Happy New Year! As 2011 rings in, be aware of some new junior tournament rule changes effecative 1/1/11.
National Open Qualifiers: The number of players qualifying for a USTA National Championship from the immediately preceding USTA National Opens will decrease from the top three finishers to the top two finishers from each. The total number of National Open qualifiers will be reduced from 12 to 8.
In Layman's Terms: If you are going to try to qualify for SuperNationals through a good National Open, rather than ranking or wild card. You need to get to the finals..
Opinion: Really not a big deal since most, if not all people, qualify for SuperNationals through a different way.
Wild Cards: The maximum numbers of Wild Cards that may be awarded will increase - from 4 Wild Cards in a draw of 128 to 8 Wild Cards; and from 8 Wild Cards in a draw of 192 to 12 Wild Cards.
In Layman's Terms: It will be easier to get a wild card from the "powers that be." Namely, the USTA.
Opinion: The USTA is slowly trying to take over player development in the United States. This is one way they can do it. They can schedule whatever tournaments they want for "their kids" and still find a place for these kids in the SuperNationals.
Draw Sizes - 14s Divisions: Draw sizes at all USTA National Championships in the 14s divisions will be 128 in singles, 64 in doubles (previously the Clay Courts and Hard Courts were 192 singles/96 doubles).
In Layman's Terms: It will be more difficult to get into 14's Supers than it has been in the past.
Opinion: Great Change!! The cut-off for Clay Courts this year was 437 for boys and over 1000 for girls!! The cut-off for Hard Courts was 642 for boys and 587 for girls. Traditionally, 14's has weak cut-offs. It makes for tougher competition and gives some prestige back to these two SuperNationals. It's always comical hearing a father tell people how his child made Supers' and you look up his/her ranking and it is in the 600's.
Draw Format - 14s Divisions: The singles draw format at the USTA National Championships in the 14 divisions will be a Compass Draw. The doubles draw remains single elimination.
In Layman's Terms: A player going to SuperNational 14's will be guaranteed 4 matches.
Opinion: Understandably, the USTA is trying to make it more worth people's while to go to this event. Maybe I am old school, but it seems like we are trying to create a fake enviornment where "everyone's a winner." Meaning somebody could lose the first three matches and still come home a "backdraw winner." I think its' lame.
Draw Sizes: Draw sizes at all USTA National Opens will be reduced from 64 to 32 in singles and from 32 to 16 in doubles.
In Layman's Terms: National Open Draws will be cut in half so it will be tough to get in.
Opinion: Anything to make point chasing less important works for me. So if you are looking to get into a National Open, better get that ranking down to approximately 450!
Number of Tournaments, Sanction Periods & Draw Sizes: Four times each year 8 concurrent USTA Regional Tournaments will be held in each age division. Each group of these USTA Regional Tournaments are referred to as "Segments." Tournaments during the traditional school year will last no longer than 3 days and will be sanctioned for a Saturday-Monday date block. Tournaments held during the traditional summer vacation will last no longer than 4 days and will be sanctioned for a Saturday-Tuesday date block. The date blocks for 2011 and draw sizes for each segment are as follows:
• Segment #1 - January 22-24, 2011: 32 singles FIC Draw; 16 single elimination doubles draw
• Segment #2 - July 9-12, 2011: 64 singles FIC Draw; 32 singles elimination doubles draw
• Segment #3 - September 3-5, 2011: 32 singles FIC Draw; 16 single elimination doubles draw
• Segment #4 - October 29-31, 2011: 32 singles FIC Draw; 16 single elimination doubles draw
In Layman's Terms: Level 3 Nationals (Florida Open, Southern Open, Labor Day, etc.) will be done in the same format as the Level 2 National Open tournaments. This means one will have to prioritize the four tournaments and will be allowed to enter one. Similarly to National Opens, the Level 3 Nationals will be offered four times a year so there is a maximum of four Level 3 Nationals a year that someone could play.
Opinion: Another good rule! This puts much more organization into the Level 3 tournaments and will be harder to get cheap points against an unranked player because the draws will be tougher.
Also remember that nationally, it is now Best 6 tournaments not best 8 tournaments. Also, a good rule against point chasing. in my next blog, you will find USTA/Eastern tournament changes that may affect you.
Ricky Becker is The Director of Tennis at the prestigious Pine Hollow Country Club and independently coaches high-performance juniors year-round predominantly at Bethpage Park Tennis Center. As a player, Becker was awarded Most Valuable Player for the 1996 NCAA Championship Stanford Tennis Team and 1989-1992 Roslyn High School Teams. He was ranked number one in the Eastern Section and fourth in the United States in the 18-and-unders. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 516-359-4843 or via JuniorTennisConsulting.com.