Sunday, October 9, 2016

What does it take to win USTA League Nationals? Roster make-up of the 18+ 3.0 Men semi-finalists

There is a belief held by some that you must cheat, or at least push the envelope, to get to let alone win USTA League Nationals.  This typically involves having new players self-rate too low and having computer rated players manage their rating down to get to play a level lower.

With that in mind, I thought I'd take a look at the rosters of the semi-finalists of the 2016 18 & over 3.0 Men teams.  The teams are Southern California, Texas, Southern, and Mid-Atlantic, all sections that tend to do well at Nationals.

SoCal's roster is filled with self-rated players.  Of the 11 that played in their flight at Nationals, 8 are self-rated.  There was one other self-rate that has not played so far.  Their 3 computer rated players were all 3.0s last year, so they were not managed down from 3.5, but interestingly, each one of them played on the SoCal Nationals team last year.  What is more surprising is that this team went straight to Nationals with no local, district, or section playoffs.  SoCal apparently doesn't have many men's 3.0 teams, perhaps not many 3.0 men players, and so that is part of the reason a 3.0 team is made up of so many self-rates.

Texas has only played 9 players at Nationals, 6 of which are self-rated.  Four more that haven't played are also self-rated.  Of the 3 computer rated players, 2 were 3.5s last year.  Interestingly, one was a 4.0 at the end of 2012, dropped to 3.5 then 3.0 the next two years, went to 40+ 3.0 Nationals last year and actually appears to have had a 3.5C at 2015 year-end but it changed to a 3.0C for some reason.  The other was also a 2015 year-end 3.5C but for some reason changed to a 3.0C.  I don't know if it constitutes cheating, but something strange going on with these two players.

Southern has very few self-rates, just 1 that has played at Nationals, another that was DQ'd at Sectionals, and 2 others (2.5S though) that were not eligible.  The 8 computer rated players were all self-rates last year though.

Mid-Atlantic has played 13 players at Nationals, a full 8 of which are self-rated.  Three others are self-rated, one of which was DQ'd, that have not played.  Their computer rated players were all 2.5 or 3.0 last year, 3 of the 5 were self-rated last year.

So there are a lot of self-rates on the teams at 18+ 3.0 Men's Nationals, just over 50% of those that have played at Nationals are self-rated.  It is not surprising that you see a lot of self-rates at the 3.0 level as that is a fairly common entry point for new players, but this high a percentage does not represent the level as a whole, so it seems each of these teams have benefited from having self-rates, many of which probably did underrate as my ratings show more than half of each roster is likely to be bumped up.

Note that a lot of these self-rated players being bumped up is consistent with the general trend that men seem to under-rate at the 3.0 level as I wrote about yesterday.  But the rate at which these team's rosters will be bumped up is above the average.

Whether this is just players that self-rated correctly and have improved with all their play during the year, or whether they intentionally self-rated too low, I can't say.  This may just be the nature of 3.0 men's tennis.

There does not seem to be a big trend of players at this level managing their ratings down.  Except for the two odd cases on the Texas team, nothing stands out as 3.5 players getting bumped down.

What do you think?