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DI tennis committee proposes changes to 2014 championships

By Greg Johnson

The Division I Men’s and Women’s Tennis Committee has recommended a new championships structure in which the number of days spent at the finals site decreases from 12 to eight. The recommendations also include creating a regional round, reducing the number of teams at the finals site from 16 to four and changing the length of the dual matches. 

The proposals, which would be effective for the 2014 season, must be approved by the Division I Championships/Sports Management Cabinet, which is scheduled to meet Sept. 10-12 in Indianapolis.

Under the recommendations, the format of the men’s and women’s team portion of the tournament will begin with first- and second-round competition at 16 campus sites. Those winners will advance to a new regional round, which will have four teams at four campus sites.

The men’s and women’s regional winners advance to the finals site where the national semifinals and finals will take place over the first two days of the championships. The remaining six days at the finals site would be used to determine the national individual singles and doubles champions.

Currently, 16 men’s and women’s teams advance to the finals site, along with all the individual singles and doubles competitors around the country.

Student-athlete well-being is the rationale behind the change.

Under the current format which remains in effect for the upcoming season, a player competing in the team, singles and doubles could conceivably play 12 consecutive days.

“It can be grueling to participate in all three portions of the championship,” said Cathy Beene, committee chair and associate athletics director Georgia Southern. “Our focus is to make the tournament better. We feel we can do that by shortening the format and the duration of the championships.”

The length of the Division Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships has been a hot topic in recent years among the sports’ stakeholders.

Coaches at the 2012 championships were asked to provide feedback to the committee, and Beene said now is the time to make changes.

“There was an overall consensus that we needed to do this,” Beene said. “With this new format, we would keep the integrity of the team championship and without making changes to the singles and doubles.”

Selection criteria

Another recommended change involves selection criteria where the committee is requiring singles’ players to compete in a minimum of six matches in the spring and for doubles teams to play a minimum of five matches in the spring to be considered for selection into the NCAA championships.

Currently, singles players are required to play a minimum of 13 matches combined through the fall and spring, and doubles teams must play a minimum of 10 matches through the fall and spring. Those are still the minimums, but the committee would like to see more of the competition balanced between the fall and spring.

Committee members believe it gives them better information when it comes time to make at-large selections brackets.

Also, one criterion that goes into effect this season is the requirement that teams must have a .500 or better dual-match record to be considered for selection into the team championship.

Dual match length

The following enhancements will be followed to enhance the length of dual matches in the championships:

  • Remove the warm-up with the opponent before singles and doubles;
  • Reduce the time between singles and doubles to five minutes;
  • Shorten each changeover from 90 seconds to 60 seconds;
  • Contest singles as best two-out-of-three sets while using a super tiebreaker (first player to 10 points) for the third set and;
  • Play a six-game set in doubles with a tiebreaker at six all.

“We think these changes could help shorten the length of dual matches to 3 or 3½ hours instead of sometimes going 4 ½-5 hours,” Beene said. “Currently, doubles competition is an eight-game set. People are may not be used to that and may wonder what is happening when a team reaches six games. We believe this will make it more fan-friendly also.”