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WTA Tennis




Cummings and Goings II by Jim Cummings

December 28, 2005 09:56 PM

Numeric Scoring

The New Tennis Year brings with it a change that could go a long way toward seeing USTA achieve a goal set a couple years back to have 30 million people playing tennis by the year 2010. A door has been opened in the Iron Curtain of Tennis. Starting 
January 1, 2006, a USTA Comment to Rule 5 permits the use of Numeric Scoring. What is Numeric Scoring? Plain scoring. One, two, three, four (by a margin of two) and it is game. I, and you, can teach numeric scoring to anyone in under a minute. Using  love (?), 15 (or 5), 30, 40, deuce and ad? People have just held up their hand and said ‘enough, already' and even when they said they understood, their face said they didn’t. You could always tell by the confused look on it. Who can really understand a scoring system that is nonsensical and goes backward?

Yes, there is tradition, but it was born back when tennis was an elitist sport. Its venue was the country clubs and we owe these clubs a huge vote of thanks for preserving and nurturing our game. But now regular scoring, the last vestige of elitism, no longer has to be used. Young and older (not old - seniors learning tennis are not old) alike no longer have to cope with nonsensical scoring when learning our game. One - two - three and away we go. I can already hear the sigh of relief from tennis teachers.

And don't think only in terms of players on this. The people who support and encourage the players (parents, grandparents, uncles aunts, wives, sweethearts, you name them) also play a large part in the overall picture. My mother, for instance, was a crackerjack with figures. She never understood tennis scoring.

At an Australian Open awhile back, Andy Roddick and Younes El Aynoui hooked up in a tremendous fifth set match. It was captivating.. As the set score mounted, so did my interest, and I was hooked into spending most of that afternoon watching the drama unfold. It finally played out to its 21-19 ending. During that final set, it occurred to me that not only the play, but the number of games themselves was holding my interest. How high would the set score go? It had its own dimension. Would the interest have been the same if, instead of the numbers piling toward the sky, there would only have been deuce-ad like in game scoring?

A lot of games are played which have drama akin to the Roddick Set, but the drama is lost in deuce-ad, deuce-ad dullness. Deuces don't lend themselves to drama. No one remembers deuces. When is the last time you read or heard anything about a long game in tennis? But a 12-10 game? Sports writers should have a ball dreaming up new lexicon once it takes off.

Finally, a couple numeric scoring testimonials and I just love their sources First, this from Joyce Tessitore, WTA Chair of Officials:

"During our outdoor tennis season (summer) in the Northwoods, I teach tennis and also coach a group of Special Olympics tennis athletes. I had a situation this past summer that makes me totally agree with "your" numeric scoring.  One of my new athletes is deaf and by using the fingers on both of my hands to show her the score, she caught on very quickly to the scoring. Since she doesn't read lips and my knowledge of signing is very limited, she probably would still be trying to understand what's going on if we had tried to teach her conventional scoring."

And this from no other a personage than your President, Lloyd Cook:

"Oh... one more thing.  Steve Waugus and I played singles this weekend... told you that in my last e-mail.  Anyway, I told him about numeric scoring and we used it... both Sat & Sun. It's great.  I held up fingers for the score instead of shouting out "15 love, 30 love, 40 love, 40-15, 40-30, 40 all, Ad-in, deuce, etc, etc, etc   It is really a great system Jim!!! Can't wait to publicize it to the world!  Wisconsin today. Tomorrow, the world."

Annual Reminder

I still run into senior players who don't know that they can play in an age division tournament as of January 1 if they will reach the minimum age of the division by December 31 of the year the tournament is scheduled to start. As an example, if your 45th birthday will be in July 2006, you can play in 45 and over tournaments as of January 1, 2006. Go get 'em!

Annual Pitch

USTA's most popular publication, aside from its magazine and souvenir program's,  is Friend At Court, the USTA Handbook of Tennis Rules and Regulations. In 2004, USTA published 30,000 copies of FAC of which 19,000 were sold and the rest distributed to organizational members, officials, etc. It always amazes me how many tennis people are unaware of the best tennis publication USTA has to offer. FAC is not just for tennis officials, although it started out that way.

FAC is for players and parents. Quoting Nick Powel, author of The Code: "Ignorance of the rules constitutes a delinquency on the part of a player..." The same can be said for parents. In FAC is the type of knowledge that can promote and facilitate a better player/parent approach to the game and undoubtedly reduce the number of grievances filed each year. In addition to the Rules and USTA's comments on them, it contains The Code (The Players' Guide For Unofficiated Matches) and Tournament Regulations which cover everything from how to make and schedule a tournament, rest periods, the Point Penalty System, endorsement procedures for national tournaments, ranking regs., etc. (and then some).

FAC is for coaches, teaching professionals and other tennis teachers. They should know how a draw is made, the roles of officials, ranking regulations, endorsement procedures, and just about everything else that is in FAC.

FAC is for tournament directors, league captains and administrators, USTA District and Sectional officers and administrators. You have to know the game if you are a leader.

What, you already have a copy? Good for you! Is it current? Every year, FAC is updated and republished. If the copy you have is before 2004, it is badly outdated.

ITF rewrote the Rules for 2004. To say the least, I was impressed with the rewrite. In over 30 years of being involved with tennis rules, it is the first rewrite I have seen and may be a first-ever. Although there were no real substantive changes, the number of rules was reduced from 40 to 30; they were written in clear, easy to understand, modern language; matters of little concern to players (such as ball and racket specifications and the role and responsibilities of court officials) were  put in appendices and a new rule covering all error-correction situations added.

To get your Friend At Court, call 888-832-8291 M-F 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.  At $5.00 a copy plus shipping, it's a steal. And USTA members get a 10 percent discount. How good can it get?

By:  Jim Cummings 12/28/2005

Jim Cummings Bio:
   Born in Marinette, WI
   Boyhood friend of the Cook family
   Played varsity tennis for UW-Madison in the 50s
   Officiated at over 25 US Opens as a chair and line umpire  
   Served on USTA's Rules Committee when Jack Stahr and Nick Powel were Chairs
   Active senior player and Referee
   Presently helps edit the Friend At Court