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View from the Chair
Recipe for Excitement? Seven Points and No-Ad

Certainly one of the greatest things ever to happen in tennis was the invention of the tie-breaker and no-ad scoring systems that prevent sets from lasting almost forever.

Two true tennis "blue-bloods" were responsible for these improvements: the late James Van Alen (Newport, RI) and Frank Van Rensselaer (King of Prussia, PA).

Jimmy Van Alen, a descendant of the aristocratic Astor and Vanderbilt families, was the driving force behind simplifying tennis rules in the 1950s and 1960s when he was running the Newport Invitational. (He also bought the old Newport Casino to be the site of the International Hall of Fame.)

Van Alen wanted to abolish love, 15, 30, 40, deuce and advantage in order to limit the time of matches so that spectators might see a match on time and also allow television to operate efficiently - all of which he thought would make tennis more popular.

He came up with a solution called VASSS (Van Alen's Simplified Scoring System) - a scoring system similar to table tennis, counting by ones up to 31, the winner of the set leading by at least 2 points, such as 31-29. Matches could be 2-of-3 sets or 3-of-5 sets. Service changed every 5 points.

Enter Frank Phelps, a former Hamilton College (NY) tennis star, now generally acknowledged as America's leading tennis historian. In the 1950s Phelps had been a spectator at the World Professional Championships in Cleveland where VASSS was used. He was not satisfied with this system and noted its weaknesses in a letter to the editor of World Tennis in 1958.

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