Sunday, December 17, 2017

Conversations About Tennis with Carl Bialik - Podcast with me on USTA Ratings!

If you've followed sports/political statistics, you've probably come across Carl Bialik, a journalist who has written for the Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, and FiveThirtyEight among others.  He has a passion for tennis though and has a regular podcast, Thirty Love: Conversations About Tennis, where he talks with guests on a variety of tennis related topics.

He contacted me recently about recording a podcast with him to discuss USTA League and NTRP ratings and I agreed, and you can now listen to it on his site or on iTunes.

Thanks Carl!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

New Report! - Team Recruiting Report

It is December, 2017 year-end ratings have come out and now captains are working on rosters, deciding who to keep from last year, and what holes to fill and who to recruit to fill the gaps.

To aid in doing this research and recruiting, I've created a new report, a Team Recruiting Report.  It is similar to a team report, but breaks out a number of details a captain will find useful when forming a team, such as records and match ratings in singles vs doubles, and how those same two stats varied by league played in.

Here is an example:

P14.5C/4.0C9104.053.651D-8 2D-3 3D-39-10 / 3.822-3 / 3.627-4 / 3.86
P24.5C/4.0C1224.023.81D-5 1S-2 2D-1 2S-57-1 / 3.975-1 / 4.096-2 / 4.056-0 / 3.98
P34.0C/4.0C983.913.91D-2 1S-7 2D-2 3D-12-5 / 3.937-3 / 3.950-1 /9-7 / 3.94
P44.0C/4.0C1133.853.841S-8 2S-311-3 / 3.984-2 / 3.987-1 / 3.98
P54.0C/4.0C313.83.81D-3 2D-13-1 / 3.83-1 / 3.8
P64.0C/4.0C643.793.831D-1 2D-1 3D-46-4 / 3.742-0 / 3.821-1 / 3.63
P74.0C/4.0C993.753.921D-2 1S-3 2D-5 2S-5 3D-13-6 / 3.896-3 / 3.922-4 / 3.787-5 / 3.95
P84.0C/4.0C563.753.731D-3 2D-1 3D-65-6 / 3.693-4 / 3.732-2 / 3.61
P94.0C/4.0C573.743.751D-5 2D-2 3D-25-7 / 3.712-4 / 3.823-3 / 3.63
P104.0C/4.0C983.733.71D-3 1S-1 2D-4 3D-31-1 / 3.598-7 / 3.795-4 / 3.874-4 / 3.7
P114.0C/4.0C793.723.631D-7 2D-1 3D-57-9 / 3.712-2 / 3.791-5 / 3.634-2 / 3.78
P124.0C/4.0C323.693.71D-2 2D-13-2 / 3.693-2 / 3.69
P134.0C/4.0C113.673.672D-21-1 / 3.771-1 / 3.77
P144.0C/4.0C993.633.671D-9 2D-3 3D-10-1 /9-8 / 3.712-5 / 3.764-3 / 3.673-1 / 3.7
P154.0C/4.0C743.63.711S-2 2D-1 2S-4 3D-44-2 / 3.773-2 / 3.643-2 / 3.674-2 / 3.75

This gives a nice summary of an entire team or list of players so you can see who your singles players are, and if someone's rating is being buoyed or hurt by doing well or poorly in a particular league.

This report also includes the partner report showing how many times each player played with another candidate/rostered player and how they did together.

If you are interested in a recruiting report, contact me at  Since this is a new report, I'd love to get feedback and will be discounting the price for a few weeks while I iron out any issues and tailor it to what folks are looking for.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Breaking News - USTA League 2018 Nationals Schedule Released - Texas and Las Vegas added to the mix!

It was just brought to my attention that the schedule and locations for 2018 USTA League Nationals has shown up in places.  The link on TennisLink to the Nationals schedule still goes to the 2017 schedule, but the site I was pointed to is a USTA site so I have no reason to believe it isn't accurate.  And last year the schedule showed up in early January so the timing is similar.

So yes, we are talking about 2018 Nationals already!

After the weather related fiascos of this year including many delays, shortening of matches to pro-sets, short sets, and no-ad scoring, and even declaring co-champs when semis and finals couldn't be played, and yes, no semis meant as many as four co-champs, I'm sure many are wanting to see if there are any changes, and there are!

First, here is the schedule:

Oct. 5-7Orlando, FLHard18 & over 5.0+
Oct. 5-7Arlington, TXHard18 & over 4.0
Oct. 12-14Orlando, FLHard18 & over 3.5 and 2.5W
Oct. 12-14Las Vegas, NVHard18 & over 3.0
Oct. 12-14Arlington, TXHard18 & over 4.5
Oct. 19-21Las Vegas, NVHard40 & over 4.5+
Oct. 19-21Arlington, TXHard40 & over 3.5
Oct. 19-21Orlando, FLClay55 & over 6.0 and 8.0
Oct. 26-28Las Vegas, NVHard40 & over 4.0
Oct. 26-28Mobile, ALHard40 & over 3.0
Oct. 26-28Orlando, FLClay55 & over 7.0 and 9.0
Nov. 9-11Mobile, ALHardMixed 18 & over 6.0 thru 10.0
Nov. 16-18Orlando, FLHardMixed 40 & over 6.0 thru 9.0

As far as the age groups go, this is a similar schedule to 2017 and past years with 18+ going first, then 40+, and then 55+ and Mixed.

Regarding locations, Mobile is unfortunately still a host site but will be used just twice, 40+ 3.0 and 18+ Mixed, although it is all of 18+ Mixed so should there be any bad weather that weekend, a lot of tennis could be impacted.

But the big news is two new sites that haven't been used recently, or perhaps ever, in Arlington and Las Vegas.  But Arizona is now completely missing, California is still missing, and Ft. Lauderdale is gone after one year and significant delays due to weather.

In adding Vegas and Arlington, the USTA was perhaps reading my blog and saw the poll I did earlier this year where response was that Las Vegas and Texas should be added in the future!

Note that as you might expect, Orlando means the USTA National Campus.  Las Vegas will be at the Darling Tennis Center, Arlington will be at the Arlington Tennis Center, and Mobile is where it has always been.

I think this is an improvement over last year, while Mobile still shows up it is limited to two weekends and Ft. Lauderdale is gone.  I think Vegas makes sense and Arlington does too.  It is still a little disappointing to not have Arizona or California in the rotation, but this does have some events in the West or Central regions making the travel requirements for folks a little more balanced.

There you have it, what do you think?

Friday, December 8, 2017

2017 USTA League Year-End Rating Analysis - 5.0 Bump Up/Down Percentages - Interesting Tennis League Stats

I already wrote about the 2017 year-end bump up/down percentages and also by gender, and started looking at levels with the 4.0 men and women3.5 men and women, 4.5 men and women, 3.0 men and women, and now the 5.0 men and women.

First, the 5.0 women by section.

As you might imagine, at the 5.0 level very few players are bumped up, and indeed just a few sections had a noticeable number bumped up and even those were in the los single digit percentages.  There were a lot of bump downs though, over 15% in most sections and well over 50% in Hawaii.

And then the 5.0 men by section.

The stats for the men are similar to the women, but not as extreme.  As many as 4% were bumped up and more sections had noticeable bump ups, and Hawaiian men only had about 33% bumped down and some other sections below 15%.

What do you think?  What does this mean for 5.0 play in your section in 2018?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

USTA NTRP National Championships - Another opportunity for recreational tennis Nationals!

Anyone who reads my blog or follows USTA League tennis is aware of the National Championships that the USTA holds each Fall where players who played USTA League locally are able to advance through local playoffs, Districts/States, Sectionals, and make it to Nationals where they can compete against teams from 16 other sections to win a championship.  Championships are held at NTRP levels for both Adult (men's teams and women's teams) and Mixed teams.

But the USTA doesn't run just USTA League.  There are tournaments held throughout the year that are sanctioned by the USTA and these include both NTRP tournaments and as well as Open/Senior tournaments that are open to all of any age (Open) or of a minimum age (35+, 40+, 45+, etc.).

For the Open/Senior tournaments, there are select tournaments identified as championships that draw the very best in pursuit of winning the title.

What has been missing, until now, is the identification of a "champion" for NTRP tournament play.  Recently, the USTA has introduced the NTRP National Championships which is a "new national adult tournament that leverages the NTRP rating system as a way to create level-based competition at the 18 & over and 50 & over age groups".

The tournaments will be held for 18+ in Surprise, AZ April 6-8 and for 50+ in Naples, FL April 20-22 and include play at the 3.5, 4.0, and 4.5 levels in both singles and doubles.  The page says they there will be four-player round robins feeding into compass draws so each player/pair should get a number of matches in.

Interestingly, the scoring format is listed as Fast Four.  This has been experimented with in some events including the ATP NextGen tournament a month or so ago, and entails best-of-three set matches to four games with a tie-break at 3-3 in a set and tie-breaks the first to 5 win by one.  I like the idea of not having match tie-breaks for a third set, but am not sure about first to four sets.  But I guess if you are going to play upwards of 6 matches in three days, some sort of short format is needed.

To advance a player will need to play NTRP tournaments in their section and using criteria set by each section, quality to be a section's representative to the event.

Some sections will hold a Sectional tournament where players qualify for it based on tournament play during the year, say the top 8 or top 16 at a level advancing to Sectionals.  Others will just use the tournament rankings to determine the representatives directly.  See the link above with links to rules for various sections or contact info for each section's coordinator.

It is interesting to note that a couple sections have explicitly stated that self-rated players are not eligible to advance to Nationals.  I think this makes sense, you don't want to encourage players to self-rate too low to unfairly dominate at too low a level, especially since there are no 3-strike DQ's from NTRP tournament play.  There are some that feel that self-rated players shouldn't be eligible to go the USTA League playoffs or Nationals!

As there is often confusion about rankings vs ratings, particularly as it relates to NTRP play, a little clarification is probably a good idea.  See what I wrote several years ago for more details, but the summary is that a player generates an NTRP rating and associated year-end NTRP level from play in USTA League play (and sometimes NTRP tournament matches are included too), while a player separately accumulates points from NTRP tournament play based on how far they advance in a draw, and their ranking is just based on where the show up (rank) in the list of players with points.  So these are separate and distinct things.

In any case, this is a new opportunity for recreational players who have an NTRP rating/level to advance to a Nationals and get to play against peers from other sections.

What do you think?  Will you set new goals to play more tournaments because of the NTRP National Championship?

2017 USTA League Year-End Rating Analysis - 3.0 Bump Up/Down Percentages - Interesting Tennis League Stats

I already wrote about the 2017 year-end bump up/down percentages and also by gender, and started looking at levels with the 4.0 men and women,  and 3.5 men and women, 4.5 men and women, and now the 3.0 men and women.

First, the 3.0 women by section.

At the higher levels we looked at so far, the bumps up were far smaller, even many more bumps down at the 4.5 level.  At 3.0 it is the other way with some sections seeing nearly 20% of their 3.0s bumped up, Southern California, Southwest, and Caribbean leading the way.  And no section had even 5% bumped down.

And then the 3.0 men by section.

The ratio is huge for the men, Southern California having over 40% of 3.0s bumped up!  But Hawaii, Texas, and Southwest all had over 25% as well.

It is natural for there to be more improvement at lower levels, but some of the numbers above would seem to clearly show some players are under rated.  I'll have to look at how many of these are self-rated.

What do you think?  What does this mean for 3.0 play in your section in 2018?

Monday, December 4, 2017

2017 USTA League Year-End Rating Analysis - 4.5 Bump Up/Down Percentages - Interesting Tennis League Stats

I already wrote about the 2017 year-end bump up/down percentages and also by gender, and started looking at levels with the 4.0 men and women,  and 3.5 men and women, now the 4.5 men and women.

First, the 4.5 women by section.

We see that every section, other than Caribbean, had more players bumped down than up, and by a wide margin.  Southwest had over 15% bumped down and less than 4% bumped up.  A few sections like Missouri Valley, Pacific Northwest, Florida, and Eastern were pretty stagnant with under 7% bumped up or down.

And then the 4.5 men by section.

Here, Eastern is the one section with more bumps up than down, but just barely.  Every other section had more bumps down, many by a significant margin.  Hawaii stands out with over 17% of their 4.5s bumped down!  Look out for Hawaii at 4.0 Nationals next year!

What do you think?  What does this mean for 4.5 play in your section in 2018?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

2017 USTA League Year-End Rating Analysis - 3.5 Bump Up/Down Percentages - Interesting Tennis League Stats

I already wrote about the 2017 year-end bump up/down percentages and also by gender, and started looking at levels with the 4.0 men and women, now onto the 3.5 men and women.

First, the 3.5 women by section.

Unlike the 4.0 women, every section had more players bumped up than down in this category.  Southern California had the most bumps up at nearly 10% while Northern had the most bumps down at about 5.5%.  But no section had less than 2.5% bumped down so there was movement both ways.

And then the 3.5 men by section.

Every section had more bumps up than down by a pretty wide margin.  Southern Cal and Texas both had over 12% of 3.5 men bumped up but no section had less than 7% bumped up.  And bump downs were rare, no section even having 4% bumped down.

What do you think?  What does this mean for 3.5 play in your section in 2018?

Saturday, December 2, 2017

2017 USTA League Year-End Rating Analysis - 4.0 Bump Up/Down Percentages - Interesting Tennis League Stats

I already wrote about the 2017 year-end bump up/down percentages and also by gender, now it is time start looking at individual levels.

The first I'll take a look at is the 4.0 level.

First, the 4.0 women by section.

There is quite a bit of variation here with more sections having more bumps down than up.  Midwest had the highest percentage of bumps down followed by Southern, Missouri Valley, and Northern California.

And while most sections had more bumps down, a few went the other way and had more bumps up.  Eastern had over 6% bumped up vs less than 5% bumped down.  Northern, Pacific Northwest, and Southern California also had more bumps up than down.

And then the 4.0 men by section.

While the Southern California women were bumped down more than up, the men led the way with over 9% bumped up.  Caribbean, Florida, and Middle States were also all right around 8%.

A few sections had more bumps down than up for the men led by Hawaii but including Pacific Northwest, Southern, and Southwest.

What do you think?  What does this mean for 4.0 play in your section in 2018?

12/4 Note: Corrected discussion under the women's chart, the chart stayed the same

2017 USTA League Year-End Rating Analysis - Gender and Section Bump Up/Down Percentages - Interesting Tennis League Stats

In the second of my posts on 2017 USTA League year-end rating analysis, I'll split out the bump up/down percentages by gender and section.

As a reminder, I wrote yesterday that the overall percentages were 8.6% up and 4.6% down.

By gender, for the women, 9.1% were bumped up and 4.7% down.  The men found 7.6% up and 4.5% down.

Here then is how each of those breaks out by section.

First, the women.

The sections with the most bumps up were Caribbean and Pacific Northwest with Texas, Southern California, Southwest, and Southern also all over 9%.

And then the men.

Here, Southern California, Caribbean, and Texas were the only sections with more than 9% being bumped up.

More to come!

Friday, December 1, 2017

2017 USTA League Year-End Rating Analysis - Bump Up/Down Percentages - Interesting Tennis League Stats

With the 2017 USTA League year-end ratings having been published about 24 hours ago, I'll be doing a sequence of blog entries analyzing what happened this time around.

To start, lets look at the high level bump up/down percentages.

Across all players that had a C rating at the end of 2016 and 2017, 8.6% were bumped up and 4.6% were bumped down.  This means that 86.8% stayed the same.

That isn't a whole lot of bumps either way, and is pretty close to last year and 2015 as well.  So it doesn't appear, nationally at least, that there was much of a shake-up.

Breaking it out by section, we see the following.

There aren't a lot of sections wildly out of whack with the national average.  Caribbean had the highest percentage bumped up, just under 11%, and Hawaii had the fewest right around 7%.  Northern California had a perhaps surprisingly high number of bump downs at around 5% and New England had the fewest under 4%.

Stay tuned, I'll be breaking things out by gender and level soon.

What? No way? How? Curious why your 2017 year-end NTRP level is what it is?

The 2017 USTA League year-end NTRP ratings are out, and many players received the year-end rating they were expecting.  But some individuals may still be surprised with where they ended up.

There are always some surprises for players.  Some may have been expecting to stay where they were but got bumped up or down, while others may have won a lot and were expected a bump up, or lost a lot and thought they'd be bumped down, and neither happened.

I will be doing some analysis to look at what happened and if there were any surprises or adjustments made by the USTA and reporting a variety of stats, but for those that want to understand why they were/weren't bumped up/down, they can always get an Estimated Dynamic NTRP Rating Report that will help explain how it all works.  While my ratings aren't perfect, they usually can explain odd bumps or lack thereof.  Contact me for more information.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

USTA League 2017 Year-End Ratings Are Out (sort of)

2017 year-end ratings/levels are out!  Well sort of.

The USTA had a timer saying 12:00 AM EST was D-day, and at that time the banner on TennisLink changed to "Available", but checking ratings revealed few if any that were updated.  And about 12:20 AM EST the banner changed to a new timer set to expire at 2:00 AM.  And then a few minutes later it changed to a banner set to expire at 4:00 AM!

But, if you check, more and more are now updated, so I suspect they changed the timer to try to keep everyone from checking at the same time.

Why this is always such a mess every year, I don't know.  And given they had a timer, one thought they'd get it right for once, but alas they didn't.  But presumably by morning everyone's rating will be updated.

Today is the day for 2017 year-end ratings! (Sort of)

If the countdown timer on TennisLink and what I and others have been told by USTA staff is to be believed, year-end NTRP levels for 2017 are to be published later today.  Well, technically the date seems to be 12/1 but doing the math on the TennisLink timer puts the actual time as 12:00:00 AM EST on 12/1 which is later today for the majority of the country, and just a second into 12/1 for the rest.

So we will all finally find out for sure if we are staying, bumped up, or bumped down, and we hope that TennisLink doesn't crash under the load of everything checking!  And if you don't see what you want, you may be eligible to hit the "Appeal" button to try to move up or down a level through the automated appeal process.

Many players and captains have been anxious awaiting year-end levels so they can form teams for 2018 as this is really the whole purpose of the year-end ratings.  The anxiousness is for a number of reasons.

First, some areas start leagues right away in January and team forms and/or minimum rosters are needed in less than a week and that isn't much time if player's ratings have changed unexpectedly.

Second, some areas have early start leagues where players registered based on their 2017 year-end level but rules of the section may preclude players that get bumped up from playing at their rostered level immediately, within a few weeks, or at least not advancing to playoffs.  This can disrupt teams significantly and they may want to try to add players that will be eligible.

In any case in just (hopefully) 14 hours(as I write this, we will all know!

As always, for those that want more detail than just a year-end level, I can still generate Estimated Dynamic NTRP Rating reportsContact me for details.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving! Black Friday sale on Estimated Dynamic NTRP Rating Reports

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving yesterday and had some good food with family and friends remembering all the things we have to be thankful for.

One of those things, or at least something to anticipate this time of year is the USTA's year-end ratings being published.  Traditionally this happens the week after Thanksgiving, and this year the plan appears to be to publish them at midnight on Friday December 1st, so we are now less than a week away!

If the anticipation is too much and you'd like to get a preview of your or anyone else's likely year-end level, or you just want more detail on your matches from the year, an Estimated Dynamic NTRP Rating Report gives you a very good idea of where your rating will end up, but also shows a a lot of detail for your 2017 season including a chart showing match by match how each match rated and affected your dynamic rating, plus you get a partner report showing how your matches rated when playing with your different doubles partners.  And I've added a number of new features and statistics to the report in the past few months making them even more valuable.

This year, I am again offering discounts on new individual reports of 25% off and new team reports of 33%.  And if you have the need for a custom report for recruiting, I'll give discounts on those too.

This sale will be today and tomorrow only, Friday the 24th and Saturday the 25th, so don't delay in requesting a report.  Contact me if interested (, and have a great Thanksgiving weekend!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

New feature of individual Estimated Dynamic NTRP Rating Reports - Record when favored or underdog

I generate a fair number of Estimated Dynamic NTRP Rating Reports for folks and am fortunate to get a lot of positive feedback on them.  I'm always looking for ways to make the report more useful and valuable and just added a new feature I think everyone will like.

Sometimes I run across a player that wins a lot, but their rating hasn't gone up much.  The typical reason for this is their scores are close and/or they are playing against lower rated opponents and the player is supposed to win.

I added some stats a couple months ago to show what the average NTRP level and average dynamic rating is of the opponents and this is useful for those wanting that detail, but a simpler way of looking at it is to see what one's record is when favored in a match and what the record is when the underdog.

So, I've added this as another of the summary stats I provide.  Here is an example of the section with records, the new items in bold.

Match Record: 17-8
Singles Record: 3-1
Doubles Record: 14-7
Adult 18&Over Match Record: 4-1
Adult 40&Over Match Record: 9-6
Adult 55&Over Match Record: 4-1
4.0 Match Record: 13-7
8.0 Match Record: 3-0
9.0 Match Record: 1-1
Favored Match Record: 12-5
Underdog Match Record: 5-3

This player had a good record and we can see they won most of the time when they were favored, but did have five losses in this situation.  But they impressively had a 5-3 record when an underdog so they pulled some upsets and that is why they were bumped up.

You can see the full report for this player here.

What do you think?  Is this useful to see?

The 2017 USTA League year has ended, lets start looking at some interesting tennis league stats! - Player participation round 1

Nationals for 2017 are complete and the USTA is calculating ratings.  While we wait, I thought it would be fun to start looking at some statistics.

In the past, I've looked at participation in the main Adult leagues and so that seems like a natural place to start.

What I'm looking at with this analysis is the number of unique players playing an Adult 18+, 40+, 55+, or 65+ match during the 2017 ratings year.  And for comparison, I'm just adding 2017 to the prior chart I did last year so we can see the trend since 2013.

Without further adieu, here is the chart.

We can see that it appears the slow decline in Adult league play continues into 2017.  The total participants dropped just over 7K, the women just under 5K and the men just over 2K.  The drops last year were smaller, about 3K total split evenly across the women and men.

So what does this mean?  Simply put, fewer players played in the Adult leagues this year than last.  Note that this is nationally, I will dig into some sections to look at trends there as last year, some sections like the Pacific Northwest and Southern Cal actually grew.

Note also that while participation in the Adult leagues has decreased, this is not looking at other leagues like Mixed, Tri-Level, Combo, or other secondary leagues a given section may offer.  It is possible there is just a shift from Adult leagues to other leagues.

And of course, USTA is not the only game in town.  Tennis playing in general may be up or down differently than the chart above.  But this is still an interesting set of data to look at.

What do you think?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

2017 USTA League Nationals are over - Now when do year-end ratings come out?

2017 USTA League Nationals wrapped up this weekend with the 55 & over 7.0 and 9.0 playing in Orlando at the National Campus.

I had done a preview of the 9.0 men and it turns out three of the semi-finalists were teams I picked in Southern, Texas, and Eastern, but Southern California spoiled the perfect prediction taking out Intermountain 2-1, although it wasn't an upset based on who played in the match, it went as expected.

In the semis, Texas and Southern won as expected, but Southern pulled the upset in the final winning 2-1, although again, based on who played on which courts, Southern was favored to win 2-1.

So now that Nationals is over, we anxiously await the publishing of year-end ratings.  I've been telling folks for about a month that ratings would be published on December 1st, and sure enough, the USTA now has a countdown timer on TennisLink that shows ratings should be published at 12 am EST on 12/1.

If they hit that date, as I write this, we have less than 11 days to wait!

Of course, should anyone not be able to bear the anticipation, I can always generate a report that will give you a very good idea of where your year-end rating will be.  At this point I am doing year-end calculations and not only will the report tell you what level you are likely to be at year-end, but you'll get all sorts of details on how your rating changed during the year, how you did in different leagues and NTRP levels, how you did with different partners, and much more.

For some, I know in my area this is the case, you need to sign up for leagues just days after year-end levels are published.  With this, having an idea of where folks will be rated is important so you can make sure you are recruiting and retaining the right players and getting them before another team does.  To that end I can also do lists of ratings or other types of recruiting lists to help captains get the best and right players.

Should you be interested in any reports, don't hesitate to contact me.

Under 11 days and counting!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

2018 USTA League Regulations - What is changed or new?

The 2017 USTA League year is nearly complete, the last Nationals (55+) will be played this weekend starting tomorrow.

That just means the 2018 year is about to begin!  Well, it really has already begun as some sections have Early Start Leagues that started play in the past few months, or in the case of Georgia way back in the Spring!  These are leagues that, regardless when they start playing, will be on the advancement path to 2018 Districts/States, Sectionals, and Nationals.

No matter when your 2018 league play starts, it is important to know what the regulations are for the year.  The USTA rarely makes radical changes, but it seems each year does bring with it a few minor changes so it is worth going over what those are.

Note that I'm basing what I write below on several "Draft" 2018 regulations documents I've seen dated October 18th, so I'm pretty sure it is what will be final and I've actually had confirmation of several things from other sources.


The big change is regarding the move-up/split-up rule.  This rule has been tweaked from year to year, but in general is in place to restrict the ability of teams that went to Nationals in one year to stay together at the same level the next year.  I guess the idea is that the USTA doesn't want the same players on the same team coming back to Nationals year after year, instead want some new blood to have an opportunity.

Now, you might expect that a good Nationals team would have a bunch of players bumped up and so naturally not be able to stay together at the old level, but the USTA feels the need to have this rule in place as well.

In past years the rule has stated that no more than 3 players from a Nationals team could be on the same roster of a team the next year.  At one point, the restriction was on any team, Adult or Mixed, 18+, 40+, or 55+.  Then it was relaxed to not apply to Mixed, and this year there is another change relaxing the restriction a bit.  Specifically, the restriction is only on a team at the same level and age group.  Here is the specific language:
National Championship teams are required to Move Up or Split
Up only in the age group from which their team advanced the
previous year.
This means that if a 40+ 3.5 team went to Nationals in 2017, they will only be able to have three of those players on the same 3.5 40+ team in 2018, i.e. they must "split-up", but the entire team (at least those that remain 3.5s) could form a new 18+ 3.5 team.  Correspondingly an 18+ Nationals team could have their entire roster form a 40+ team the next year (well, the players still have to be eligible for 40+!) while just 3 could be on the same roster of an 18+ team at the same level.

That that the rule also states that these requirements only apply to players that had 3 matches on the team so players with two or fewer matches are eligible to be on the same team the next year regardless.

So this gives players a little more flexibility to continue to play with the same group of friends or teammates and not have to split up.

Note of course, the "move-up" option is still available, that 40+ 3.5 team could move up as a team to 4.0 to form a 40+ 4.0 team and they could stick together.

Note also that the Nationals regulations allow a section to impose their own rules restricting team composition, although I'm not aware of any that add restrictions beyond the national rule.

Early Start Ratings

This is not new, but it is worth re-iterating.  For 2017 leagues, the USTA did away with Early Start Ratings, and instead, players signing up for Early Start Leagues would use their current year-end rating.  However, if a player was subsequently bumped up at year-end, they would not be eligible to play at Nationals at the prior level, but their eligibility to continue playing through Sectionals was up to each section to decide.

A section could decide to do a number of things, the most common were:

  • Make the player ineligible to continue at the lower level immediately
  • Let the player complete local league/playoffs but be ineligible for Districts and/or Sectionals
  • Allow the player to continue at the lower level through Sectionals

My section, Pacific Northwest, chose the second option while some like Southern chose the third which could cause some competitive inequities and scenarios where teams won Sectionals and could not go to Nationals.

From what I've seen so far, Sections are sticking with their choice for 2018.  Here is the language from the Southern document:

Players who are found to have valid computer ratings, after the appeal process, that place them above the NTRP level at which they are competing may continue their participation at the lower NTRP level through the conclusion of the Southern championship. They shall not be permitted to advance to any National Championship at the lower NTRP level. Prior team matches played are valid.

And from the PNW document:

Players who are found to have valid computer ratings, after the appeal process, that place them above the NTRP level at which they are competing may continue their participation at the lower NTRP level through the conclusion of the Local League Season (this includes Local League Playoffs). Players who are found to have valid computer ratings, after the appeal process, that place them above the NTRP level at which they are competing will not be allowed to participate at the lower NTRP level for the Sectional Championships.
FWIW, I prefer the PNW rule as I believe it is fairer and more equitable to all the teams in the section and helps ensure the best eligible team advances to Nationals.


There are provisions for filing grievances against players that may have violated self-rating, eligibility, or other rules, and most every section imposes a filing fee, the typical amount I've seen being $50 and that is what my section documents.

In perusing the Southern regulations document I found, a change called out is that the filing fee is now $100!  While you do get that returned if a penalty is imposed, that still seems like it might be a pretty big barrier and deterrent to folks filing legitimate grievances, which IMHO would be unfortunate.  I wonder what the rationale was for this?  The 2017 regulations don't seem to list a fee at all, so this seems a pretty extreme change.

What do you think of the rules changes, or in some cases lack of change?  Or what section specific rules do you have that are worth talking about?  Let me know by contacting me or leaving a comment.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Handicapping USTA League Nationals 55 & over 9.0 Men

Nationals for the 2017 USTA League 55 & over division wraps up this weekend, and in fact this is the end of 2017 Nationals, so my previews continue. one last weekend  Here are the 55 & over 9.0 men.

For all my previews, I'll be using my Estimated Dynamic NTRP Ratings and comparing teams using the top-6 averages for 55+ which gives an idea of who the best teams are, if they play their best players.  Who actually plays and the match-ups a captain is able to get obviously go a long way to determining who will win, but it is still interesting to compare "best" vs "best".  The actual detailed numbers along with full roster averages and by court played averages are available as part of a Flight Report which can still be purchased for any Nationals flight.  Contact me if interested.

Note that 55+ is a combined division so the top-6 may not represent the best 6 that can play in a given match, but it still gives a good idea who the strongest teams are.

The 55 & over 9.0 men will be played at the National Campus in Orlando, FL on clay.  All 17 teams are present so there are four flights, three with four teams and one with five, the flight winners advancing to the semis.

The favorites in the four flights are SouthernTexas, Intermountain, and Eastern but a couple flights are noticeably stronger than the other two so two of those paths to the semis will be tough.

Ratings will clearly change as a result of the matches played, but right now, Texas appears to be the favorite if they bring/play their best players.

Good luck to all!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Keeping track of the weather affected USTA League Nationals in 2017

2017 saw the USTA move a bunch of Nationals to Alabama and Florida instead of holding them in the California and Arizona deserts.  A concern I and others had was if weather would have an impact on things and it definitely has.  I've written about a bunch of the weather related issues including all out cancellations of semis and/or finals for some levels resulting in co-champions being declared, but a number of Nationals that were technically completed were only able to do so due to shortening of matches.

Here is a summary of the significant weather delays/issues I'm aware of, significant in my mind meaning any matches were canceled or playing formats/locations had to be altered to get matches completed.  If I missed any, please let me know and I'll add them.

40 & over 3.0 Men and Women in Fort Lauderdale, FL, October 13-15

This event was held October 13-15, sort of right in the heart of tropical storm season in Florida, particularly South Florida it would seem.  In fact, the facility for the event had courts damaged by a hurricane a few weeks before the event and a second facility had to be used for some matches.  But if that is all that had happened, this wouldn't make the list.

Instead, there were rain delays of several hours on both Friday and Saturday leading to playing format being changed to start all sets at 2-2 and to play no-ad.  This is a pretty significant change and could lead to different results than you'd normally get, let alone players not getting to play full matches and get their money's worth for a trip to Nationals.  They were able to get everything in on Sunday though, I believe with regular scoring.

18 & over 2.5 Women in Mobile, AL, October 20-22

Mobile is by most measures one of the wettest cities in the United States.  Add to this that there are only two indoor courts in the entire city, those being at the convention center where they roll out a carpet of sorts over cement to serve as a tennis court.  Despite this, and a history of weather issues at many events the Southern section holds there, the USTA elected to hold several Nationals there, due in part to a very large facility with a lot of courts.

The 18+ 2.5 women was one of these and flight play completed without a hitch as far as I know, but a storm was blowing in Sunday putting play that day in jeopardy.  There was perhaps time to try to play the semis on Saturday, but due to a three flight format, each team had already played twice both days so this was not done.

The Sunday storm did materialize and no matches were played, I think perhaps players got on court for about 10 minutes to warm up and that was it.  The indoor courts weren't even available, so everything was called off, no semis, no final, and all four semi-finalists were declared co-champions, including the team that didn't even win their flight and made the semis as a wildcard!  Not a terribly satisfying or equitable way to determine a National Champion.

40 & over 4.5+ Men and Women in Mobile, AL, October 20-22

The 40+ 4.5+ Nationals was held at the same time/location as the 18+ 2.5 women and naturally was affected in the same way.  However, both events had four flights and they were able to get the semis played on Saturday to whittle it down to two teams each.

But that was it, the finals were not played and so like for the 2.5 women, co-champs were declared, but just two each in this case.

Still, for this weekend in Mobile, where there were supposed to be three champs decided, eight (!) teams went home with "championship titles".

40 & over 3.5 Men and Women in Fort Lauderdale, FL, October 27-29

Do we have a theme here?

Back in Fort Lauderdale two weeks after the first weather affected event and the forecast looked really bad with a significant storm forecast for much of Saturday and Sunday.  Unfortunately the forecast was right.

USTA officials were not oblivious to the forecast and made the right move to schedule as many matches on Friday as possible, but the five team flight has to have everyone play twice on Saturday regardless, they could only do so much.

They did go to short formats again, starting matches at 2-2 and no-ad, to try to fit more matches in earlier, but even doing that they didn't get everything in before the rain arrived on Saturday.  And one of the outstanding matches was going to decide who advanced to the semis and this was going to have to be finished Sunday morning before the semis.  The winner of this match was going to face having to play three matches back to back to back!  Plus, the forecast wasn't for bright sunny conditions to start the day Sunday.

Sunday arrived and it did take some time to get the courts prepared and ready so they started late, but did manage to get everything in, but those teams having to finish flight play Sunday morning were at a real disadvantage.

But after two events in Fort Lauderdale, a 100% rate of having events significantly delayed and affected by weather, and the outcome potentially affected too.

40 & over 6.0, 7.0, 8.0, and 9.0 Mixed in Mobile, AL, November 10-12

Recurring theme, different venue.  To be fair, the 18 & over Mixed the prior weekend went off without a hitch, but here we are back in Mobile and I'm writing about it so something must have happened.

Flight play on Friday and Saturday went as planned as far as I know, but Sunday saw drizzle, and wet hard courts do not make for safe tennis.  After a several hour delay, the decision was made to move things inside.

But as I noted above, there are only two indoor courts in Mobile and these are both indoor carpet that is rolled out with taped seams, a lot different from an outdoor hard court.  But they were available!

But eight semi-finals means 24 courts and that doesn't fit into two courts very well.  Something had to give and again it was the scoring format.  Matches were a single set, no-ad (so ever shorter than the Fort Lauderdale short format) and courts were played sequentially and if one team was up 2-0, the third court was not played.

With this short format, they actually did manage to nearly get everything in with all but the 8.0 having a single champion decided, but there was a lot less tennis played with single sets and four courts not even played after 2-0 leads were taken.

Update: I learned that the 9.0 teams were actually given the choice late in the day to play back at the Tennis Center with normal scoring as the rain had stopped, and since the teams weren't leaving until Monday did that instead of sequential single set matches indoors.

18 & over 4.5 Men and Women in Orlando, FL, November 10-12

If you thought we were done and the disruption was limited to Mobile and Fort Lauderdale, you would be wrong.

While not nearly as severe as some of what happened above, there was rain in Orlando this weekend that affected matches.  Thankfully there are some legitimate indoor courts at the National Campus, but not enough for the situation and from what I'm told the women moved indoors right away but the men played in the rain for a bit before moving indoors.

They did have to shorten the scoring format again, sets started at 2-2 and no-ad scoring was employed, in order to get everything in, but they did, although the 3rd/4th place matches were not played (separate post on that coming).

So, with one weekend of Nationals still to go, there has been what I figure to be unprecedented weather related delays, cancellations, and court changes, all because of the USTA's decisions to use Mobile and Fort Lauderdale as venues for Nationals.  Both locations are likely to have storms or rain that would affect play without any viable backup plan.  At least the National Campus has enough courts and some indoor courts to adapt if needed.

All told, of the 22 18+/40+ events scheduled for Alabama or Florida, a full 13 of them were affected in one way or another with an extra six teams given "co-champion" title than planned.  That is 59% that didn't meet expectations which is a pretty abysmal showing.

There were just six events in Arizona this year (none in California), and 0% has issues.  All were played in warm sunny conditions with no rain, no shortened scoring formats, no canceled matches, and no co-champions declared.

And it all could have been avoided by simply sticking with what had been done the past 5+ years, using Palm Springs and Arizona as the main locations to host Nationals.  While "weather" can happen anywhere (and play in Tucson for a Mixed Nationals was affected several years ago), it is far less likely to occur in the desert than Alabama and Florida, and in my opinion is was just the wrong decision and arguably irresponsible for the USTA to host the majority of Nationals where problems were likely to (and did!) occur.

Players take time off from work, spend thousands of dollars on flights, hotel, food, etc. all with the expectation of getting to play several complete matches over the course of three days.  In my opinion, is the responsibility of the USTA to use locations and venues that maximize the opportunity for that, and this year that was sorely lacking.

I'll probably come up with a poll once the last Nationals are complete this weekend, but what do you think?  Leave a comment here or on Facebook.

Another Nationals in Mobile, rain makes it a sham again

Another weekend of Nationals is complete, and with Mobile hosting again, this time the 40 & over Mixed, we had the chance of another weather related disaster and what do you know, it happened again.

From what I'm told, things went as scheduled the first two days, but Sunday it was drizzling in the morning and they could not play. shows just 0.03 inches of rain for Sunday, but a persistent drizzle keeps hard courts unsafe to play on and that apparently happened.

In any case, after a two hour delay, they elected to use the two indoor courts in the city, I believe those at the convention center on effectively indoor carpet with taped seams and all!  And because of having just two courts, they changed to single set matches.  Here is what the court looked like being laid down (thanks to a reader for sharing the picture).

Starting with the 6.0 level, they used one court each for each semi playing the courts sequentially.  After 6.0 was complete then they moved on to 9.0, 8.0, and 7.0.

Playing single sets on a strange court is certainly not the ideal way to decide a National Champion, but so it is this year.  At least they were able to finish for the 6.0, 7.0, and 9.0 levels it appears, but the 8.0 level shows the semis complete but the final not being played (as of my writing this at least) so I suspect we have yet another co-champion like happened earlier in Mobile.

Note that in order to finish, and since they were playing matches sequentially, if one team was up 2-0 after two matches they called the match and moved on, so everyone in the line-up didn't even get to play.  This happened once for 6.0, twice for 7.0, once for 8.0 (and the final wasn't played), and once for 9.0.

So changed venue/courts, the surface being carpet with taped seams, playing single sets to decide it, and not getting to play all the matches.  All in all, seems like a pretty awful way to decided and finish Nationals.

Hopefully the USTA has learned their lesson and won't be going back to Mobile for Nationals next year.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Handicapping USTA League Nationals 18 & over 4.5 Men

Nationals for the 2017 USTA League 18 & over division wraps up this weekend, and so my previews continue.  Here are the 18 & over 4.5 men after doing the.

For all my previews, I'll be using my Estimated Dynamic NTRP Ratings and comparing teams using the top-8 (for 5 court levels) or top-5 (for 3 court levels) averages which gives an idea of who the best teams are, if they play their best players.  Who actually plays and the match-ups a captain is able to get obviously go a long way to determining who will win, but it is still interesting to compare "best" vs "best".  The actual detailed numbers along with full roster averages and by court played averages are available as part of a Flight Report which can still be purchased for any Nationals flight.  Contact me if interested.

The 18 & over 4.5 men will be played at the National Campus in Orlando, FL.  Just 16 teams are present, Hawaii is missing, so there four flights with four teams, the flight winners advancing to the semis.

The favorites in the four flights are Florida, Texas, Northern California, and Mid-Atlantic and the flights are reasonably balanced, the four teams listed actually being the top-4 teams.

Ratings will clearly change as a result of the matches played, but right now, Mid-Atlantic appears to be the favorite if they bring/play their best players.

Good luck to all!

Monday, October 30, 2017

More 2017 USTA League National Champions Crowned - The rain won a battle but not the war

Another weekend of Nationals is in the books, and six more teams are headed home as National Champions.

All of the play was in Florida this weekend, 40 & over 3.5 in Ft. Lauderdale and 55 & over 6.0 and 8.0 in Orlando.

Yes, there was rain again in Ft. Lauderdale, most of Saturday was washed out, the rain arriving just after noon, but thanks to rescheduling some Saturday matches to Friday and shortening matches on Saturday (each set started 2-2 and they played no-ad) just a few matches from flight play remained to be played Sunday morning.  Alas, one of those was to decide a women's semi-finalist, and with play delayed in the morning to get the courts ready things did go long.

But champions were determined averting the disaster in Mobile a week earlier when five more teams than expected were given co-champion labels.

The 3.5 women had Eastern, Southern California, Midwest, and Caribbean make the semis where it took 3-2 wins for Eastern and Caribbean to advance and another 3-2 win for Caribbean to take the title.

The 3.5 men had Texas, Eastern, Intermountain, and Mid-Atlantic all go undefeated in flight play, and then every match in the semis and final had a 3-2 score with Texas winning it all over Mid-Atlantic.

The 55 & over 6.0 women saw Florida, Northern California, Northern, and Pacific Northwest in the semis with Florida and NorCal facing off in the final with NorCal coming out on top, all 2-1 wins.

The 6.0 men's results had Southern California, Southern, and Texas winning their flights with Northern joining as the wildcard.  And Northern as the wildcard won it all, taking out Southern Cal in the final, Texas getting 3rd.

The 8.0 women had Florida, Hawaii, Eastern,  and Mid-Atlantic in the semis with Florida over Hawaii for the title with Mid-Atlantic getting third.

The 8.0 Men had Mid-Atlantic, Southern, Southern Cal, and Middle States in the semis.  Mid-Atlantic took the title over Middle States, Southern Cal getting third.

More Nationals are still to come, next weekend the 18 & over Mixed gets into gear.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Rain rain stay away! Fingers crossed, 40 & over 3.5 USTA League Nationals may finish in Ft. Lauderdale

Day one of USTA League Nationals for 40 & over 3.5 men and women is in the books and rain and associated delays was avoided.  Well, that was expected as the forecast for Friday was good, it is the Saturday forecast that is alarming.

It has called for an 80-100% chance of thunderstorms all week, and still does as of now, but it appears it may hold off until noon.  This would give them about four hours to get matches in.

But how can they fit a full day of matches into four hours?

The USTA did make the right move and reschedule as many matches as possible from Saturday to Friday.  This means that every team played two matches Friday, normally a number of teams would play just once Friday and twice Saturday.  However, flight one for the men and women are five team flights and every team will have two matches to play on Saturday to complete round-robin play, and the other flights all have a match per team to play meaning 11 team matches for both men and women, or 22 team matches, must be played.

The big challenge with be the five team flights as only four can play at a time meaning it takes three "time-slots" to get them all in.  Nationals matches, especially in singles, can end up taking 2+ hours, so three time-slots would be 6+ hours.  Just doing the math, 7:30 plus 6 hours is 1:30 pm which is well into the window when the storm is due to hit.  And that would still mean two teams would be playing back to back with no rest between matches.

To try and give them a chance, they will be going to a short format as they did for the rain delayed event in Ft. Lauderdale two weeks ago with the goal of keeping matches to one hour.  The shortened format is to start each set at 2-2 and play no-ad rather than playing out the deuces.  Many areas play no-ad during the year, but starting at 2-2 is certainly different and puts a priority on starting quickly.  It has the potential for changing who wins, particularly as it takes fitness out of the equation a bit.

For the sake of the players to took the time and money to make the trip, lets hope they get it in so they can play the semis and final on Sunday as scheduled.  While Sunday had as high as an 80% chance of rain, it now appears to be just 20% so perhaps rain won't be an issue then.

Good luck everyone!