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.

20 Comments on “The Curtis Consolation Draw”

  1. In general the only “back draw” I like is the feed-in consolation that feeds all the way through the quarterfinal losers. In this type of draw you are essentially playing for 5th place AND receiving an appropriate amount of points for the effort. Back draws that only take the first (or first and second) round losers typically have horrible point allocations. This Curtis draw seems like a middle ground between the two types of draws.

    Too many players pull out of back draws, which is a shame. Regardless of the points you earn the extra match play is great for developing your game. If a player (or the parents) don’t see it this way then perhaps another sport might be better. Having said that it boggles my mind how poorly some of the back draws award points.

    Withdrawing because of school is the worst reason of all to not play a back draw. The tournament schedule is made very clear to all attendees – if you can’t miss school then you shouldn’t be in the tournament. If missing school was worth your time for the main draw then it should be no different for the back draw.

  2. We play in USTA tournaments to gain entry into higher and higher levels of USTA tournament competition. Basically, we are all forced into chasing points so we can get that access. If my child is in a tournament and has no chance to better his ranking I’m going to leave and not waste time and money on practice matches. I can find quality practice matches without having to jump through USTA hoops. Incidentally, in four years of tournament competition my child has pulled out of a draw twice, both times for legitimate injuries, but tampering with the point structure changes the equation.

    1. With more and more sections turning to UTR for seeding and selection, what if your child were able to improve his/her UTR by staying and playing the backdraw? Would that be worth the time and money? Just curious because UTR is now gaining traction, especially among college coaches.

      1. Yes, it would make a difference, but if the goal is to increase your UTR (and frankly, that is much more indicative of skill level than USTA rankings) that can be accomplished by simply playing a local tournament and playing up. So, if my child loses in an early round and I’m 300 hundred miles from home (not unusal), I can pack up, drive home and play in a local lower level but higher age group tournament almost any weekend I choose. Obviously, as my child ages this won’t work, but I’ll bet from the USTA perspective there are far more 14 and under players than 14 and over, and it certainly will work for the former group.

  3. Lisa, at the Southern 1 in January, a 128 draw tournament, there was a silver draw that was just the losers in the round of 16 playing each other. Players did not find out about it until they lost in R16.That was different than the Curtis draw which combines the QF playoffs with the R16 losers. However, in a 64 draw tournament, unless there is a weather delay, the players that lose in R16 on Sunday am play consolation on Sunday afternoon. It is only in the 128 draw tournaments that the R16 losers had to wait until Monday to play.

    The important points in the consolation round are the bonus points. While previous posters have mentioned players winning 20-50 points per round in the back draw, bonus points range from 35 to 150 per match (beat someone ranked in top 50 in South earn 100 pt bonus). It was always worthwhile for players to play QF playoff as most of those players were 100 per round of bonus. If the players who lose in the 1st or 2nd round dont have the option of winning matches and playing the feed in R16 losers they have a much lower chance of earning the big bonus points. In the past, players in the backdraw had to grind through a bunch of matches but they had the potential of a big pot of points at the end of the backdraw rainbow. Get rid of the R16 loser feed into the backdraw, and there is little reason for 1st and 2nd round players to play backdraw. Once my son finished 6th in a 1A tournament but his friend who won the backdraw (9th place) actually earned 100 more points because the consolation winner played more matches and most of those matches earned bonus points too.

    USTA Southern is correcting something that does not need to be fixed by changing the draws for the 64 draw tourneys. The Curtis draw makes sense for 128+ draw tourneys.

    USTA Southern has a pattern of making changes and not telling parents. A couple years ago, USTA Southern decided that the backdraw would end on Sunday so only main draw and QF playoff players would miss school. That rule prevailed early in the year. Then players went to a spring 1A thinking they would be done on Sunday if they lost and didnt find out until they were on site Saturday that the rule had changed back to play backdraw on Monday for tournaments with national points. When the Southern level 2s lost the national 5 points when nat 5 points were eliminated, USTA southern still kept the backdraw on Monday.

    Be prepared for a surprise whenever you play a high level southern tournament. Sometimes if you are lucky, the changes will be explained on the website. Sometimes you don’t find out until your player is on site. Sometimes you dont get the news from officials, but from other parents.

    Southern has another big change this year. Instead of individual state deciding who gets waivers without playing the State Qualifier, USTA Southern will grant waivers to the top 16 USTA Southern players so it is possible some state wont waive any players if none of their players are in top 16. As a result, many players are playing back to back tournaments in April and early May: STA 2 4/14, Nat 3 in SC 4/21, STA 1A 4/28 and then Nat 3 2nd weekend in May. To David who asks why not play backdraw on Monday, what player who goes to public school could afford to miss that many Mondays, especially since it is time for EOCTs, virtual school finals, and AP exams? I am glad my player is a senior and does not have to participate in this wild goose chase for points. Also David, there is no point in playing unless you can play Monday as the winner gets double the points of 4th place and 4th place gets a lot more points than winners of lower rounds. The points earned are more exponential than linear unless players play team events like Zonal with a set point win per round.

    At least players now have the option of playing 32 draw National 3s hosted in South which earn Southern 2 points, while 64 draw STA2s dont earn any national points. I think the better southern players will choose Nat 3s over the Icy Hots in the future unless the Icy Hot is a much closer drive. UsTA in general needs to align sectional and national tournaments better. If a players needs national points, he can play a Nat 3 and earn STA 2 points. If a player want more southern points, he can play a southern 1A and earn 50% more southern points but only national 4 points. Players have to play more tournaments because there is not an alignment between sectional and national tourneys. Players may need sectional points to be endorsed for some national tourneys and national ranking to be endorsed for others. To make it worse, the endorsement and/or selection rules change at least every 2 years, if not every year. No wonder many players choose ITFs because the rules and points are all one system wherever you play. It is a no win scenario for talented players who attend public schools; they are sick a couple Mondays a month and hope the school staff will let it slide as long as they keep up their grades; most public schools only allow 5 pre-excused absences a semester including school field trips and college visits. My son once missed 7 days one month, but usually it averaged 3 a month or 10-12 a semester.

    1. “Be prepared for a surprise whenever you play a high level southern tournament. Sometimes if you are lucky, the changes will be explained on the website. Sometimes you don’t find out until your player is on site. Sometimes you dont get the news from officials, but from other parents.”

      So, here is my question for USTA: why do these surprises keep happening? Is it a problem with USTA itself wherein no one there deems it important to alert those in the junior tournament system of these changes? Is it lazy tournament directors who just don’t want to take the time to email the participants? Or is it a defect in the Tennislink platform that won’t allow for easy emailing? Because I ran a tournament in August using the UTR tournament platform, and emailing the participants was as simple as clicking a button.

      1. I would think (hope) UTR is the 800 lb gorilla in the room as far as the USTA is concerned. I hope they stay independent. They are in the process of offering a much more efficacious path for development and exposure to college coaches. The USTA is a giant bureaucracy and the national, sectional and local USTA officials often don’t appear to have a clue what each is doing or why.

        But, parents are partially to blame because so few speak out by emailing and directly questioning what goes on.

      2. Personally, I would say the responsibility lies with the USTA Section (Southern in this instance) to get the word out for new rules/points, decisions and details. These “details” should also be published early enough that parents can decide on which tournaments to play and know all details prior. Yes, the tournament directors could email, but this information is passed down from the section…. versus a tournament director deciding they are “changing things up”.

        Technology is such that “blasting out” this information is really very easy! Granted part of me says a “2-way communication” system would quickly turn in to a whining session — still very easy to do a 1-way email.

      3. Very good questions Lisa. Thanks for working hard on behalf of tennis parents like me. As for UTR, the biggest issue with its current use is that it is being used as a ranking system not a ratings system. It has a place to cut some of the BS out of all this but in my experience the differences in tenths and hundredths of UTR rating points can be misleading. A kid that is an 8.15 isn’t appreciably different than an 8.25 and that difference is currently be used to seed and stratify players top to bottom

        As for consolation draws, only full feed-in consolation allows the player who may be just out of seeding and gets a top seed in the first or second round to prove him/herself against the broadest section of players in a draw. Remember the 17th ranked player in a 64 draw is just as likely to play a high seed in the first round as the 64th ranked player.

        USTA and parents can’t have it both ways. If we want to include a lot of players and have large draws, then those tournaments take time to complete. The most efficient system doesn’t have any consolation but might not be great for development. I’m not sure that USTA really cares about kids missing school until it’s convenient for them. They don’t mind inviting kids to Orlando or Carson for training during the school year/day.

        Thanks again for being on top of these issues. You are truly an asset to all tennis parents whether the know it or not.

  4. I guess I just don’t get why people keep bringing up missing school. A talented (and to me this means at least a 5-star) shouldn’t be in a public school if s/he really wants to develop as a tennis player. I remember when our daughter started doing online school after 5th grade – other tennis parents looked at us like we should be locked up for child abuse. Fast forward (daughter is a junior) and virtually every child we know who is a “talented” player is doing online school. Take missing school out of the equation and you can improve your training and tournament opportunities. And it doesn’t lower the academic opportunities one bit.

  5. David, the reason school is important is because a very small % of college players will be successful as pros. Of course there are players who take rigorous courses via Laurel spring or some other virtual school, do well ,and even get into the Ivys as virtual students. However, other students like my 5 star son may need more structure to be prepared for college academics and tennis; some of those players choose a hybrid model-public school in am, drills in afternoon, 2 virtual classes. In addition, there are ITA All Americans who attended public high school and played for their teams-even a few blue chips. You have a daughter; our daughter was much more the self starter academically compared to our sons-both the athlete and non athlete. Also school brings some normalcy to players’ lives and grounds them. My son is ranked higher (UTR, Nat USTA, TRN) than many guys in his section who attend FT academies. Possibly students who balance high level tennis and school will have less of an adjustment when they go to college. Also some of the kids in our area who were virtually schooled as underclassmen and want to play Ivys are returning to public school for their junior and senior years.

    If we in the US want the the most gifted athletes to choose tennis, we are never go to steer them away from sports like football and basketball if parents believe the only chance for success is to spend a ton of $ and leave public schools. Some players who do virtual school pay for tutors to have them learn the material-another expense to add to an already costly sport.

    Dont assume virtual school is the only way for tennis players who want to play D1 or pro tennis. It is hard to make it work, but for those who try, dont put them down and assume they are not “talented”.

  6. The concern over low point attribution for consolation draws seem antithetical to the goal of improving the player. If you leave a tournament because you won’t get enough points, you waste the value of experiencing competitive match play, which is not the same at your academy regardless of what the coach says.

    Players (and their parents) should stay for every match they can. If you can’t miss school, OK, that’s a valid reason. However, college coaches also watch to see who cuts-and-runs when they fall out of the main draw. Coaches want players who thrive on the competition, not those who leave when it becomes inconvenient, or worse, when the parent feels that their special snowflake will be diminished by having to play the “losers”. If you’re in that draw, you also lost, right?

    I watched a player who was top 50 ITF in a back-draw. She probably lost main-draw because of illness or cramping, as there really wasn’t anyone who should have threatened her. Instead of pulling out, she stayed and maximized the opportunity by playing serve-and-volley on every serve, and attacking the net as soon as possible on every return. To do that against a player who you could beat 0&0, shows a desire to improve whenever possible. That’s what consolation draws should be about, not point collection.

    1. “Players (and their parents) should stay for every match they can. If you can’t miss school, OK, that’s a valid reason.”

      No, it is not a valid reason. If school is more important then you shouldn’t be in a tournament that requires you to miss school.

      1. Matter of opinion. If tennis is subservient to academics, then that’s a judgement each family would make for themselves. It’s at least a defensible position, and certainly better than leaving because the points aren’t enough, or because of the shame of playing in the “loser draw”.

  7. I wish parents got to weigh in both national and sectional changes before committees made changes. Now the May National 2s, formerly 32 draws at 4 sites over Memorial Day, are held during the school year at 4 sites, 4 days long, 64 draw tournaments-2 missed days of school during many schools’ (those that start in mid Aug) finals week. Of course last year USTA National pushed back Kzoo so it also runs into the start of those schools. Why does all the scheduling favor schools that start late and penalize those that start early? Maybe the committee needs to have parents on it from different regions of the country.

    USTA National added 5 national 3 tournaments this year so I dont know why they increased the Nat 2 draws. If a players is not in the top 128 applicants to get in the Nat 2s, that player can try and earn National points at a Nat 3. With many top players switching to ITFs, USTA national ranking is becoming less and less meaningful. There was no need to increase Nat 2 spots with so many new spots in the Nat 3s. USTA National ranking already was somewhat of a joke because players from weak sections could earn a top 100 or 150 ranking doing well in the top sectional tourneys in their area. Some of those players would be seeded in Nat 1s and 2s and get rounded when they faced players outside their section. However, most players stay in the USTA game because they want to go to Kzoo. They can get in with a high sectional ranking, but to be seeded they need a lot of national points. The tournaments are getting longer and the competition weaker. I am OK with Kzoo and Nat clays increasing to 224 draws in the summer but dont keep lengthening tourneys during the school year. If kids are having to miss school anyway, they might as well choose the ITFs as the main draws are better competition than USTA Nat 3s even at the grade 4 level. The more USTA National waters down tournaments, the more the better players will leave and just try to play Kzoo.

    For the February Nat 2 32 draw tourneys, only one was site held it over the holiday weekend and so no school was missed, but the other three were held the weekend before the holiday weekend. It used to be USTA national tried to schedule tournaments over school holidays. There are so many new ones this year, they all could not be on holidays, but now it seems like USTA is going out of its way to avoid scheduling on school holidays-its the exception to get to play on a school holiday instead of the rule. With all the new tourneys, you would think they would at least have a Nat 2 or Nat 3 for every holiday weekend during the school year-there are none over Memorial Day this year. At the same time, USTA national keep increasing matches scheduled on Mon/Tues, schools are increasing testing, so finals are not one week but up to 3-4 different weeks between end of course testing in late April/early May counting as finals, then APs, and then the real finals the last week of school. We dont expect our players to be able to attend every single national tourament, but it is really unfortunate that good players are being squeezed between school and USTA with 3 national tournaments in a row conflicting with major school dates in our state which is hosting two of them, and the draws will even be weaker when those public school attending 4 and 5 stars cant play. There is no reason for a UTR 10 player to be playing a Nat 2 or 3 18s, but with more tourneys, increased draws and more school conflicts, there will be a lot of lower level alternates getting in these tourneys.

    One good thing USTA at both the national and sectional level has done was to count 20% of the lower age tournament points in the next age, reducing the need for players to play up. Also that new policy is an argument for not increasing school year draws because kids soon to age up can get in the next age up if they played well in their current age. Instead of increasing draws, I wish USTA would have some WCs based on UTR so the really talented kids who are lower ranked due to not playing as many tournaments could get in some national tournaments.

    1. School, school, school … the whining about missing school just doesn’t influence me at all. If you can’t miss school then don’t enter the tournament. There are plenty of tournaments that don’t require missing school. And there are plenty of school choices that recognize that in 2017 there are many ways to get a great secondary education without sitting in a classroom from 8:30-3:00 every day.

      Parents who treat this as OR instead of AND get no sympathy from me (not that anyone asked for it).

  8. Every high level sectional tournament in our section during the school year ends on a Monday or Tuesday. Only low level sectional tournaments finish in 2 days. Maybe you live in a section with 32 draws. My son takes 2 courses virtually, but some experiences can not be replicated virtually, e.g. dissections, group presentations, foreign language class dialogue, in class discussions. Maybe some high tech expensive virtual schools simulate these experiences better than others, but we knew the limits of our free state virtual courses.

    How expensive are those school choices that provide the excellent education outside the classroom. ? Tennis is too expensive to spend extra for school. The May Nat 2s I mentioned in my earlier post are not filling up. The Nat 2 applicants are weaker than the March National 3s. Registration ends in 12 hours. Some sites still have 20 open spots, and these are supposed to selective tournaments, not Opens. There could be players at a Nat 2 who have not even won matches at a Nat 4.

    Obviously there are other players choosing not to play to avoid missing 2 days of school around finals and the end of school. Those who do play will waste time and money playing noncompetitive early rounds. The draws should have stayed at 32. At one site, the UTRs currently range from below 8 to above 13, If some players with high UTRs are not seeded (maybe they play more ITFs than USTA), there could be two 12+s playing each other in an early round, and there will be no benefit for the loser to play consolation vs an opponent more than 2 UTR points below. The backdraw player’s UTR would drop even with a straight set win. Shorter draws mean more closely rated players, better competition, and less missed school. Players need to pay their dues-play the Nat 4s in section before expecting to get in a Nat 2. When players have to be on an alternate list several times before they get in a certain level tournament, they train hard and make the best of the opportunity when they are accepted.

  9. Two players who reached the main draw semifinals of a top sectional tournament (that also earns national points) withdrew on Sunday. They are listed as ill or injured but I think they have AP tests on Monday at their public schools. So, David, this is another example of high ranked talented players, both already committed to colleges, who were forced by large draw tournament to choose between school and tennis, and they put academics first. It’s not just the backdraw that is impacted by lengthy tournaments during the school year.

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