southern website (see links in the next paragraph). I think it was also supposed to be included on the tournament website as well though, as I mentioned above, I can’t find any mention of it there.

I do think the Curtis Draw has the potential to be a positive addition to the L2s and even some of the other higher-level tournaments. That said, there needs to be some tweaking, especially in the area of available points for each backdraw. It looks like USTA may agree and may be making those tweaks before the next Southern L2.

To read more about the Curtis Draw on the USTA Southern website click here and here.

Please let me know what you think of this latest change. If you were at the Southern L2 in Alabama, I would love to hear how it went for your player.

NOTE: I have added a page to this website with links and contact information for USTA staff and departments that are relevant to the Junior Tennis Journey. Click here or on the link in the menu bar on the left side of the page.