18 Comments

  1. there are no such thing as #1 players. The points system makes rankings - expected value. Seeds get beat all the time, the only thing missing now is that they only lose to other falsely ranked players in these events and never the less known upstarts who are excluded. So what you now have is a good ol boys club of players in each event who are the best point chasers. A blind monkey could create a better system.

  2. I have been wondering why the winners of each main draw do not play each other in the end as well! Makes sense to me to have an overall winner. Also agree with your points on having level 4 events on same weekend for kids who are piled up on the alternates list and doing 2nd back draw on lower level tournaments. Great post

  3. Thank you for this very clear explanation of the new system. These new rules seem to be unecessarily convoluted. I find that the rules are already subject to being gamed by parents, this overengineered version will only contribute more to that. I guess it is one more thing for me to master if my child plans to play in the system.

  4. Most of the parents/players I know like the new format. You know your child will be playing for 2 days (at least 3 matches) so you can make definite travel/hotel arraingments. No holdovers for Mondays. The only complaint I hear is that most of the Level 3's do not have doubles.

  5. Thank you. I completely agree with this post and recently voiced similar concerns to USTA staff (who actually led me to your blog). I have been very disappointed with USTA at the southern and national level and have been wondering what their intentions are. They are making the sport more exclusive, not inclusive. Our family will continue to search for competitive match play outside of junior tournaments.

  6. Could be a societal thing that by not playing the draws all the way out, you don't have to have as many kids upset about losing. Lord knows that people should not learn how to deal with failure.

  7. The whole thing sounds like a nightmare to me! Having worked tournaments I can sympathize with desk officials having to contend with 6 different draws per age group - horrors!! Cannot understand the logic of it at all - instead of 2 main draws, wouldn't one bigger one make sense. Having two number 1 seeds etc is ludicrous - it makes a joke of the tourney unfortunately.

  8. sol, in response to your comment, i was looking back at the draws . . . the boy who lost in the "final" of the second backdraw didn't win a single match during the tourney. he lost in the first round of the main, lost in the first round of the real backdraw, got a walkover (technically, a win, i guess, at least in terms of earning ranking points with USTA), then lost the only second backdraw match he played. maybe he gained some good experience in terms of learning what he needs to do to improve his tennis, but would he have been better served playing in a lower level tournament?

  9. While improvements can always be made to the various formats offered, this particular format really works well for my son (and our family). They are some of the best run tournaments we have attended (rarely running behind schedule, for example) - thanks to this creative draw structure, lower draw sizes (2x16), no dubs, no 3rd sets ... You can leave after work/school on Friday, knowing your son/daughter has an 8am or 9:30 match the next day against a solid opponent (because of limited draws and higher point potential). Win or lose, the next match is again likely to be a challenging one. So, in the first day of competition, most players will play two highly competitive matches and have a chance to make it to the final 4 (out of 16 that started) - which is where the significant points can be had (320 to the winner, 280 for 2nd - the same points they get for winning 2-3 matches at a Bullfrog) - so a lot at stake on Saturday which is exciting for the players. If you win at least one match the first day, then you have a shot at playing 2 additional highly competitive matches the following day (everyone who makes it into these smaller fields are highly competitive/talented). By the time your son or daughter begins to complain of a sore shoulder, you are both back in the car (typically by 3pm on Sunday at the latest) and home for a late dinner with the rest of your family. Maybe he/she even has time to finish Friday's homework assignments. What a concept - balancing tennis AND family on a tournament weekend no less. Compare this experience to the old format for Southern L3's - which extended over to Monday to accommodate larger draws and the desire to crown a single champion of both the main and back draw for each age group. If you're going to miss school, pay 3 night's hotel expenses, and compromise your overall family dynamic ... it might as well be for a Bullfrog or a Southern L1 tournament - not for a Southern L3. I agree with the changes that were made - kudos for thinking outside the box to accomplish some really important objectives. Agree though that maybe not as good a deal for kids struggling to get in to the 32 draw on a consistent basis. Additional Southern L4 tournaments on those same weekends is a really good solution - I agree.

    • steve, you make some excellent points - thank you for taking the time to comment! in some parts of our section, you are absolutely correct about the quality of matches. however, in other parts, the quality just isn't there, especially in the backdraw. i'm working on a blog post on the different ranking/rating systems out there, and these level 3 tourneys are a good example of how the current system doesn't always work in favor of the better (though lower-ranked) player. a clear example is the tourney alluded to in this post - my son couldn't get into the level 3 close to our home, so we traveled 5+ hours across the section to another level 3 where, not only did he get in without having to go through the dreaded alternate list, but he got into the older age division. he played one competitive match in the 2nd round of the main draw vs. the 2 seed (my son lost 7-5, 6-4), but then played 2 completely non-competitive matches in the backdraw. the backdraw final would have been a strong, competitive match for him, but, as you know, the backdraw final isn't played in these tournaments. of course, it was our choice to drive so far for him to play, but we never imagined how different the level of competition would be.

  10. Lisa, thanks for providing that perspective and the example from this past weekend. That's a really good point that the competitive level of the draws may vary depending on the State in which the L3 tourney is held. Hadn't thought about that, since we typically stay in the NC/SC/GA part of the section where competitive depth is relatively strong. If he only got one competitive match out of 4, then I can see why you'd argue for playing out the back draws and recommend that the two winners of each draw play on for the outright title. That at least gives players a chance to play one more competitive match and get full (development) value out of the weekend. I'd definitely support those tweaks to the existing format - as they can only enhance the overall experience/value for players (and would only add 2-3 hours to the playing schedule on Sunday). The tournament would be over at 5pm instead of 3pm - still plenty of time to get home at a reasonable hour. That's a fair trade-off in my mind. Thanks again for providing such a great forum for discussing these topics.

  11. One last comment on ranking systems. I totally agree that the PPR ranking system, used for draw selection and seeding for these tourneys, does not work in favor of the better (up and coming players) that play relatively fewer events during the year. The best system by far in my opinion is the Tennis Recruiting national ranking system, based on head-to-head wins and losses, regardless of the round or tournament level where those matches occur. It would be great to see at least a few tournaments each year use that ranking system to select and seed fields. If the USTA were to switch to TR as their primary ranking system, I think that would solve many of the problems they've been trying to address with the proposed changes to national tournament structures, etc. (i.e., players/parents trying to buy PPR points/rankings by traveling to all the big national events). TR rankings aren't influenced at all by where you go to play a tournament and which #900 ranked player in the nation you happened to knock off in the back draw for your only win of the event (to secure those prized PPR points). You'd be better off playing up in a State L4 event in your own backyard where you have an opportunity to beat the equivalent of #100 in your grade (say #475 two classes up from you). That's another change I'd be 100% behind - for what it's worth. Look forward to your upcoming blog post on that subject Lisa.

  12. I agree with Steve. How do you reasonably explain to a 12 year child (or any child, for that matter) that a child he/she has beaten easily (possibly numerous times) is ranked above him/her? The only reasonable explanation is that he plays more tournaments. In other words, his parents spend more money. In many cases, money buys rankings. Head to head rankings were very clear in a child's mind. USTA doesn't realize (or maybe they don't care about) the negative impact they're having on children. Children also don't understand why other kids they've beaten qualify for southerns when they don't qualify, simply because they live in a different state. USTA's reasoning is simple: That child's state has more "matches played" and therefore more players from that state qualify. How do we as parents explain that to a chld with a straight face? As an adult who played junior tournaments based on "head to head" rankings, I can't explain it. It sounds ridiculous. Money drives USTA. And we're losing a lot of good kids in the process. The sad thing is, I don't think USTA will ever get it....

    • I just heard a boy in the 16s at this weekend's level 3 call the second backdraw the "BS Draw" - cracked me up!

      • It's true Lisa - no one wants to be playing in that "extra" draw ... but it does provide players with an extra 1 or 2 matches on Sunday for additional match play experience. Congrats to your son on 2 excellent wins this week end in SC. He's really playing great.

        • he had a good weekend - working on my blog post now!

  13. A Great Fix « ParentingAces

  14. i just received the following comment via email and thought i would share: "I also agree scheduling 3s and 4s on the same weekend is a good idea provided the selection list for the 3s comes out before the deadline for the STA 4s. However, not all the STA 4s should be on the same weekend as 3s or Bullfrogs to allow players who are straddling two age groups to play some of both - the higher age in the 4s and the current age in the 3s."

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