According to Zoo Tennis:
“The USTA released a statement today suggesting the junior competition changes passed back in March may be revised or at least revisited.” This was from a blog posting on Thursday, September 20th. Today the USTA clarified their position further. “There has been no representation, implicit or explicit, that changes will be made. However, it is certainly possible modifications may be appropriate and/or that parts of the schedule of implementation may need to be adjusted.”
In a further discussion of the matter, Colette Lewis of Zoo Tennis states:
“No one has asked me, but I would much rather the USTA go to the standard worldwide tennis format of qualifying tournaments immediately preceding any and all major national events. If the majority of selections are made by sectional endorsements/rankings and a national ranking list, I would be delighted to see a 128-draw with 16 qualifiers, just like the US Open, here in Kalamazoo for the boys 16 and 18 Nationals.”
Everyone who follows Junior Tennis at the national level follows Colette’s blog. We had this discussion at the U.S. Open when we met. The more I look into it, the more I am convinced that a qualifying tournament with a 128 main draw is the way to go. It’s not that she set out to try to convince me on the idea. I actually brought it up before she did. The more I’ve looked into this, the more I’ve come to believe that National Championships need qualifiers.
Albany is not a huge tennis market. It’s not a big metropolitan area. We have a few area kids that make it to Nationals but they were not ranked in the top 100 going into Nationals so it came as a surprise to me when I saw these players coming out on the winning side of quite a few non competitive matches. I consider a match where a player gets 3 games or less to be non competitive (like 6-3, 6-0 or 6-1, 6-2 or 6-1, 6-0). This got me wondering. How many non competitive matches are there at national tournaments? How does that compare to other junior tournaments or even pro tournaments. Here is what I found.
First, the parameters. I only counted completed matches. I didn’t want injuries to skew the results. I tried to compare a variety of tournaments. Also, I only looked at singles.
So first to Boys 12’s at Little Rock. The tournament that got me started on this. Forty three percent of the first round matches – 27 out of 63 – were non competitive. I thought that was a really high percentage for a national tournament. Next I looked at the Boys 16’s at Kalamazoo where it was thirty seven percent – 17 out of 46. Remember, the seeds all get first round bye’s at Kalamazoo so that’s players getting blown out by unseeded players. I also looked at the Girls 18’s where it was twenty eight percent. Again, seeds don’t play the first round.
So how does this compare. To be fair, I looked at a Canadian national junior tournament and there were 13 non competitive matches and 10 competitive ones which is clearly worse than our national events. I also looked at the Wimbledon Men’s Draw. There was only 1 non competitive match. Bonus points to anyone who knew it was Roger Federer – the eventual winner’s first round match. Again, in Kalamazoo, the seeds don’t even play the first round. So how about the America slam? At the U. S. Open the Girls had 9 non competitive matches in the first round out of 32 completed matches, the Boys had 1 out of 31 matches completed.
Based on my sampling, I concluded that too many players were qualifying for these tournaments that maybe should not have been there. So would a qualifying draw solve the problem? I looked at our Eastern Sectional Championship events in June. These events have a qualifying round. On the average, they were much more competitive. The Boys 18’s had 18% non competitive, the Girls 16’s had 16%, Girls 14’s had 19% and the Boys 12’s had 19%. Although it is not true in every case, it seems that main draw with a qualifying events produce more championship caliber match ups. You would expect the highest level of tournament – Wimbledon, which has a qualifier – to be the most competitive tournament, but you wouldn’t expect the Sectional tournaments to be more competitive than national tournaments. In the Eastern Section, any player can play the Sectional Closed but the top players go into the main draw, the rest go into the qualifier. The national tournaments have a selection process that limits who can enter based on tournament results so they should be more competitive, but they aren’t.
I am also puzzled by the USTA Regional tournaments. Almost every sport has some sort of local play which qualifies players or teams for regional play. The winners at the regional level go on to compete for the national championships. Look at Little League and Babe Ruth baseball. We now have regional tournaments, but they will not qualify players for national tournaments and it is the only thing in junior tennis in this country that works that way. The Little Mo has Sectional Championships that qualify players for Regional Championships with the top players at Regionals moving on to Nationals. The USTA’s Junior Team Tennis and Adult League Tennis also work that way. I believe, if we make our players win at the Sectional level to qualify for the Regional tournaments and then take the top players from the Regionals and put them in the main draw, while the next tier of players fights their way through qualifiers to get to the main draw, we will have much better national tournaments and the kids in our Nationals will be the kids who truly belong in our Nationals.
I highly recommend that anyone interested in the new National Rules read Colette’s Blog (link’s below) and the Parenting Aces blog articles on it.