Friday, July 27, 2012

Tennis Tournament Updates Idea

Here is the scenario.  You are playing in a tennis tournament or playoffs of some sort.  There is a full weekend-plus of matches scheduled and you don't want to spend a full 3 days at the event.  You check the schedule, see that your next match is at 2:30 the following afternoon and figure you'll show up at 2:00 to be a bit early an all will be good.

Lo and behold, you get there at 2:00 and the match before yours hasn't even gone out yet.  It finally goes on at 2:45 and goes the distance, 11-9 in the match tie-break, and you don't get on court until 4:30, 2 hours after your scheduled time.

Far fetched?  Not really.  Whether because of long matches, weather, or whatever other snafus can occur, this is probably a fairly common occurrence, although 2 hours late is perhaps more rare.  But as a player, when this happens you end up sitting around and having to alter your eating and hydration schedule to try to adapt.  Now, this does provide an opportunity to hang out with friends and watch some tennis, but wouldn't it be nice if there was a way to get timely updates?

Sure, scores and results ultimately find their way onto TennisLink (for USTA matches) or a tournament web-site, but those updates typically happen at the end of the day, or at least several hours after the matches occurred, not terribly helpful for getting near-real-time updates.  Finding the time to navigate an application or web-site to update the scores can take time, and even if they are entered in a timely fashion, for the players, having to navigate the site and constantly hit refresh simply doesn't make sense.

A better solution is to use a widely adopted tool, Twitter!  Twitter provides a simple way for a tournament director or assistant to quickly tweet scores, results, or schedule/timing updates and all the interested players to receive those updates with little to no effort.  Most everyone has a smartphone of some sort today and can easily send/receive tweets and this would provide a great way for all of the players or anyone else interested in following the tournament to do so.

Simply set up a Twitter account for the tournament, or setup/use an existing account you may have for the organization or club running the tournament, advertise it as part of the registration process, and then use it.  As a bonus for the tournament director, this would likely cut down on the phone calls or other requests they get for schedule updates.

If you think this is a good idea, let your tournament directors know.  Let's make this a standard thing each tournament does.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

USTA League rules for breaking ties flawed?

Being a bit of a numbers and stats guy, and being fortunate to have played on several teams that have vied for or made it to playoffs, I've looked up and figured out most of the tie-breaking rules the USTA uses for determining placing within sub-flights and seedings for playoffs.

Within sub-flights, all the teams will have played the same number of matches and so the rules are pretty straight forward and pretty much mirrors the format that Tennis Link displays for standings.  The rules for most leagues I've seen are:

  1. Best team record
  2. Fewest courts (individual matches) lost
  3. Fewest sets lost
  4. Fewest games lost
  5. Head to head
This seems like it should be fair, although some might think head to head would be higher, but upon deeper inspection, #4, fewest games lost appears, to me at least, to be a flawed approach to use.

Let's look at an example.

If a match is lost 6-4, 6-4, they will have lost the court, lost 2 sets, and lost 12 games.  If the match is instead lost 7-5, 7-5, they still lost the court (unchanged), lost 2 sets (unchanged), but now lost 14 games instead of the 12.  And should it come down to the 4th tie-breaker, losing 7-5, 7-5 will have been worse than losing 6-4, 6-4.  That certainly doesn't make sense as the 7-5, 7-5 result is certainly at least as competitive and arguably closer than 6-4, 6-4.

Worse, using tie-breaker #4 as-is, losing a match 6-0, 6-0 is better than losing 7-5, 7-5!  Again, both are the same on losing the court and losing sets, but 6-0, 6-0 loses 12 games while 7-5, 7-5 loses 14 games. Looking at this way certainly seems expose a gaping hole in the tie-breaker procedure.  A team should not benefit come tie-breaker time by having lost a match by a far worse score.

A better tie-breaker for #4 would be game differential (games won minus games lost).  Using this, 6-4, 6-4 and 7-5, 7-5 would be the same (-4 game differential) while 6-0, 6-0 would clearly be worse with a -12 game differential.

So presently, if a team is concerned about the potential tie-breakers at the end of the season, when losing a set, make sure you lose it with the opponent only winning 6 games (e.g. 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1, 6-0) and don't push the set to a 7-5 loss or 7-6 set tie-breaker.  As it stands, the rules dis-incent competing in a set to push it to the limit which just seems wrong.

What do you think?  Should the USTA change the tie-breaker from games lost to game differential?  I think so, and if you do, let your local coordinator know.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Appealing your USTA early start rating? Let me know the results!

Early start ratings are out, at least for the Pacific Northwest Section of the USTA, and for some, getting bumped up is a cherished accomplishment that validates the effort made in improving their game, but for others, it is an unwanted burden of having to play (and lose more than win?) at the next level up.  If you fall into the latter camp, or even the former camp but still want to play at the lower level, there is a process for appealing the early start rating.

As I understand it, an automatic appeal will be granted if one's rating is within a tolerance of the bottom of the rating they are in.  For folks 60 and over, it is 0.10 and for everyone else I believe it is 0.05.  Thus, if you were a 4.0 rated player (actual rating in the range of 3.51-4.0) and are now a 4.5 (4.01-4.5) on the early start list, if your actual rating is 4.01-4.05 you should be able to appeal down.

A side effect of this is that if your appeal is successful, you pretty much know what your actual rating was (within 0.05).  And if it is denied, you know your rating is at least above the threshold.  For my ratings, knowing this type of information is invaluable as it allows me to tune and recalibrate player's ratings which in turn will make estimates going forward more accurate.

So, if you appeal your rating, or know anyone that has, please leave a comment to this post or contact me to let me know the result.  By doing so, you'll make the ratings I publish more accurate in the future and everyone can benefit from that.

Thanks for your help!