When PPR Goes Awry

PPR

USTA has been using the Points Per Round (PPR) ranking system for many years, and, for the most part, it works relatively well. At the beginning of each year (theoretically!), both the sections and USTA National publish the PPR tables and the lists of which tournaments count at which level, juniors play tournaments and earn their ranking points based on how far they advance in the event, and the ranking lists are updated online pretty much every week. Juniors enter tournaments knowing exactly how many ranking points are available based on their results.

Sometimes, though, things go wrong, and the error can have a ripple effect. That’s exactly what happened this summer in the Midwest Section.

Background

Let me provide some background information first. The Midwest section, like the other USTA sections, publishes its PPR tables each year. For 2018, you can find the table here: Midwest PPR Table. As you can see, there are some tournaments that specifically state they will not award National Points. Three of those events are the May 26-28 Midwest Level 3 Memorial Day Weekend, the June 30-July 1 Midwest Level 3, and the September 1-3 Midwest Level 3.

Due to an error at the USTA National Office, National Points were awarded to players in both the singles and doubles divisions of these tournaments. A parent in the Midwest section noticed the error and brought it to the attention of the section’s head of junior competition who then immediately reached out to the National office to correct it. However, the National Points remained on the players’ records throughout the summer. The same parent reached out to the National office repeatedly to report the error. Unfortunately, the parent’s emails went unanswered until this past week, and the National Ranking Lists were not updated before selections were made for the upcoming National L2 events.

Some of the players in the Memorial Weekend event have been carrying 250+ National points since May and have subsequently gotten into the summer National tournaments ahead of other players. Some of these players have also received seeding ahead of players due to the error.

Action

I got involved last Monday (September 17) when the Midwest parent emailed me to share what had happened. I reached out to both the section and the national Junior Comp folks to gain more insight. After speaking with Chad Doktor in the Midwest office, it became clear that the error was at the National level. Chad explained to me that at the beginning of the year each section gives National its list of the sectional events that count for National points for singles and doubles. Chad’s office did just that.

I then emailed Lew Brewer in the National office to ask if he had any idea what happened to cause the mixup in the first place. He quickly replied that they do know the source of the issue, which is why they were able to fix it. Lew went on to explain that errors in the ranking program are extremely rare. There are thousands of matches and hundreds of tournaments being calculated each week for the National Standings List. Lew’s assistant confirmed by sharing that updating and including tournaments for the National Rankings is a manual process, and it can be sometimes difficult to manage the 17 sections and National tournaments. I have to admit I was a bit surprised to learn the process is still being handled manually as opposed to the National office pulling data directly from the tournament websites. It seems that in 2018, USTA would have the technology available so these types of mistakes would be all but eliminated, but that is not the case.

My follow-up question was: Are the players who were inadvertently kept out of the national events due to the error being notified or granted any type of special exemption into future events? Lew responded that the question of who might have not been selected for subsequent events based on the error is murky. It’s definitely not as simple as one player got in and one player did not. There were many thousands of entries for the tournaments in question. And since there are multiple locations for the October National L2 events, it’s difficult to determine who might have gained entry solely due to the PPR errors in the summer tournaments. However, they are aware of the issue and have now made the necessary corrections which are reflected in this week’s National Standing List.

The Ripple

In other words, the players who followed the rules and continued to spend the time and the money playing the necessary Sectional events to earn entry into the higher-level National tournaments are being “punished” for a clerical error in the National office. These kids work hard and compete hard to earn points. Parents spend a lot of money and time helping their children compete. There are a lot of families that travel to play in National tournaments around the country. Playing summer tournaments helps them gain entry into the Fall/Winter tournaments that are usually harder to get into due to small draw size. It’s incredibly unfair to these families, especially those who are in their college recruiting years. It seems National doesn’t want to go back and fix the error because it might inconvenience families who already made travel plans for the October L2s based on an erroneous ranking for their player.

Please understand that this error could have a tremendous trickle-down effect. The players who were mistakenly awarded the National Ranking Points now have the opportunity to play in higher-level tournaments and earn even more National Ranking Points, boosting not only their USTA ranking but also their TRN Star Rating and their UTR. At the same time, the players who were denied entry into the higher-level events – because they were out-ranked due to the error – are also being denied the opportunity to earn additional ranking points which could potentially boost their ranking and ratings. Additionally, they are potentially being denied the chance to be seen by college coaches at these National tournaments. It’s a real shame and something which USTA seems to be unable or unwilling to remedy.

The Onus is on YOU!

The reason I’m sharing all of this with you is to remind you that the onus is on the players and parents to make sure the ranking points awarded after each tournament are accurate. This particular series of events occurred in the Midwest Section, but there could be similar issues happening in other sections, too. I urge you to take a close look at your child’s sectional and national ranking to be sure he/she has been awarded the appropriate points for each tournament. If you don’t understand how to do that, please reach out to your sectional head of junior competition (see the list here) or to me for assistance.

As Lew Brewer stated in his email to me, players and parents should be diligent about checking player records and ranking points. Chad Doktor reinforced that idea saying, “At least one parent needs to be the expert and take ownership of rankings and tournaments.” That said, even if there is an error, this incident does not give me much hope that it will be rectified in a timely or satisfactory manner. However, we have to hope USTA National is learning from this and will make some much-needed changes to its ranking point entry methods.

 

9 Comments on “When PPR Goes Awry”

  1. “The onus is on you” is great advice. Not only checking to be sure that points are being properly awarded but that results are being properly recorded, which definitely affects UTR.

  2. USTA National leadership needs to own it and fix it, no matter how manual, complex, and murky the solutions. The delay in reacting to address it properly is worse than the mistake initially made. Kids deserve every effort possible to have them gain the opportunities they earned.

    1. In case it wasn’t clear, USTA National DID own it and DID update the National Standing Lists. What they have failed to do to date, however, is offer some sort of special exemption to the players negatively impacted by the error. I’m hoping they will find a way to make things right very quickly.

  3. The USTA is the most inept, tone deaf, bureaucratic organization on the planet. They seldom get anything right and it’s getting worse. They have no incentive to change. Hopefully UTR and its events will continue to grow and eventually be a complete substitute for the USTA tournament nightmare experience.

  4. I agree with you Tom. While this is the first time I have heard that UsTA national made a major mistake with junior rankings, USTA PD has a pattern of inaccurate and/or delayed results/points for its USTA national top 500 report sent quarterly (supposedly) to ITF for player selection to Future Qualifiers after players with ATP points are selected. Here are some of the mistakes USTA PD has made:

    USTA PD only sent out two reports in 2017-June and October and did not send out its first 2018 report to ITF until May 2018

    10/17 All-American and 11/17 Oracle national fall college event results were not entered into tennislink until 9/5/18 after USTA PD was notified of missing results in early June 2018 (since first 2018 report didn’t come out until mid May, omissions were not found until late spring)

    Results from four fall 2017 circuits-Columbus Challenger, Columbus, Waco, and Tallahassee Futures were not entered into tennislink until July 2018 thus were excluded from 1st two rankings lists sent to ITF in 2018.
    Tallahassee results entered 8 months late were processed incorrectly so players who won Quali matches were given main draw USTA points, and MD winners were given Quali points (however those guys get in on ATP points so they were not affected). Some guys earned 4X the points that should have due to error. Error probably wont be fixed until next ITF report.

    There were 12 Futures played this summer. Only wins from 6 Future Qualifiers (50%) are included on last report generated by USTA PD because first names were left off data entry for all June Future Qualifiers. https://tennislink.usta.com/Tournaments/Rankings/RankingHome.aspx#&&s=4%5cPage_RankingList%5cListID_2036193%5cPlayerID_%5cYear_%5cType_searchresults

    If you know a player who won Quali matches at either of the two Winston Salem futures or the June Futures at Buffalo, Rochester, Pittsburgh, or Tulsa, tell them their results are currently excluded. They may want to write the new USTA PD email is: competitivepathway@usta.com to ask the results to be fixed before the list is sent to ITF in September. However, they will probably get same reply that I did-“thank you for your Email. Work is in progress.” Same reply sent after several Emails and after report was generated that did not fix errors identified in earlier Emails.

    The fall iTF list will be the last list used for selection to Futures before Transition Tour changes in 2019.
    It is a shame that USTA PD/Competitive pathway with its big budget cant spend some $ to upgrade its computer system or to audit results entered by different interns 3+ months late with little review. While the USTA top 500 report is only sent to ITF quarterly, tournament results could be entered weekly, a report generated monthly to review internally, so when the quarterly report is due, it could be turned around quickly and accurately. Instead USTA waits and enters 3 months of results in a few weeks with multiple errors, no review, and token response to outsiders who catch their mistakes. Players and parents invest time and money to attend these Futures, only to discover when they want to play tournaments the next year, that they are on the alternate list because USTA forgot to include their wins or left off their first names. With the Transition Tour changes in Jan 2019, USTA PD should have worked hard to provide an accurate fall report to the ITF. Why is USTA satisfied with 50% accuracy, 3+ months late. USTA has forgotten our players are their customers. I sure hope UTR comes up with some high level tournaments that college coaches will attend so players and parents no longer have to deal with the uncaring incompetent unwieldy bureaucracy that is USTA national in the future.

  5. I just saw that USTA Southern has renamed several of its tournaments for 2019 and has changed the PPR charts as well. You can see the name changes here: http://www.southern.usta.com/Juniors/tournaments_rankings/2019_top_junior_tournaments/. You can see the new PPR chart here: http://www.southern.usta.com/High-Performance-Pages/2019_junior_points_per_round. Please take note if you are in one of the 9 states that comprise the Southern Section!!!

  6. For the October Level 2 tournaments, it would be helpful to add a 16 or 32 draw in each age division for the top alternates. This doesn’t require the current accepted players to change their plans but it gives spots to players who rightly deserved to be in the Level 2 tournaments.

  7. After receiving two token Emails with the same message, I did hear from a real person at USTA today. It appears the first names have been added to the six June Futures. I hope the USTA top 500 will be rerun with these corrections before the next report is sent to ITF in the near future. After writing USTA about errors last fall, this spring, this summer, and this fall, this is the first time i have gotten a real response. Maybe USTA national is finally getting into place some people who will listen and fix problems.

  8. I can understand parents keeping up with their own child’s points, but are they supposed to keep up with the points from players in the other 16 sections? It was good of the parent in the Midwest to point out the problem, but I suspect a lot of parents would keep quiet if their child was awarded extra national points that qualified them into bigger national events.

    I really respect the Midwest parent that pointed this out.

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