Now that Phase 1 (the Florida part) of our Summer Tennis Travel is done, I thought I’d write up a quick list of things we experienced and learned from the National Clay Courts in Delray. For those of you who were there or at sites for the other divisions, please add to my list in the Comments section below.
1. Having qualies is great except for the fact that, if the draws had remained the same size as in previous years, boys who lost 2nd or 3rd round in qualies would still have the opportunity to play in the backdraw and to be seen by the college coaches who didn’t arrive until the main draw started.
2. Saving money by shrinking draws & having qualies is bogus. There was a no-tennis day after qualies finished and before the main draw began, requiring those players who made it through qualies and/or chose to stay and chance getting in as a “lucky loser” and/or play doubles to pay for extra day/night of hotel, food, etc.
3. The tournament charges the “official stringer” $2000 to be there. He was at our hotel, not at one of the tourney sites, requiring players to make special trips (15 minutes plus each way) back and forth to have racquets strung. He said his business was significantly reduced this year due to the smaller draw sizes.
4. A couple of the players who are in the main draw here didn’t even make the qualies for Kalamazoo. That speaks to two things: the fact that many of the top players chose not to play Clays this year and the fact that the selection process for Kzoo was such that several elite juniors were placed in the qualifying draw instead of the main draw because they chose to play an ITF and/or professional schedule as opposed to staying in their section and meeting endorsement criteria. These top players really do belong in the main draw and will probably make it through qualifying to get there. However, it’s a real shame for those players in the qualies who will face them and lose their chance at competing in the main event. It’s also a real shame for those players who were kept out of the tournament altogether because of the crazy selection process.
5. I loved having certified trainers at each site! They were kept very busy in this heat/humidity.
6. Several college coaches were on site for the 2nd day of qualies. I had the chance to speak to a couple of them and found that they were as confused as the rest of us as to how to handle recruiting for this tournament and how to plan their travel. Very few coaches were there the first day, but there was a swarm of coaches once the main draw started.
7. I asked my son if this tourney felt any different than others he’s played. His answer was, “Only that i’m not in it” meaning he didn’t make main draw singles. He really wishes he were at least in the backdraw and had a chance to be seen by more college coaches.
8. Early round blowouts are still happening despite having qualies. Really, there is nothing to do to eliminate that. USTA needs to just go back to the old draw sizes and give the most kids an opportunity to test their game at this level.
9. Not surprisingly, there were several walkovers in the consolation draw for qualies – duh! It’s a real shame for those players who didn’t get to play a 2nd match. They came all this way to play one match.
10. Of the 9 qualifiers/lucky losers in B18s, 7 of them lost in the first round of the main draw. However, one of the qualifiers won 2 main draw matches, taking out a 17 seed 0 &2, and another won 1 main draw match (for the record, the NSL rankings of these two players are 195 & 257). Of the 7 qualifiers/lucky losers who lost in the main draw first round, four of them won 2 rounds in the backdraw and one won 1 round in the backdraw. Remember: the qualifiers/lucky losers had to win 3 matches before even starting their main draw competition.
And, I just want to wish my son a very happy 18th birthday today. As I wrote earlier, he is now officially in his last year of junior tennis, and I know it’s going to be his best year yet!