ITA Format Experiment Comments: Part Two
by Colette Lewis
, 21 February 2014
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In part one of my discussion with college coaches, there was little support for continuing the women's experiment, which featured a match tiebreaker in lieu of a full third set. In part two below, five more coaches provide their perspective on the ITA's format experiment (men, women), as does Dustin Taylor, the USTA's National Coach for Collegiate Tennis, and Mitchell Frank, the University of Virginia's No. 1 player, who is leading the student-athlete opposition to any change of format.
Claire Pollard, head coach, Northwestern
I think it's important that we've done it, and important that we are doing it at a competitive level. It's been done in non-competitive matches, where most teams felt comfortable trying something new, so the fact that it was mandated in such a significant place is useful and gives us a better indication whether it's a feasible option.
I'm open to suggestions. I think experimentation is important. I think fundamentally, we're not exactly sure why we need to do this - fans, student-athlete welfare, the increased risk of injury, matches go so long - they're all important factors. But at the end of the day, the beauty of the longevity of the sport inherently makes the game better. A 6-1, 6-1 match isn't as exciting to watch as a 7-6, 7-6 match, and 7-6 in the third is some of the most memorable matches that you play.
This certainly creates a different feeling. I think the girls are having to play from ahead and pressure points are more frequent. But the negative for me is that you only have to win one set, and that's a fairly significant drawback.
In doubles, from a coaching point of view it's tough to make an impact (in just one standard set). Now I feel like after one game, I'm saying, quick, abandon that. One of the things I love about the game and try to teach my girls is figuring out why you're winning and why you're losing, the skill of the game. And when you play to six games, you can't figure it out.
Paige Yaroshuk-Tews, head coach, Miami
I'm hoping to go back to traditional tennis. I've never heard of a sport that changes the sport, and that's what we're doing here. We're changing the sport of tennis. You're taking fitness out of it, you're enabling teams that might not be as deep to win one set of tennis and roll the dice.
I think why they're trying to change it is because they want more people interested in college tennis, and college tennis on TV. They want to shorten it up in order to keep people more enticed. Do you tell a baseball program to play six innings? You don't change a sport to get that. I was happy with the way that tennis was being played. We don't play our sport for spectators or fans, or at least that's me. We try to develop tennis players, help them get to the next level and playing a format that I don't think is going to help them get there isn't the way to do this.
We care about our sport, our girls care about our sport, the tennis community cares about our sport, but in the big picture, they [college sports fans] care about football and basketball, and that's okay. We're an Olympic sport, and we're going to continue to be an Olympic sport, it's a great sport, so why change? I'm pretty adamant that this cannot continue.