Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Hawaii a no-show at several Nationals - Are Nationals in Florida/Alabama unfair?

I just reviewed the flights for 2017 USTA League Nationals and five of them do not have the full complement of 17 teams.  A few go as low as 15 teams, which results in three flights of five teams and a wildcard making the semis, but there are also a couple with 16 teams.

A common theme with each of these championships is that Hawaii is the, or one of the missing teams.

Now, this could be just because they don't happen to have teams playing at that division/age/level/gender.  For example, there are typically very few 2.5 teams in most areas, and in one as small as Hawaii one can envision they may not even have teams play.  The same may happen at the 4.5+ or 5.0+ levels too.

But, is the move of most of the Nationals to Alabama and Florida perhaps also a reason?

In past years with Nationals in California and Arizona, Hawaiians were faced with a 5-6 hour flight to get there, and only that "quick" if they could get a non-stop to Palm Springs, Phoenix, or Tucson which probably wasn't likely.  So they already had the toughest trek just to get there, about the same as a flight from the New England section.

To get to Florida from Hawaii is an 11+ hour trip, and that is with the shortest connection one can find, most itineraries end up being about 13 hours.  They could fly to Australia in less time!  Is it really fair to ask someone to make that trip "just" to play three (perhaps more) tennis matches?

So lets take a look at the championships they aren't showing up to and see where they are and if Hawaii had teams.

  • 18+ 2.5 women in Mobile - Two teams played so could have gone, but Alabama is a long trip.
  • 18+ 3.0 men in Arizona - Two teams, "normal" trip to Arizona but appear to be deferring.
  • 18+ 4.5 women in Orlando - Seven teams, plenty to choose from, but none electing to make the trip.
  • 18+ 4.5 men in Orlando - Two teams, could have gone, but Orlando trip a long one.
  • 40+ 3.0 men in Ft. Lauderdale - Three teams, Florida is a long trip.

In each case, there were teams in local leagues so I believe they could have sent a team.  But in four of the five, and that just thus far, the trip was a pretty onerous one and I'm figuring that played into deciding to not go.

By comparison, last year Hawaii sent teams at 3.0-4.5 levels in both 18+ and 40+ men and women, so the missing 2.5 team is unchanged from last year, but the other four are all missing this year where they weren't last year.

Note that one could argue that for years, parts of the Continental United States have had a 5-6 hour trip to Nationals, and there are many more players in those areas so it is only fair for them to get a shorter trip now.  But it doesn't really matter how many players play in local leagues, only one team goes to Nationals so the move to Florida/Alabama would seem to be awfully unfair to Hawaii and likely is the reason they won't be at some of the championships this year.

I wrote about potential impacts of the location change for Nationals awhile back, and hypothesized the travel change would be a factor.  Hawaii was not a perennial top team in the past, but has made the semis eight times and won a title twice in the past four years, so it seems pretty clear they performance will be affected because some teams aren't even making the trip.

A few changes to flights for 2017 USTA League Nationals, a wildcard can make the semis

As we get closer to Nationals, and they are less than a month away now, there can be a few tweaks to the flight make-up for Nationals.  This generally occurs if a section elects to not send a team for a given division/age/level/gender.

For example, the 40 & over 3.0 men now has 15 teams rather than the 17 for each section, it appears Southwest and Hawaii are not sending teams.  As a result, there will now be three flights of five teams each and thus each team will get a minimum four matches rather than most having just three like is the case with four flights.

However, this also means that there will be a wildcard that makes the semis to join the three flight winners.  In the past when this has happened, the criteria for what second place team advances has been percentage of games won so I expect that will be the case again but have not had that confirmed yet.

A few other championships won't have the full 17 teams.  The complete list so far:
  • 18+ 2.5 women - 15 teams (Hawaii and Southern Cal missing)
  • 18+ 3.0 men - 16 teams (Hawaii missing)
  • 18+ 4.5 women - 15 teams (Hawaii and Northern missing)
  • 18+ 4.5 men - 16 teams (Hawaii missing)
  • 40+ 3.0 men - 15 teams (Hawaii and Southwest missing)

I have updated my post with the schedule and links to PDFs with what we know as of today and will continue to update it as I can.  Note that in at least one case, the match schedule links on the USTA site are broken but my link is still good :)


Monday, September 18, 2017

2017 USTA League Nationals in Ft. Lauderdale are still on!

The USTA elected to move a bunch of Nationals to Florida this year, some taking advantage of the new National Campus in Orlando, but a few being scheduled for Ft. Lauderdale.

A natural concern is that the weather is not as reliably warm and dry in Florida as it is in the Arizona and California deserts, and with Hurricane Irma devastating parts of Florida, there was some concern about Nationals since they start in less than a month.

The good news is Ft. Lauderdale at least, and I'm guessing Orlando as well since they didn't get as badly, are on.  This was sent to at least some Ft. Lauderdale bound captains from the USTA today:
We are excited to announce that League National Championships are still on schedule to be played in Ft. Lauderdale in October.
...
We have talked to the host facility and hotels and there was minimal damage done to their properties.  We are looking forward to a great championship season and to see all of you in Ft. Lauderdale later this fall.

So there you have it.  It is on in Ft. Lauderdale!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Breaking News: A change to the USTA League Nationals move-up/split-up rule

I just learned that a communication was sent out to some captains about a change to the move-up/split-up rule for 2018.

As background, the USTA has a move-up/split-up rule in place that requires that teams that go to Nationals split-up the following year, e.g. they can't come back as the same team the next year, or tjeu have the option to move-up to the next higher level if they do want to stay together.  Specifically, no more than three players from a Nationals team can be on the same roster at the same level.

This is done, presumably, to keep the same teams from coming back to Nationals each year.  Of course, many Nationals teams end up having some players bumped up, so that naturally changes the make-up of a team, but if a team of 16 has even eight players bumped up, only three of the remaining eight can play together on the same team.

A few years ago, when the 40+ age group was introduced a side-effect of this rule was that players that went to Nationals in say 40+ could not be on a team the following year in 18+ that had more than three Nationals players even though it was a completely different team.

I wrote about some changes made in 2015 to address several issues, but it only went so far.  Specifically, this language was still in place in the 2017 regulations:
No more than 3 players (2 for Adult 2.5 and 5.0+) who were on the roster of any team or combination of teams, that advanced to, or qualified for, any National Championship the previous year may play together in any age group within the same Division and NTRP level or lower NTRP level as the National Championship team, if their NTRP rating allows.
This meant that the scenario I wrote above would still restrict players in the other age group.

What I just learned is that for 2018 this is changing.  Specifically, some players have been told that if they go to Nationals with an 18+ team, the split-up rule will only apply to the roster of any 18+ teams the following year, but a 40+ team could have more than three Nationals players on it.  And this could go the other way with a 40+ Nationals team not imposing a restriction on the rosters of an 18+ team.

I have not seen this in any draft document for 2018, and until that happens it isn't official, but the communication to the players came from the USTA so I believe it to be accurate.

Stay tuned, as I learn more, I'll update this or write again.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The 2017 USTA League Nationals picture is nearly complete - Playoffs being played this weekend

As we enter mid-September, the teams for Nationals are nearly all decided.  I believe 18+ is fully decided, although teams may still be registering so not every team that is actually going is known, but there are a few Sectionals for 40+ still to be played this weekend and some 55+ and Mixed still being decided as well.  Here is a sampling of what we'll see completed this weekend.

  • Eastern 55+ Sectionals
  • Intermountain 40+ Sectionals
  • Mid-Atlantic 40+ Sectionals
  • Southern Cal 55+ Sectionals
  • Southwest 55+ Sectionals
  • Texas 40+ Sectionals
  • Midwest 55+ States

There are also a variety of Mixed playoffs going on, but with Mixed Nationals occurring near the end of the sequence there are quite a few of these so too many to list.

As a reminder, it is a good things Sectionals are wrapping up as Nationals start in just three weeks!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

New features to Estimated Dynamic NTRP Rating Reports - Better insight into your rating

With Sectionals wrapping up and the start of Nationals less than a month away, now is the time many players are done for the year and thinking about how they did this year and how their rating has changed.  Have they improved?  Might they be bumped up?  Or did they have a tough year and are worried about being bumped down?

My Estimated Dynamic NTRP Rating Reports have always provided great insight into where your dynamic rating likely is and provide a very accurate estimate of what your year-end level will be.  But more than just seeing a number, my reports always include my written analysis and comments about your rating and how it has been affected by play in different matches.

To aid in that analysis, I've just added some additional features to the reports.

First is around win/loss records.  I've always broken out records by singles vs doubles, but many players play in different divisions, or may play up and play at different levels.  To show finer grained detail about how you've done in each different situation, I've added win/loss records by division and level.

Here is an example, the new features in bold:

Match Record: 18-6
Singles Record: 1-0
Doubles Record: 17-6
Adult 18&Over Match Record: 6-2
Adult 40&Over Match Record: 8-2
Adult Other Match Record: 4-2
3.5 Match Record: 16-6
4.0 Match Record: 2-0

This summary will clearly show if you are doing better/worse in any particular league or level and help you identify what is working or where you need to improve.

But while team wins and standings are (in most cases) based on court wins and losses, what really affects your rating is the score and ratings of your partner (if doubles) and opponent(s).  I've broken out average match ratings a bunch of different ways, from singles vs doubles, including at different levels, and recently added showing averages for opponent's level and rating at the time of the match.  I just added showing averages for your partner's level and rating as well.

Here is that whole section with the new(er) items bolded.

Singles Average Match Rating: 3.46
Doubles Average Match Rating: 3.46
Singles Average Match Rating by Level:
3.5 - 3.46
Doubles Average Match Rating by Level:
3.5 - 3.44
4.0 - 3.67
Average Match Rating by Division:
Adult 18&Over - 3.49
Adult 40&Over - 3.55
Adult Other - 3.27
Average Opponent NTRP Level: 3.52
Average Opponent Dynamic Rating: 3.32
Average Partner NTRP Level: 3.52
Average Partner Dynamic Rating: 3.42

This shows you what is really affecting your rating, up or down.  Are you better in singles or doubles, and does that change based on the level you play?  Did you do better/worse in a given division?  And how much of your rating being high or low is due to the level/rating of your partner and opponents?  These stats can clearly show you all that, and I'll always add commentary explaining it and answer any questions.

Last, for players that went to playoffs, you want to know how you did in those matches compared to the rest.  These are matches where you get to test yourself against (usually) other strong players from other areas, districts, or sections.  These matches also have an added impact on your year-end rating and thus the NTRP level you will end up at.  The chart included in a report has always denoted these matches so you can see how they compare, and I've always and will continue to comment on the effect they will have at year-end, but now I've added showing your average match rating in playoffs.  But even if you didn't play in playoffs, you may have played players that did, so I am also now showing your average match rating in your regular season matches against them.

Here is that section from the report.

Average Playoff Match Rating: 3.97
Average Match Rating / Matches vs Playoff Players: 4.00 / 3

All of these new features are now shown in the example individual report.

Ultimately, folks are often interested in if they will be bumped up or down, and that in part depends on the year-end calculations.  And while I don't do my full year-end calculations until, well, year-end, these additional stats and metrics will go a long way to explaining what is likely to happen and why a rating is where it is.

Should you be interested in getting a report, contact me at ratings@teravation.net.  All these new features are now included in reports with no pricing changes, and if you already got your report for the year and just want the new features, drop me a note.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

2017 USTA League Nationals are less than a month away - Now is the time to scout and prepare

Playoffs within each section of the USTA are in their final few weeks for the 2017 USTA League season.  This is a good thing as Nationals are less than a month away!

I've posted the full schedule by division and date before, but as usually 18 & over gets started first with several levels being played the first weekend of October.  The 40 & over division gets started right away too though as the following weekend there is one level of 40 & over and another 18 & over level.

And since we are close to the events now, the match schedules for each championship have started to be posted, half of the events have them.  Here is a chronological list of the events with a link to the flight make-up and schedules.  I will update this table as the remaining match schedules become available.

DateChampionshipLocationMatch Schedule
Oct. 6-818 & over 3.5Surprise, AZPDF
Oct. 6-818 & over 5.0+Orlando, FLPDF (coming soon)
Oct. 13-1518 & over 4.0Surprise, AZPDF
Oct. 13-1540 & over 3.0Ft. Lauderdale, FL (clay)PDF men 15 teams
Oct. 20-2218 & over 2.5 womenMobile, ALPDF 15 teams 
Oct. 20-2218 & over 3.0Surprise, AZPDF men 16 teams
Oct. 20-2240 & over 4.0Orlando, FLPDF
Oct. 20-2240 & over 4.5+Mobile, ALPDF
Oct. 27-2940 & over 3.5Ft. Lauderdale, FL (clay)PDF
Oct. 27-2955 & over 6.0/8.0Orlando, FL (clay)PDF (coming soon)
Nov. 3-5Mixed 18 & over 6.0/7.0/8.0/9.0/10.0Mobile, ALPDF (coming soon)
Nov. 10-1218 & over 4.5Orlando, FLPDF women 15, men 16
Nov. 10-12Mixed 40 & over 6.0/7.0/8.0/9.0Mobile, ALPDF (coming soon)
Nov. 17-1955 & over 7.0/9.0Orlando, FL (clay)PDF (coming soon)

You can also see the USTA's summary page that also includes links to registration, the tournament handbook, and more here.

Note that there are 17 sections that can send teams which results in four flights, three with four teams and one with five teams.  I've noted above some flights that have fewer teams.  If there are 16 teams this becomes four flights of four teams each, and if it drops to 15 teams it is three flights with five teams each and then there is a wildcard that makes semis.

You will notice four of the events and all of the 55 & over will be played on clay.  This is a change from recent years where all matches were played on hard courts.  It will be interesting to see how the change plays out as the majority of local league play in most sections is on hard courts.

There is also a definite trend away from the desert Southwest and towards the Southeast with the majority of events being held in Florida and Alabama.  This location change may affect which sections tend to dominate at Nationals.

Now that we are getting flight make-up and match schedules, teams headed to Nationals are starting to plan, prepare, and scout.  Should you be fortunate to be headed to Nationals and have aspirations of doing well, or even if you just want to give your team the best chance of winning, my flight and team reports are a great way to do some scouting and preparation.

I've had the pleasure of doing reports for many teams playing in playoffs and advancing to Nationals the past five years, even quite a few teams winning Nationals, and have gotten fantastic feedback on how the reports helped captains prepare and know what to expect and put their players in the best position to win and advance, including quite a bit of success this year already.

Should you be headed to Nationals and be interested in getting the best information available to plan your line-ups, contact me for more information.

Updated 19-Sep-2017: Added/updated PDF links and noted where there are fewer than the normal 17 teams