NCAA tennis has changed.
For the 2015 season, the NCAA has installed some variations to the collegiate tennis rules that will shorten the length of matches with these goals in mind:
- Make the sport more attractive to spectators by reducing match times.
- Reduce the strain of long matches on student-athletes.
- Make each point even more valuable and competitive with no-ad points.
Here’s the NCAA release on the new rules.
The main change is the no-ad scoring. For example, when a game is tied at 40-all, the next point wins. Under the old rules, the competitors would go to a win-by-two system known as advantage.
These changes can take a match that may normally be five or six hours in length and cut it down to a three-to-four hour contest, maybe even shorter. This helps fans who want to come watch, but maybe don’t have a full day to give to the old-style format. It helps the athletes compete hard and get finished quicker.
What do Georgia State coaches think? We asked the head coach of the men’s team, Brett Ross, and the assistant coach of the women’s team, Lyndsay Shosho.
What effect do the changes have on the sport?
Brett Ross: I don’t think it will make a big change overall on the sport. However, it does shorten the matches which should make the sport more spectator-friendly. So if it does happen to draw in more fans, then I think it is a positive change.
Lyndsay Shosho: Conditioning and mental toughness plays a smaller role. The new rules favor styles with big games, serves and weapons and put less emphasis on tactical plays.
What side-effects do you foresee?
BR: Hopefully it will make college tennis a more marketable product to people outside of traditional tennis fans.
LS: I think fitness will decrease. Stamina won’t be as important so that means a bigger emphasis on serving and returning and less on the tactical game and challenge of “figuring things out.”
Will the rule changes change the way you or your players approach a match?
BR: I do think that the no-ad format inherently puts more value on every single point and brings more “pressure points” into play. Playing every point with 100% focus is something we try to instill at all times, so the new format should help us drive that mentality home to our players.
LS: Yes. We will have to be more high-energy and vocal now. It’s more about cheering and energy and getting pumped up. We will adjust the length of our meetings and put more emphasis on being loose and pumped up prior to the match. Less talking, more jumping around and more high-fives.
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) and the NCAA are not the first major sports leagues to alter their respective sports.
- Major League Baseball has adopted pitch timers, instant replay and study a host of other changes.
- The National Football League has implemented changes to when the game clock is stopped to speed up their games. They constantly have changed rules through the years to make the game more exciting and safer.
- The National Basketball League has cut the shot clock down to 24 seconds.
These associations recognized the need to evolve in order to make their contests shorter to gather a wider audience.
That’s not the only reason for shorter matches, however.
Players competing in postseason tournaments sometimes play both singles and doubles each day for 11 or 12 days straight, taking a toll on both their bodies and on the willingness of fans to attend said tournaments. The new rules would decrease the amount of time student-athletes spend on the court.
Come see the Panthers and the new rule changes for yourself at a home match this season. The men’s squad have five more home matches while the women, ranked No. 61 in the country, play in Atlanta 10 times this spring.