ITA announces new Division I format
SKILLMAN, NJ — The ITA will be inaugurating a new, shorter dual meet format for Division I college tennis beginning at the start of the 2014-15 season. Highlighting the format changes are switches to no-ad scoring from regular scoring, one set of doubles rather than an 8-game pro set and no warm-up with opponents.
The ITA dual meet format, endorsed by the NCAA Division I Tennis Committee for implementation in the 2015 NCAA Division I Tennis Championships (pending approval at the September meeting of the NCAA Championships/Sports Management Cabinet (details in article posted on NCAA.org)) will be played as follows:
- No-ad scoring in singles and doubles.
- Three doubles matches played with no-ad scoring, each match one set to 6, with a tie-break at 6-all.
- Followed (after a 10 minute intermission) by six singles matches with no-ad scoring, each match 2 out of 3 sets, with tie-breaks at 6-all.
- No Warm-up with opponents (in doubles and in singles)
- Clinch/Clinch: Once the doubles point has been clinched, the remaining doubles match shall be stopped. And in singles, once the team match has been clinched, any remaining singles matches shall be stopped (unless otherwise agreed upon by both coaches prior to the start of the dual meet match).
“Our goal is to maintain the integrity of the game, and at the same time, make our team matches more exciting, grow the sport and gain new fans,” Princeton head men’s tennis coach and ITA Division I Operating Committee member Billy Pate said. “Collectively, we decided to move forward and leave personal agendas and preferences aside. We started this process with many diverse opinions and directions, and we have arrived with an almost unanimous decision by the Operating Committee to support a dynamic proposal concerning the dual meet format.”
The ITA Division I Operating Committee looked at the impact of no-ad scoring on player development when it was played in men’s Division I tennis for 15 seasons (1973-1988). A number of the collegians from that era went on to great success on the pro tour, including John McEnroe, Jim Grabb, Brad Gilbert, Paul Annacone, Mikael Pernfors, Tim Mayotte, Rick Leach and Kevin Curren, among others. McEnroe reached No. 1 in the ATP Singles Rankings and was an iconic figure for American tennis, and seven collegiate players reached No. 1 in the ATP Doubles Rankings. In total, 104 players reached the Top 150 in singles and/or doubles during the no-ad era.
The new format will provide several exciting changes to men’s and women’s college tennis:
- Faster and more fan-friendly matches
- Greater excitement and entertainment in the games
- Easy-to-understand scoring system
- Mental toughness with more pressure points
“Many coaches feel that adding more pressure points will enhance the college player’s ability to thrive under pressure and add to player development,” Alabama head women’s tennis coach and ITA Division I Operating Committee member Jenny Mainz said. “Many remember the fan and player excitement created with umpires raising the red flag indicating a no-ad point. We all realize that we need to put fans in the seats and keep them in their seats to have our sport remain relevant and build even more excitement. The continued dropping of programs means that we need to be as spectator-friendly as possible. Most athletic directors and conference administrators also agree about the importance of shortening matches.”
New Mexico Deputy Athletic Director Tim Cass explained that change is a must for college tennis. “The recommendations being made are very positive, especially given the changes happening to college athletics,” Cass said. “I am worried about Olympic Sports in general as universities will be further stretched as the cost of attendance issues, health care, meals, etc. will have to find new funding. I encourage coaches to speak up aggressively in support of these proposed changes.”
ITA Executive Director David Benjamin noted that the format process undertaken by the Operating Committee was thorough, objective, and transparent. “One of the primary goals of the ITA as the governing body of college tennis is to enhance and promote the importance and visibility of the sport, and in doing so, serve the best interests of the student-athletes and coaches,” Benjamin said.
Patrick McEnroe, USTA General Manager of Player Development, who played no-ad scoring while starring on the tennis team at Stanford University, strongly supports the new ITA format.
“This process has been inclusive of input from the college coaches through the ITA, USTA and the NCAA: all parties that have a vested interest in the long-term growth, popularity and relevance of college tennis. We should remember that in the 1970s and 1980s, collegiate tennis was producing a significant number of very successful professional players. At that time, no-ad scoring was used. Is change difficult? Yes. Is changing with the times necessary? We say yes.”
The ITA was on the cutting edge of change in the 1990s when it teamed up with the NCAA to change the traditional dual meet format to doubles first (pro sets), followed by singles. Although a number of coaches thought it would have a negative effect on the game, the change helped collegiate doubles become a favorite for players, coaches and fans alike. The ITA Operating Committee is optimistic that the new format will mark a further positive advance for the sport of tennis.
For a full summary of the ITA dual meet format and the steps taken to formulate it, please review the ITA Dual Meet Format FAQ.
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