Tuesday, May 16, 2017

2017 18 & over Georgia State Championships - What is common about the winners?

The 18 & over State Championships in Georgia were held the past few weekends and in light of my commenting on the effect of the demise of early start ratings and the confusion that could ensue as a result, I thought it would be interesting to take a look and how things played out given that Georgia has a lot of early start leagues and teams.

As a reminder, the issue is that with no more early start ratings, players play in early start leagues using their current rating, e.g. folks used their 2015 year-end level instead of an early start level for early start leagues last year.  The other change is that USTA National decided that players that were bumped up at year-end would not be eligible to play at Nationals.

Each section gets to choose at what point those bumped up players become ineligible through Sectionals though, and Southern decided to let those players remain eligible through Sectionals.  This means that a team could win Southern Sectionals and have a number of players on the roster that help the team win that would not be eligible to play at Nationals.  This effectively means a different team makes the Nationals trip, likely not as strong/deep as another team that would have a full roster of eligible players.

So we can now start to take a look at if what I predicted is indeed happening.  Here is the make-up of the teams that won 18+ Georgia States.


  • 2.5 - 6 players at level and 4 that were bumped up, if this team wins Sectionals, they'd only have 6 eligible and 5 are required to play a match, so barely enough.
  • 3.0 -  7 players at level, 4 that were bumped up, and 1 playing up, so with one playing up, the bare minimum of 8 required just to fill the courts for a match.
  • 3.5 - 3 playing up, 11 at level, and just 1 bumped up, so a fairly complete roster should they advance to Nationals.
  • 4.0 - 1 playing up, 10 at level, and a full 5 that were bumped up.  These 5 bumped up all played in the State final so having just 3 players from their preferred line-up is really a different team.
  • 4.5 - 14 at level and 3 bumped up.

So every women's team would be affected if they went to Nationals, several significantly impacted.

The men are a bit different:

  • 3.0 - 9 at level and 3 bumped up
  • 3.5 - 14 at level and 3 bumped up
  • 4.0 - 11 at level
  • 4.5 - Roster full of self-rates except for one player

The men are not impacted as much, but still losing 3 of your best players is pretty significant.

Now, for the issue to crop up, the teams above have to win Sectionals, and that is certainly not a given.  But having above level players on the roster certainly gives them an advantage over other teams that were not early start league teams and have to have only players at level.  Of course, a few other states in Southern have early start leagues so could be bringing similarly stacked teams.

I will continue to monitor, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Previewing a couple levels of the 2017 NorCal USTA League 40 & Over Districts

I wrote yesterday about the upcoming NorCal 40 & over Districts, and remarked that a few levels had a remarkable number of flights/teams.  Specifically, the 3.5 women has seven flights (28 teams!) and the 4.0 men has six flights (24 teams!).

With that many flights, it gets interesting on how to advance teams to Sectionals.  It appears the women will take the seven flight winners plus one wildcard, and the men will take the six flight winners and two wildcards.  Sectionals will then be two flights of four teams each, the flight winners playing a final.

In any case, with 28 and 24 teams respectively, you might expect to see teams of varying strength, so I thought I'd go about doing a preview using my top-8 averages for each roster using what is included in my flight preview reports.  To not give all the details away, I won't list team names, but will list the top-8 averages for each team and the flight the team is in.
Here are the 3.5 women.

1Flight 23.53
2Flight 33.50
3Flight 33.49
4Flight 43.48
4Flight 73.48
4Flight 53.48
7Flight 33.47
7Flight 13.47
9Flight 23.46
10Flight 73.45
11Flight 13.44
12Flight 43.43
13Flight 63.42
14Flight 53.41
15Flight 73.40
15Flight 63.40
15Flight 63.40
15Flight 43.40
19Flight 53.39
19Flight 43.39
21Flight 13.38
21Flight 23.38
23Flight 33.37
23Flight 13.37
25Flight 53.36
25Flight 63.36
27Flight 73.35
28Flight 23.33

We see what is quite honestly a huge range for teams at Districts, a full 0.2 is required to cover the top to bottom teams.  And these are averages of the top-8 mind you, so while the top-12 are covered by just 0.1, but it appears quite a few teams are there that, on paper at least, will be pretty severe underdogs.

And I have no idea how they distributed teams to flights, but there are a couple that stand out as stronger or weaker.  Flight 3's best three teams are all in the top-7, the best two are #2 and #3, all with top-8 averages higher than the best from flights 1 and 6.  A couple pretty good teams won't be making it to Sectionals, although there is a wildcard open, but if they beat up on each other, the second place team may not make it.

At the other end, flight 6 has no team rated higher than 13th.  Of course, now that I've pointed this out, watch the flight 6 winner go to Sectionals and win it all!

Moving on to the 4.0 men, here is what their top-8 averages look like.

1Flight 24.02
2Flight 34.00
2Flight 24.00
4Flight 53.99
5Flight 43.97
6Flight 23.96
6Flight 63.96
6Flight 43.96
9Flight 33.94
9Flight 53.94
11Flight 53.93
12Flight 43.91
12Flight 13.91
12Flight 63.91
15Flight 13.90
15Flight 33.90
17Flight 63.89
17Flight 53.89
17Flight 13.89
20Flight 63.87
20Flight 33.87
22Flight 43.86
23Flight 23.84
24Flight 13.78

The range here is a full 0.24, the lowest rated team has a top-8 average that is well, right about average, for 4.0s as a whole.  The top-8 are all within 0.06 of each other though, and two more just 0.02 back, so there are still a good group of good teams.

But like for the women, there is a very tough flight, that being flight 2 with the #1, #2, and #6 teams in the flight.  Flight 1 appears to be the easier flight here with no team higher than #12.

You might wonder how accurate these previews are at predicting who advances and that is an excellent question.  As we know, in sports, it isn't always the "better" or most accomplished team on paper that wins, and in tennis a lot depends on who shows up, what the match-ups are, and just how players play on a given day.

But last year, the 3.5 women had the #1 team from flight 1 move on, #1 from flight 2, #2 from flight 3, #1 from flight 4, #4 from flight 5, #2 from flight 6, and #2 from flight 7.  So five of the seven had the #1 or #2 team advance.

And the 4.0 men had flight 1 tightly bunched with the #3 team (just hundredths behind #1) moving on, flight 2 had the top team advance, flight 3 saw a close #3 advance, flight 4 had #2 move on, flight 5 had #1 advance, and flight 6 also had the top team move on.  So three of the six flights had the top-team, and one had a #2 team.

So these averages aren't perfect, but they are a pretty good predictor of who will advance.

What do you think?

If you are interested in knowing the actual teams in each spot above, or are on a team and want to get a flight report to scout your opponents and see where your team compares, or a team report to better plan your line-ups, contact me.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Northern California 2017 USTA League 40 & over Districts are this weekend, still time to scout opponents

This is the time of year when USTA League starts to get busy.  Some areas are coming out of winter and leagues are starting, while other areas where they played indoors or are warm weather states have played their local league season and are starting to have local or district playoffs.

Examples of playoffs occurring already are the Seattle area 40 & over and Portland area 18 & over playoffs held this past weekend, and the upcoming weekend brings the 40 & over Districts in Northern California.

NorCal is interesting in that organizationally within TennisLink there is sort of just one district, and they have a single 18 & over and 40 & over league in this district.  The way they split things up is by having different sub-flights for different areas at each level.  There are 17 of these areas, and sometimes multiple sub-flights per area.

So first, there is usually local playoffs to determine a winner within or between flights in the same area.  The winner of each area, and sometimes a wildcard, will advance to districts which is generally flights of 4 or 5 teams from a selection of the the areas.  The winners, it used to be 4 of them but at some levels appears to be 7(!) this year, advance to Sectionals.

Since NorCal typically does pretty well at Nationals, making it out of your Districts flight to just make Sectionals can be a tough task.  And while a lot of players play in multiple areas and there is familiarity between them, doing some research and scouting of the opponents can always be helpful.

This is where team and flight reports can be very useful to find out who the strongest/weakest teams are, who their best players are and who they typically play with and on which courts, and what team's tendencies are regarding stacking.  All of this can help captains map out a plan to use their players most effectively and advance on to Sectionals.  Contact me if interested in more details or purchasing any reports.

Portland area 18 & over teams are headed to 2017 USTA League Sectionals

While Seattle held their 40 & over local playoffs, the Northern Oregon (aka Portland) area of the Pacific Northwest section held their 18 & over local playoffs this weekend and teams have qualified for Sectionals.  They are listed below, multiple teams where there is a wildcard from this district.

Here are the women:

  • 2.5 - MAC-Lekas / IRV-Doubleday/Crabtree
  • 3.0 - MAC-Cofield/Robertson / SHC-Christensen
  • 3.5 - SAC-Ilcheva/Levelle / THPRD-Lee/Blebea
  • 4.0 - PTC-Zielinski/Vawter / SHC-Andrews/Smith
  • 4.5 (no playoff) - SHC-Schumacher / PTC-Montagne/Vawter
  • 5.0+ (no playoff) - CGM-Kowalewski / SAC-Ly

And the men:
  • 2.5 (no playoff) - CRRC-Jarvis
  • 3.0 - THPRD-Sun / SHC-Schmidt
  • 3.5 - PTC-Reis / SHC-Monson
  • 4.0 - LOTC-Hughes / MPRC-Wong
  • 4.5 - IRV-Rothert / CAC-McGarity
  • 5.0+ - CGM-Rasheed / SHC-Lange

Congratulations to all!

Congratulations to the Seattle area 40 & over teams headed to the USTA League Pacific Northwest Sectionals in August - How did the predictions do?

The local playoffs for the Seattle area 40 & over division of USTA League were held this past weekend and we have a bunch of teams qualified to go to Sectionals.  These teams will have plenty of time to prepare and practice as Sectionals in Portland are not until the end of August!

In any case, here the teams are, the winner and wildcard at each level.


  • 2.5 (no playoff) - BTA-Rotival / BC-Baek
  • 3.0 - BC-Block / CP-Darrow
  • 3.5 - TCSP-Iyer / STC-Kellog
  • 4.0 - TCSP-Crites / CP-Keogh
  • 4.5 - BC-Strieb / NTC-Ogborn
  • 5.0 (no playoff or Sectionals) - BC-Stewart

  • 2.5 (no playoff) - FC-Freeman / ETC-Lash
  • 3.0 - MI-Preston / BTA-DeGracia
  • 3.5 - EDG-Schelley / MI-Mattox
  • 4.0 - HBSQ-Little / NTC-Reddy
  • 4.5 - NTC-Dalkin / BETC-Nguyen

For those that read my preview, there were some expected winners and some surprises.  I've bolded the teams above that my preview picked to be in the top-2.

For the women, my predictions were pretty accurate having 5 of the 8 teams at the levels that competed and are advancing picked.  The men only had 3 of the 8 teams, showing there is a reason you play the matches on the courts and not on paper.

Congratulations to all that have qualified.

It is a long ways off to Sectionals, but be sure to come back a few weeks before to get a preview!  And if you are going and want to do some scouting with team or flight reports, contact me.

Friday, April 21, 2017

2017 PNW Northwest Washington 40 & over local playoffs this weekend - Who are the favorites? Who gets a wildcard to Sectionals?

This year in the Seattle area, our 40 & over league started right off the bat in January and we are having our local playoffs earlier than normal, this weekend!  Teams will be vying to win (or finish second, see below) so they can advance on to Sectionals to be held in the Portland area August 25-27.

The Pacific Northwest Sectionals typically have eight teams at most levels, split into two sub-flights of four each, each sub-flight playing round robin and the sub-flight winners facing off for the opportunity to go to Nationals.  But while the section does have eight different districts, several of them often don't send teams (Alaska, Idaho, British Columbia) resulting in there being wildcards granted to second place teams from the districts that are sending teams.  Here is the wildcards for 2017:
  • 2.5 Women - Each of NWW, NO, SWW, EW
  • 2.5 Men (4 teams) - SWW and NWW
  • 3.0 Women - NWW, NO
  • 3.0 Men - NWW, NO, SWW, EW
  • 3.5 Women - NWW, NO
  • 3.5 Men - NWW, NO, EW
  • 4.0 Women - NWW, NO, SWW
  • 4.0 Men - NWW, NO, EW, SWW
  • 4.5+ Women - NWW, NO, EW
  • 4.5+ Men - NWW, NO, SO

EW = Eastern Washington
NO = Northern Oregon (Portland)
NWW = Northwest Washington (Seattle)
SO = Southern Oregon
SWW = Southwest Washington

So at some levels, four districts are going and each gets to take two teams, in others there are fewer wildcards.

This means that this weekend, just getting to the final may be enough to make it to Sectionals.  Some teams will still want to win it all, but others will use the final to get more players some playoff experience.

Since NWW has a wildcard at every level, just for fun, here are who my ratings say the top-2 teams are for each level/gender.  Note of course, I'm using the top-8 average from each roster which tell us who should be strongest if they play their best line-up, but some teams may not have their best available, don't know who their best eight are, or just get bad match-ups or have upsets, so there is no guarantee the teams below will win.

  • 3.0 Women - BC-Bloch, ETC-Stewart
  • 3.0 Men - MI-Preston, STC-Anderson
  • 3.5 Women - TCSP-Iyer, NTC-Burvill Holmes
  • 3.5 Men - BC-Camara, MI-Mattox
  • 4.0 Women - CP-Keogh, STC-Suver
  • 4.0 Men - BTA-Smed, CAC/SL-Stanley
  • 4.5+ Women - NTC-Ogborn, BC-Strieb
  • 4.5+ Men - NTC-Dalkin, CAC/SL-Tinsley

Note, in many cases above, the top-2 teams by my ratings are the same as the top-2 seeds from the standings, but for several, it isn't the case so there could be surprises.

If you don't see your team listed and wonder where you stand, or want to get more details on a level/gender or team, it isn't too late to do a team report or sub-flight report and do some scouting.  Both are a great way to find out what to expect and arrange your line-up to give your team its best chance of winning and advancing.

Good luck to all, may the best teams win!

Monday, April 17, 2017

How will the new rules for early start leagues for 2017 affect USTA League Nationals? The mess and confusion is beginning.

I've written a bunch of previews of both the 40 & over and 18 & over USTA League Nationals over the past few weeks.  But are these really the teams likely to be at Nationals?  Some might be, but it is probably likely that many aren't, and perhaps some on my list are already eliminated.  Let me explain why.

First, just because a team has a high top-8 average does not mean they are likely to win Sectionals, or even make it there.  In some areas, a team must win their sub-flight and/or win their local playoffs, then go to Districts/States and win, and then go to Sectionals and win.  It is possible that just one loss in local league play or any level of playoffs could keep a top-rated team from advancing.

And even with a top team, one loss can happen, either due to match-ups, perhaps an opponent successfully stacks their line-up, or they have a big roster and don't play their best players in some matches either to get some lower rated players in a match or because some players aren't available.

Upsets do happen and may have happened already, some teams on my lists have already been eliminated by not winning their local league or local playoffs.

Second, and part of the reason why some teams may already be eliminated, are Early Start Leagues.  These are 2017 leagues that started play in 2016, some as early as May or June, and so their local league, and perhaps local playoffs are complete already, and it is possible a top team did not advance.

But the more interesting thing about Early Start Leagues is the rule change for 2017 where there were no Early Start Ratings and players just registered for teams and played at their 2015 year-end level.  The good teams typically have good players, and many of these good teams had players get bumped up at 2016 year-end, and per the 2017 National regulations, these players will not be eligible to play at the (lower) level they are rostered at on the team.

Now each section was allowed to decide how long these bumped up players could continue playing at their lower level, and some like the Pacific Northwest elected to rule these players ineligible right away and not let them play at Sectionals, while others like Southern elected to allow these players to continue playing on their teams at the lower level all the way through Sectionals.

Now there are pros and cons to each approach, but in my opinion it is better to rule these players ineligible as soon as you know they won't be able to play at Nationals.  I wrote about why I thought this rule change was a bad idea, and why I thought players should be ruled ineligible right away, but it boils down to not doing so allowing teams to advance that won't be able to go to Nationals, or at least with the roster they won their Section with.  This seems unfair to their opponents, and isn't in the best interest of the section, as they will be sending a weaker team to Nationals than they might be otherwise.

We can begin to see this happening with some of the teams in my Nationals previews.  For example, there is a men's 3.0 team from Atlanta that is rated very high on my 18+ 3.0 preview that has a 13 player roster, but six of those players were bumped up to 3.5 so won't be eligible for Nationals at 3.0.  If this team were to win their section, they couldn't even field a team at Nationals.

And it isn't unique to Atlanta or Georgia, there is a high rated 18+ 3.0 men's team from Alabama that has a 15 player roster and eight of the players were bumped up to 3.5 leaving just seven eligible.  But because Southern allows these players to continue to play, they can advance on to States, and because they are such strong teams, likely Sectionals.  In fact, it is likely that the majority of teams at Sectionals could fall into this category.  It could happen that there is no team even at Sectionals that could field a team at Nationals.  So who will go?

So I predicted this mess, we are beginning to see it happen.

As a result, the previews I've done are completely accurate regarding who the strongest teams are, and in some sections would be the favorites are to make and/or win Sectionals, but may not reflect who the strongest Nationals eligible rosters are.  Keep that in mind as you review them.

I will be doing updated previews later in the year, and I'll try to factor this in, so stay tuned.