Sunday, February 9, 2014

USTA League Points Per Position being trialed in Middle States

I wrote back in December about a possible Points Per Position system the USTA sent a survey out about.  In summary, in an effort to combat stacking courts/lines, the lower numbered courts would be worth more which would encourage captains to play their strongest players on those courts and not stack the higher numbered courts with stronger players.  It was just a survey, but we already see it being implemented at least on a trial basis.

It appears that at least the 18 & over 4.5 flight in the Delaware district of the Middle States section is going to employ some variant of the proposed new scoring.  From what was shared by a player from that district on Talk Tennis, the scoring will be 3 points for court 1 singles and doubles, 2 points for court 2 singles and doubles, and 1 point for court 3 doubles.  This means that a total of 11 points are available per team match.

Using this scoring system, a team would be able to get the team win by winning just court 1 singles and doubles (6 of the 11 points), meaning that the team match could be won without winning the majority of the courts.  This means that a team could have just 3 strong players play on these courts, weak players on every other court, and win their league.

The net result is that while stacking is now discouraged, sand bagging and getting players to self-rate too low so a team can get just 3 ringers is encouraged more than it was before.  And in my opinion, this is a bigger issue than stacking.

As I wrote before, whether this works or not was going to depend on the points/weights for each court, and the 3/2/1 system probably doesn't work the best.  A suggestion from another Talk Tennis poster is to go with a 5/4/3 system.  This would mean there are 21 points available, and winning the two court 1's would only get to 10 points, not enough to win the team match.  A team would still be required to win 3 courts to win the team match.

So what would a 5/4/3 system accomplish then?  The accumulated points for the season would be used as a first or second tie-breaker.  This would mean that a team that wins matches 3-2 by winning the lower numbered courts would win the tie-breaker over a team that wins matches 3-2 by "stacking" and winning the higher numbered courts.  Thus stacking is discouraged as it could hurt a team come tie-breaker time.

Having just the tie-breaker affected may not be perceived as doing enough to discourage stacking though.  If that is the case, I'd offer my other earlier suggestion of not allowing players playing up to play on a lower numbered court than a player at level.  For example, a 4.0 team with a 3.5 playing up would not be allowed to play the 3.5 on any court other than 3 doubles or 2 singles if they were the only 3.5.  This would eliminate a very common stacking scenario where a player playing up is sacrificed on a lower numbered court.

It will be interesting to see how the trial works in Middle States.  What do you think?