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.

Back to those Thanksgiving Tournaments . . .

Image courtesy of Chase Sapphire
Image courtesy of Chase Sapphire

After I wrote my piece about the upcoming Thanksgiving tournament options, I realized that I neglected to mention that, at least in the Southern section, we also have a designated tournament (sectional L2) that same weekend competing with the Eddie Herr qualies, the L2 National Selection tournaments, and the L4 Open Regional tournaments. What’s interesting about the designated tournament is that it is worth the same number of sectional ranking points as both the National L2 and L4. What’s even more interesting is that the draw, at least in the B18s, didn’t fill in the designated, meaning that several players will get a first-round bye, making it an easier run through the draw for them. Add to that the fact that the designated is being held indoors which means all matches will be played regardless of the weather. The same cannot be said for the national L2 and L4 events. Of course, we’re hoping for good weather in Montgomery, but, this time of year, it’s certainly not a guarantee.

My son briefly considered pulling out of the L2 and entering the designated instead even though it’s a 7-hour drive for us to Louisville AND it would mean celebrating Thanksgiving at a hotel instead of at home with my husband. We got caught up in that whole point-chasing thing again – would it help my son’s chances of getting into Winter Nationals if he played in Louisville and went deep in the tournament as opposed to playing in Montgomery where the field is much stronger overall? Should he potentially sacrifice quality of matches in order to earn more ranking points? I couldn’t believe we were even having those conversations again! Just when I thought we were done with the point-chasing game . . .

Thankfully, my son decided to stay put in the Montgomery L2 tournament where he’ll likely get some great competition plus have the opportunity to play doubles. Thankfully, quality [of matches] won out over quantity [of ranking points]. Thankfully, we’ll get to spend my son’s last Thanksgiving before college at home enjoying our favorite holiday foods. Thankfully.

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.

Icy Hots Leave Players Lukewarm

icyhotThank you to a fellow Tennis Parent for providing this detailed analysis of the new Points Per Round schedule and Designated events in the Southern Section. Please feel free to share what’s happening in your section in the Comments below.

All it took was one Icy Hot [Designated Tournament] in Norcross [GA] to convince parents and players that Southern Level 2s (STA2s) weren’t worth the time and expense of travel.

Take away the National 5 points, decimate the early round points, and players were left with a tournament that only offered value for players confident they could finish in the top 6.

The draw for the Icy Hot in February in Norcross was tough; selected players for the Boys 16s were ranked in the top 130 in the South, and the original alternate list was over 40 players long. Fast forward to the Montgomery [AL] Icy Hot in March. Originally with only 6-8 players on the Boys 16s alternate list, the tournament started with 6 byes in the round of 64 and two withdrawals. Last year there were on-site alternates to fill any open spot – not so this year. Registration just ended for the Baton Rouge [LA] Icy Hot; only 52 applicants for the Boys 18s spots by the Sunday night deadline. Possibly more spots will be filled with late entries.

Why are the STA2s snubbed? Low points, long days, lengthy draws. In 2013, even a single consolation win would net 220 points; in 2014 it earns a mere 58 points prior to bonuses – a 75% drop. With consolation rounds for players who lost in rounds 64/32/16 ending on Sunday, the most points (prior to bonus) a player can earn in the backdraw is 160. Players would need to win 3 main draw matches or 4 or more consolation matches to earn those points in a STA2. Winning only two main draw matches in a STA3, which tend to have easier draws, nets the same 160 points.

How do the rest of the points compare between tournaments? Winning three main draw matches in a STA3 garners 240 points. The STA3s finish in two days, and the champion wins 320 points with 4 main draw wins. The 4th place finisher in the STA2 also wins 4 main draw matches (with losses in SF and ¾) and earns 320 points but it takes 3 days. The number of players in each that win 192 or more points? 6 out of 32 for STA3 or around 20% while only 8 out of 64 or 12.5% in the STA3s. Only in the top 3 spots do players earn more points in the STA3; those players earn 384-640 points plus bonuses. However, to earn those points they would have had to play for 3 days and win 4-6 main draw matches. Playing a STA2 only makes sense for players who will be seeded in the top 8; with bonus points those players might earn more points than players who opt for a STA3 instead that weekend.

The silver lining in the STA2 snubfest is that players who would have never been accepted in the past will receive spots as competitors. Maybe the player was sidelined with an injury for several months, just aged up, or is a talented local player who can’t afford to travel to southern tournaments. If these players can win 3 or more main draw matches and upset some seeds, they can earn a couple hundred southern points. However, there will be plenty of noncompetitive 0,0 matches when the seeds play the locals and low-ranked. These tournaments now have a dichotomy of players – seeded talented players who are playing to win versus players who are playing just for the opportunity. The midlevel southern players will skip the the STA2s and opt for STA3s. Even some top players are skipping STA2s and playing up an age group in STA3s.

While basketball fans have their Sweet Sixteen, southern tennis players have their “Sweet 6” – the six southern 1/1A tournaments with the highest southern point values and the only southern tournaments offering national singles points. Until 2014, players had their choice of thirteen southern tournaments with national singles points and high southern point values even in early rounds. With the stripping of national 5 points and the decimation of points in the first 2 days of the tournament, the STA2s -formerly Bullfrogs, now renamed Icy Hots, have become the ugly stepsisters to the Cinderella Sweet 6.

Prom, End of Course Tests, AP tests, and state varsity tennis playoffs – the positive and negative rites of passage for tennis playing public high schoolers – may conflict with these Sweet Six. Two of the Sweet Six tournaments are only two weeks apart –  the 16s/18s in Clemson starting April 25 and the 16s/18s in Raleigh May 9. Do students study for their important tests and/or play for their school teams, or do they neglect both to ensure they don’t miss one of the Sweet 6?

Two of the other Sweet Six were scheduled in the winter – the level 1 in January and the level 1A in February, neither on indoor courts. Southern Closed remains in mid June as in past years, while the July clay 1As were moved to Labor Day. Why are there no 1As scheduled after Labor Day until mid January? Why is there a 4 month gap in the fall and only two weeks between tournaments in the spring during the busiest time of year for public high schoolers? Is USTA Southern trying to discourage tournament players from playing high school tennis by scheduling the Sweet Six during high school tryouts and playoffs? Public high schoolers can’t miss 4 days of school over 2 weeks during this busy time even if AP tests aren’t involved.

I doubt it was USTA’s intention to make life difficult for tennis playing public high schoolers but they did. Why did they need to schedule four of the Sweet Six in the first five months of the year, especially considering many players had 1A points from the fall/winter indoor southern championships in November and December of 2013? Why did they schedule an 128 draw in the winter on outdoor courts when there is high chance of rain or possibly snow? Luckily the weather held this year for that tournament, but it would have been a fiasco with such a large draw and rain.

USTA Southern please consider moving one of the 1As in April/May to the fall for calendar 2015 and possibly one of the Jan/Feb tourneys to fall too. If players are injured in the first half of the year, with a 4 month gap in the fall, those players would have a hard time catching up to their peers. The new 1As for 2014 were former Bullfrogs. Look at some of the popular Bullfrogs from the past and switch out one of them as a 1A. Ridgeland MS in February would be better as a STA2 than as a 1A. Spread out the Sweet Six and make life easier for players trying to balance public high school and tennis.

While the above paragraphs criticize the Sweet Six schedule, southern parents are grateful for USTA Southern for adding a second level 1 tournament for 2014. Having two options for southern endorsement to national championship offers families flexibility. If their players played the level 1 in January, families may travel in June before playing nationals in July/August. We only hope that public high school students will have more options or a less condensed schedule in 2015.

Let’s See How This Is Playing Out

About a year ago, I published an article titled Quota Insanity written by well-known journalist/broadcaster Antonio Mora. In that piece, Antonio predicted that the quota-only system of entry into national tournaments would lead to meaningless events with meaningless outcomes because the draws would leave out many of the country’s top-ranked players. Turns out, Antonio is a pretty good prognosticator. Just take a look at what’s happening in next weekend’s Closed Regional tournaments around the US and how these level 4 selections are predictive of what’s going to happen for the summer super nationals. How can you call these credible national events when a kid ranked 1736 is getting in at the expense of a kid ranked in the 200’s?
















In case those numbers aren’t enough for you, here’s a breakdown of all 4 Closed Regionals showing the rankings of the last players gaining direct entry alongside the rankings of the first alternates in each age group (12s weren’t included since many of the draws didn’t fill). This information came from looking at the selection process tab on TennisLink for each age group. Those kids accepted off their sectional list have an [Age Group] SEL next to their names, and alternates have a yellow dot next to theirs. In some cases it appears sections had aging up allowances and so some very low ranked kids got in from the age group below, but I ignored those kids and only counted ones who gained acceptance from their natural age group.

Last AcceptedFirst Alternates
Boys 141575234
Boys 161874329
Boys 181990384
Girls 141510368
Girls 161609381
Girls 181706358

These are now National tournaments with no credibility whatsoever. We are going to see the same thing this summer for our national championship events. Maybe not quite this extreme, but the lists are going to look ridiculous and the kids left out are going to have a fit, and rightly so – this will have a huge impact on the Tennis Recruiting rankings as well as those from USTA.

Let me add that my son decided NOT to enter our Closed Regional because, looking at his current ranking, he didn’t think he had a chance of getting into the draw. Turns out he definitely would have gotten in and had the opportunity to gain some significant ranking points. How are parents and coaches supposed to guide these young players appropriately when the selections seem so random?

I have reached out to Lew Brewer and Andrea Norman at USTA asking for a comment but haven’t received anything yet. Once I do hear something, I’ll update this post so please check back later today. I’m hoping they can shed some light for us.

UPDATE 10:07pm 2/11/14 I received the following from Lew Brewer, USTA Director of Junior Competition: “It’s a bit too soon to make any sort of judgment about these events.  The Junior Competition Committee will be doing a full analysis of these events and will be discussing this at the USTA Annual Meeting in the next few weeks.” I still haven’t heard back from Andrea Norman.




More Ranking Info


Our Southern section is unique in that (1) it is comprised of 9 different states (and part of a 10th, Texas) and (2) each state has its own local USTA office with its own USTA state ranking.

It is now the end of the first week of February. Until today, USTA Georgia had not released its 2014 Points Per Round table due to the confusion over what’s going on at the national level.

In Georgia, players are required to play a minimum of 6 Georgia-based tournaments in order to be eligible to play in the Georgia Qualifier to be endorsed into our Southern Closed tournament that is a requirement for the National Hard Courts in August each year – did you follow that? Most of the states in our section have this same requirement. So, even top players in our Southern Section must go back to their local state events before late May/early June, spending time and money competing in lower-level events, in order to be endorsed by the section for Nationals. I’m sure you can understand why the lack of a PPR table until today was troubling for many Georgia players and their families.

This morning, I emailed Barbara Berman who is in charge of junior rankings for Georgia to find out what was happening. She replied promptly, pointing me to the 2014 Points Per Round table and explaining the delay. Barbara said that the USTA Georgia Annual Meeting was held last weekend wherein they discussed the ranking issues with USTA Southern and USTA National and approved a PPR table that is in line with both the section and national tables. The committee waited to update the Georgia ranking lists until those tables were set. Everything should be up to date as of today. Please note that the PPR Tables are retroactive for the 12-month rolling Standings Lists.

For more information, you can go to Below is a comparison of the 2013 and 2014 PPR tables just for your information. Again, this is just for the state of Georgia within the Southern section; your state or section may have something that looks very different so please check with your own head of junior competition.

Champion2013 PPR2014 PPR
GA Level 16601000
GA Level 2440670
GA Level 3330500
GA Level 4220330
GA Level 5110170
GA Level 1540820
GA Level 2360549
GA Level 3270410
GA Level 4180271
GA Level 590139
3rd Place
GA Level 1480730
GA Level 2320489
GA Level 3240365
GA Level 4160241
GA Level 580124
4th Place
GA Level 1420640
GA Level 2280429
GA Level 3210320
GA Level 4140211
GA Level 570109
FIC Champ
GA Level 1390590
GA Level 2260395
GA Level 3195295
GA Level 4130195
GA Level 565100
FIC Finalist
GA Level 1360550
GA Level 2240369
GA Level 3180275
GA Level 4120182
GA Level 56094
FIC Semi-Finalist
GA Level 1330500
GA Level 2220335
GA Level 3165250
GA Level 4110165
GA Level 55585
GA Level 1300450
GA Level 2200302
GA Level 3150225
GA Level 4100149
GA Level 55077
FIC QF Qualifying
GA Level 1270410
GA Level 2180275
GA Level 3135205
GA Level 490135
GA Level 54570
FIC Rd of 16
GA Level 1240360
GA Level 2160241
GA Level 3120180
GA Level 480191
GA Level 54061
FIC Rd of 16 Qual
GA Level 1210320
GA Level 2140214
GA Level 3105160
GA Level 470106
GA Level 53554
FIC Rd of 32
GA Level 1180270
GA Level 2120181
GA Level 390135
GA Level 46089
GA Level 53046
FIC Rd of 32 Qual
GA Level 1150230
GA Level 2100154
GA Level 375115
GA Level 45076
GA Level 52539
FIC Rd of 64
GA Level 1120180
GA Level 280121
GA Level 36090
GA Level 44059
GA Level 52031
FIC Rd of 64 Qual
GA Level 190140
GA Level 26094
GA Level 34570
GA Level 43046
GA Level 51524
FIC Rd of 128
GA Level 16090
GA Level 24060
GA Level 33045
GA Level 42030
GA Level 51015

Bonus Points Update

After all the confusion over the Bonus Points awarded during the first new 2014 L3 event in January, I contacted the TennisLink division of to try to find out what was going on. USTA told us that it was a technical issue with the software (see the Comments under the Bonus Points article for details), so I figured TennisLink could shed some light on the problem. However, the email response I received from TennisLink directed me to Lew Brewer, USTA’s national Director of Junior Competition. I promptly emailed Lew asking him for information. He replied, thanking me for my email and directing me to a page on USTA’s website, the way, you might want to bookmark that page to keep track of any future updates).

According to that web page, “Due to an unforeseen technical difficulty, implementation of the new 2014 Bonus Point table has been delayed.  Until the technical issue is resolved, players will earn Bonus Points using the 2013 Bonus Point Table.  When the issue is resolved all Bonus Points earned in 2014 will be updated using the new 2014 Bonus Point table.  All Bonus Points earned in 2013 will remain unchanged before and after the delay.”

I do find it interesting, however, that our Southern Section managed to award the proper Bonus Points after the January L3 tournament just a couple of days after the tournament ended. I believe other sections were able to as well. So, what is this “technical difficulty” at the National office and why can’t they resolve it? Who does it really affect? Were there some players whose rankings were negatively impacted under the 2014 Bonus Point schedule who maybe wouldn’t get into the February Closed Regional or National Selection tournament if those 2014 points applied?

I would love to hear from y’all about your personal experience with the Bonus Point reversal. Was your child impacted in a positive or a negative way? Did it make a difference in terms of getting into your Closed Regional or National Selection event?

There are still some unanswered questions in my mind. I’m hoping someone from USTA’s national office will comment here and help us understand exactly what’s going on with these pesky Bonus Point tables and the software required to get them right.