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New Rules for the New Year

For those of you living in USTA’s Southern section, some new rules went into effect January 1st.  For those of you living in other USTA sections, these rules are probably coming to you soon since Southern tends to pilot changes that are then rolled out nationwide.

The rule that I want to address today concerns Southern Level 3 tournaments.  Even though my son has been playing USTA Southern tournaments for several years now, we got no notice of this rule change.  How did I find out about it?  I went to a Southern Level 3 tournament website to register my son and found the new rules posted there.  I took the following directly from the tournament’s website (typos are on the part of the tournament):

As of Jan. 2012 all USTA Southern Junior Level 3 tournaments will be following the following format unless specifically state on their tournament web site. Highlights of the New Format are as follows:
1. All tournaments shall have two 16 balanced draws in each age division.
2. Two 16 draws will be determined by use of the waterfall system.
3. Format: Will be a feed in with an dependent draw for the losers of the first feed in match. This will guarantee three matches.
4. If number of participants goes under 24 (23 and under), one draw will be used instead.
5. Format will remain the same for all Level 3 events. The only change will be for an Indoor event which will be able to add one day.
6. Seeding shall follow the USTA Southern Section seeding regulations. Players selected on their 10’s standing shall not be considered for seeding in the 12’s division.
7. Scoring: Tie Break in lieu of the third set shall be used in all matches. Short scoring: No ad scoring or “Short” sets, first player/team to win four games wins the set provided there is a two game margin over the opponent(s), may be used due to inclement weather. Before changing format due to inclement weather, this must be approved by Section and State.
8. 10’s will play on 60ft court using Orange Low Compression balls and 25″ racquets Scoring: will be the best of three short sets,with No-Add Scoring, using a set (7pt) tie break at 4 all, with a set (7pt) tie break in lieu of the third set.
9. NEW LEVEL 3 POINTS TABLE: More points for Level 3 tournaments.
10. With the smaller draws more players will receive more points.

How is this different from the old rules?

First of all, Level 3 tourneys used to be held over a 3-day period, typically Saturday through Monday, with a 32-draw.  When I asked USTA Southern’s Managing Director of Diversity, Grants, Jr. Competition & Schools about this change in duration and draw size, he told me that it was designed to reduce the number of missed school days as well as to reduce the costs for the tournament directors.  Fewer days of competition means fewer days of court fees and fees paid to officials.  I get it.  However, with the new format, the consolation draws won’t be completed, and there is no wiggle room built in for weather delays, which means that main draws may not be completed either, even with the proposed short-scoring.

Second of all, the use of this “waterfall system” is something new.  Here’s what it looks like:

Level 3 Waterfall Guidelines
For Setting Up Two 16 Draws
Red Division
Blue Division

The numbers in the chart refer to the ranking order of the players.  For instance, the player with the highest ranking going into the tournament would be in the Red Division along with the 4th highest ranked player, the 5th highest, etc.  I’m not really sure why having 2 draws of 16 players for each age division is any better or more efficient than having one 32-draw – USTA says it’s easier to complete the two 16-draws over the 2-day period – but it’s what we’re stuck with for now.

Third of all, all matches will play a 10-point tiebreak instead of a 3rd set.  The 10-point breaker used to be limited to backdraw matches, which made sense to me from a time-constraint perspective.  However, I’m at a loss to understand how eliminating the 3rd set helps our kids develop into higher-level players who can compete nationally and globally.  The 3rd set is often what separates the mentally tough from the not-so-tough – why eliminate that challenge if the goal is to prepare our kids to compete in college and on the world stage?

Finally, players will receive more ranking points than they did in previous years for this level of tournament.  In 2011, the winner of a Southern Level 3 tourney got 220 points, and the consolation winner got 130; in 2012, the winner will get 320 points, and the consolation winner will get 190.  That’s a pretty significant increase, but I’m not sure what it will accomplish other than driving more players to apply for this level of tournament in the name of chasing ranking points.

So, how will these changes help in terms of junior development? USTA Southern’s answer:  “The committee’s hope is that the competition will be very balanced and every player will have at least three rounds of competition in a two day period for singles. Some events will host doubles as well.”

Do you understand it better now?  Nope, me either!


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