Tag Archives for " college tennis "

How Luca Corinteli Became an Elite College Tennis Player

TFP 037: How Luca Corinteli Became an Elite College Tennis Player

On today’s episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with Luca Corinteli from the University of Virginia Men’s Tennis team. Luca is an elite tennis player and was ranked as high as #2 in doubles in the country with partner Ryan Shane. Luca has helped UVA Men’s Tennis win the NCAA Division I national championship the past two years in a row.

Brian Boland, head coach of UVA Men’s Tennis and a recent guest on The Tennis Files Podcast, highly recommended that I interview Luca when I asked Coach Boland who he might suggest I speak to from his team.

Coach Boland was right on the money (per usual). The senior Wahoo with proud Georgian roots gave us a truly fantastic interview on the life of a college tennis player at the #1 college tennis program in the country. Luca is mature well beyond his years, and we wish him and UVA Tennis all the best this season and into the team’s professional careers.

Time-Stamped Show Notes

  • [3:15] How does the championship ring feel?
  • [4:13] How Luca got his start playing tennis
  • [5:57] How judo helped Luca’s tennis game
  • [7:12] Luca’s first tournament experience
  • [7:59] Role models growing up as a junior
  • [9:34] How Vesa Ponkka has helped Luca’s tennis career
  • [11:08] An overview of Luca’s junior career
  • [12:54] How Luca overcame a low point as a younger player
  • [14:42] Luca’s biggest accomplishment in his junior career
  • [15:49] How Coach Boland recruited Luca onto UVA Men’s Tennis Team
  • [16:57] Luca’s biggest improvement since joining UVA Tennis
  • [18:36] Overcoming adversity in college tennis
  • [20:51] Best advice from the coaching staff
  • [23:08] Luca’s favorite drills in team practices
  • [24:18] Ratio of on-court to off-court training
  • [26:50] What part of Luca’s game did Luca have to improve the most when he came to UVA?
  • [28:28] Luca’s most memorable moment at UVA
  • [30:16] Rivalries in college tennis
  • [31:45] What went through Luca’s mind when Henrik Wiersholm clinched the 2016 National Championship for UVA Men’s Tennis
  • [33:15] Funniest moment with the team
  • [34:50] The sickest match that Luca has played in college
  • [36:33] Luca describes how he held serve down a break point at 5-5 30-40 in the national championship match at #1 doubles against Oklahoma
  • [37:27] How Luca calmed himself down after shaking before serving down break point in the national championship
  • [38:29] What makes Luca a great doubles player
  • [39:50] How Luca decides when to poach in doubles
  • [40:57] Winning point patterns in doubles
  • [42:46] Difference in levels between college tennis and ITF Futures events
  • [44:05] Luca’s plans on whether to play professional tennis after college
  • [45:20] Three things that most people don’t know about Luca Corinteli
  • [47:27] Luca’s favorite tennis book
  • [49:07] Where can we follow Luca online
  • [49:52] One key tip that will help us improve our tennis games

Special shout out to UVA Men’s Tennis, as Luca is the 3rd guest I’ve had on the show in 37 episodes that has ties to the program. Coach Brian Boland (Episode 34) and Treat Huey (Episode 7) have also been on The Tennis Files Podcast.

Treat just qualified for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in doubles with Max Mirnyi, which is an incredible accomplishment! Go Treat!

Thanks again to Luca for coming onto the Tennis Files Podcast and speaking about his experiences as a player on UVA’s Men’s Tennis Team!

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Links Mentioned in the Show

Winning Ugly – Brad Gilbert

UVA Men’s Tennis Team Homepage

UVA Men’s Tennis Twitter Page

Luca’s Twitter and Instagram Pages

Note: The link to Winning Ugly above is an affiliate link, so if you make a purchase after clicking, I make a small commission. Thanks either way!

If you enjoyed my interview with Luca, subscribe to The Tennis Files Podcast in iTunes or your favorite podcast app!

For more tips on how to improve your game, download a free copy of my eBook, The Building Blocks of Tennis Success eBook below! Thanks for listening!

4 TFP 034: Brian Boland—Turning College Tennis Players into Leaders

TFP 034: Brian Boland—Turning College Tennis Players into Leaders

On Episode 34 of TFP, I had the honor of speaking with Brian Boland, Coach of the 2013, 2015, and 2016 NCAA Division I Championship University of Virginia Men’s Tennis program. Coach Boland shows us how we can produce better leaders and human beings through college tennis. This approach is ultimately what determines whether coaches and players are truly successful in life.

Coach Boland’s approach of focusing on developing his players have resulted in incredible accomplishments, both on and off the court. Virginia Men’s Tennis has been ranked in the top five of the ITA’s final rankings in 8 of the past 10 seasons, and they’ve also won 5 ITA National Team Indoor Championships, 14 conference championships and 18 NCAA and ITA individual national championships.

What is so striking about Coach Boland is that he doesn’t focus on the results so much as the development of his players. That his favorite moment at Virginia Men’s Tennis has been attending weddings of his players, rather than winning titles, speaks volumes about his values. Coach Boland was also the very first contributor to one of my most popular articles, 30 College Tennis Coaches Reveal Top Character Traits of Successful Student-Athletes.

Huge thanks to Coach Boland for coming onto the show! This episode is a must-listen for any coaches and players who want to get the most out of themselves and their players. Coach Boland shows us how we can do this through leadership, integrity, and character.

Time-Stamped Show Notes:

  • [1:44] How did Coach Boland become a head coach at UVA?
  • [5:03] One thing that the world doesn’t know about Coach Boland
  • [7:06] How do you keep motivated after winning everything there is to win in college tennis?
  • [9:37] How did UVA bounce back from adversity this year to win the NCAA Championship?
  • [13:06] How do you deal with players who aren’t in the lineup
  • [16:43] Challenges in maintaining an elite team year after year
  • [18:42] What did Coach Boland mean when he said “It takes a village to be the best at what you can do.”
  • [23:38] What systems do you have in place to ensure that your players succeed?
  • [26:42] How and where Coach Boland recruit players
  • [29:49] The success of local mid-atlantic players at UVA
  • [34:25] How UVA tennis player Thai-Son Kwiatkowski is skyrocketing up the ATP rankings
  • [40:04] Shout out to Dr. Mark Kovacs (guest on Episode 33 of TFP)
  • [40:51Treat Huey’s rise to the top of the ATP doubles ranks
  • [47:02] What’s the goal for UVA during the fall college tennis season?
  • [52:07] UVA’s individual and team practices in the fall and spring
  • [54:12] The structure of individual practices
  • [55:31] Difference between fall and spring seasons
  • [58:42] Drilling during practices
  • [61:20] Coach Boland’s favorite drills
  • [64:14] How to determine UVA’s lineup
  • [67:34] Coach Boland’s toughest and most enjoyable moments at UVA
  • [74:02] Sanam Singh’s wedding
  • [78:28] How has UVA Tennis changed over the years?
  • [79:54] How can we save our college tennis programs?
  • [81:40] Coach Boland’s morning routine
  • [85:26] Books that Coach Boland would gift someone looking to improve their tennis game
  • [86:51] The importance of tennis coaches and experts sharing information with the community
  • [89:15] Best advice that Coach Boland has every received
  • [90:31] Where can we follow Coach Boland and UVA Men’s Tennis online
  • [92:08] One tip from Coach Boland that will help us improve our tennis games

I hope you enjoy my interview with Coach Boland! Let me know what you think in the comments below!

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Links Mentioned in This Episode

The Inner Game of Tennis

Lead For Godsake

Success is a Choice

UVA Men’s Tennis

Interview with Dr. Mark Kovacs

Complete Conditioning for Tennis (2nd edition)

Note: Some of the links above are affiliate links, so if you make a purchase after clicking, I make a small commission. Thanks either way!

If you enjoyed my interview with Coach Boland, be sure to subscribe to The Tennis Files Podcast! Next up on the schedule is Martin Blackman, Head of Player Development at USTA.

For more tennis tips to improve your game, download my free eBook, The Building Blocks of Tennis Success, by subscribing to my newsletter below!

TFP 029: How to Dominate College Tennis with Dave Mullins

TFP 029: How To Dominate College Tennis with Dave Mullins

Today my guest is Dave Mullins, former head coach of the Oklahoma Women’s Tennis Team. Dave has had an extremely successful coaching career. His accomplishments include five NCAA tournament appearances, five ITA regional championships. three seasons with at least 17 victories, and ITA Central Regional Coach of the Year honors in 2014.

Dave retired from college coaching this past year and moved back to his native Ireland. The former ATP-ranked pro and Fresno-State college tennis player founded davemullinstennis.com, a website devoted to helping players get the best out of their college tennis experience.

On this episode, you will learn:

  • Differences between coaching male and female players
  • The best way to communicate with college tennis coaches
  • Key concepts to help you dominate college tennis
  • The importance of setting goals
  • Tips on how to become better doubles players
  • 3 books that will help improve your game and mental toughness
  • Dave’s opinion about the state of college tennis

and more!

Thanks to Dave for speaking with me on The Tennis Files Podcast, all the way from Ireland!

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Links Mentioned in This Episode

Episode 28 with Jeff Salzenstein

30 College Tennis Coaches Reveal Top Character Traits of Successful Student-Athletes

The Slight Edge – A book about a way of thinking and processing information that enables you to make the daily choices that will lead you to the success and happiness you desire.

Toughness – Jay Bilas defines the true meaning of toughness through stories about his career playing basketball at Duke.

Grit – Angela Duckworth shows us that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.”

[Note: The above book links are affiliate links, so if you make a purchase after clicking them, I make a small commission.]

If you enjoyed listening to the show, share this episode with a friend using the share buttons above or below this post!

Mackenzie McDonald Citi Open 2016

Mackenzie McDonald – From NCAA Champion to the Pro Tour

Mackenzie “Mackie” McDonald, the reigning NCAA singles and doubles champion, came tantalizingly close to defeating Alejandro Falla in the first round of qualifying at the Citi Open on Saturday. Falla, 11-years McDonald’s senior and ranked 235 in the world, squeaked by the talented Californian to set up a match against French player Vincent Millot for a spot in the main draw.

A month and a half ago, McDonald achieved what hadn’t been done in 15 years at the 2016 NCAA Division I Tennis Championships.  He blistered through the top seed in the singles final and teamed up with fellow-Bruin Martin Redlicki to win the doubles championship later that day. A couple weeks after completing his Junior year, McDonald turned pro, signing with Octagon and committing full-time to the tour.

The 21-year old former UCLA Bruin and world #419 fell 6-3 3-6 7-6 (4) to the 9th-seeded Colombian in sweltering conditions at the Rock Creek Tennis Center in Washington DC. McDonald used his improved serve to climb out of multiple deficits in his service games deep in the third set, and managed to break the Colombian for an opportunity to close out the match at 6-5.  However, Falla broke back, forcing a tiebreaker, and he rode the momentum to a big lead that McDonald could not recover from.

I spoke with McDonald after the match.  Despite the loss, he will take a lot of positives away from pushing a 16-year veteran of the ATP tour, ranked nearly 200 spots higher than the 1st-year pro, to the limit.

“It was a tough match today. I’m just trying to build my game, play aggressive, return big, and I think I executed my game plan pretty well today.”

McDonald reflected on what he needs to do to take his game to the next level:

“I’ve been working in the practices on going for more on my first and second serves. I need to serve a little bigger to play at this level.  There were a lot of good things I did today. Unfortunately I did lose but I definitely see some improvement as each match is progressing.”

At this rate, it won’t be long before we see the 5’10” McDonald recording wins over top 100 players. McDonald’s deft touch at net, agility, and lethal groundstrokes are already posing big problems for his opponents in his maiden year on the tour.

Mackenzie McDonald Citi Open 2016 Forehand

Photo by Victor Ng

As for differences between college tennis and the pros, McDonald cited the bigger stages, especially being on center court in the premier ATP-tour level tournaments.

But he won’t be a stranger to the big stage for long: McDonald earned a direct entry to the main draw of the U.S. Open by virtue of his NCAA triumph.

As for what’s next for McDonald, he plans on playing the Lexington Challenger, Aptos Challenger, and the Cincinnati Masters to prepare him for the last Grand Slam of the year.

There’s no question that after one of the most successful college tennis seasons of all-time, McDonald is ready to take the leap to the pro tour and face off against the best players in the world.

“It’s always a tough decision when you make one of these life decisions. After thinking about it for a while, there wasn’t a better time for me.  I’m ready to be here.”

9 UMBC Tennis 2016

Why UMBC Tennis Will Live on Forever

Today I attended an event that I wish never had to happen: the final home match of my college tennis program’s existence. And while I can sit here and rehash why the reasons laid out in this terribly written letter make no sense, I want to take this opportunity to let you know how proud I am of UMBC Tennis and what it stands for.

The very essence of being a UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) Retriever is true grit.  True Grit is the name of our mascot, after all. If you google the word grit, you will see that it is defined as “courage and resolve; the strength of character.”  No team epitomizes grit more than UMBC Tennis. In addition to finding out that the program would be eliminated after this year, our tennis teams had to endure the passing of our former assistant coach Bobby Hoffman, and volunteer assistant coach Sol Schwartz.

Despite these setbacks, UMBC Tennis came together as a family, and faced the season with courage and resolve to perform to the best of its capabilities. Not only does UMBC Tennis have some serious game, but our tennis teams have the highest GPA of all other sports teams at UMBC.

More than just being great tennis players and high performers in the classroom, I observed the players during the match and chatted with a couple of them. The players at UMBC are some of the friendliest and supportive college tennis players that I have ever seen.  To see players like Junior Biyik Akinshemoyin passionately cheer on his teammates, and observe Senior Justin Carter, a monster of a tennis player, speak with nothing but kindness and respect, made me proud to be a Retriever.

As I listened to the players talk about how tough of a year it has been, and how the team bonded together as a family, I knew that this was the perfect group of student-athletes to represent UMBC Tennis as it closes this chapter of the program. To hear funny stories about French accents, players innocently forgetting their ID before flights, and coach Rob Hubbard and assistant coach Oliver Steil praise their team for its resolve, reminded me of the good old days when I played college tennis at UMBC under Navy Women’s coach Keith Puryear.

The senior gifts were especially thoughtful, often-times hilarious, and reflected the unique personalities of each player that their teammates learned from the invaluable friendships forged during their years in the program.  The gifts included shoes, a sleep mask, and an abundance of muscle milk.  Pretty impressive if you ask me.

The match started at 1pm, and by the time the last Retriever had spoken on Senior Day, after a convincing victory for both teams, it was nearly 6:30.  I slowly walked away from the tennis courts for the last time, but stopped twice to turn around and look at the UMBC Tennis banner, realizing that I’d never have the pleasure of doing so after a UMBC tennis match again.

When I got in my car, I looked at my gold ring that we received for winning the America East Conference tournament and making the NCAA tournament in 2007, and thought about how happy it would make me if UMBC Tennis ended the program with another championship this season.  But I know they will leave everything out on the court, because that is what UMBC Tennis is all about, and that’s the only thing that really matters at the end of the day.

UMBC Tennis will live on forever because of all the amazing people who have been a part of the program. I will always be proud to wear my UMBC tennis gear, and if anyone notices where I went to school and asks me how the team is doing, I will tell them, we are all doing fantastic. I know, because everyone I’ve met who has been a part of the program is successful. And that is a testament to the true grit, the courage and resolve, the strength of character that every one of us developed during our time playing tennis for UMBC.

If anyone ever wondered about the newest generation of the UMBC Tennis family, all you had to do was hear each of the players speak about their admiration and respect for their teammates and our program. The men and women of UMBC Tennis made me extremely proud today, as they always have.

College tennis is not just about the wins and losses, or how much money we may or may not be making for our universities. It is a tool to develop the character of young men and women, to test their resolve, their ability to balance sports and academics, and to teach them the principles of preparation, respect, communication, and teamwork. College tennis is invaluable because it produces successful young men and women who will contribute much more to the world than they would have without the training and discipline learned through the rigors of being on a college tennis team.

The tennis community must understand the true value of college tennis and how disbanding teams robs us of the chance to develop countless groups of fine young men and women who will make our society better.  And we must do everything we can to save college tennis, because our kids and our world deserves better.

As much as it hurts to see the last home match I’ll ever be a part of at UMBC, the saving grace is to know that our tennis program has produced so many wonderful human beings who have and will go on to do great things in their lives.  While I may never see another UMBC Tennis match again, I take solace in knowing that the lasting memories, and the impact that UMBC Tennis has had on our lives, will live with us forever.

4 How to Get a College Tennis Scholarship with Doug Neagle

TFP 010: How to Get a College Tennis Scholarship with Doug Neagle

On Episode 10 of TFP, I spoke with Doug Neagle, Head Coach of the Towson University Women’s Tennis Program. Doug talked me through the recruiting process, important rules that parents, coaches, and players must follow, and the keys to getting a scholarship to play college tennis.

You will learn about eligibility, the best way to communicate with coaches, how scholarships are given to players, and excellent resources to help you navigate your way through the complex path of college tennis recruiting and scholarships.

On this episode, you will learn:

  • The most common reason why players are ineligible to play college tennis
  • Grade and test requirements to become a student-athlete
  • When the recruiting process begins
  • Restrictions on communicating with coaches, players, and parents
  • The best way to communicate with your prospects
  • How many official visits you get and why you should use them all
  • Tips on how to make a recruiting video and how NOT to make them
  • Doug’s favorite drills he uses to train his team
  • How to give yourself the best chance at getting a scholarship to play tennis

and more!

Many thanks to Doug for taking his time to speak with me about the college tennis recruiting and scholarship process.  I know that a ton of juniors players, parents and coaches with benefit from this episode.

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Links Mentioned in This Episode

College Tennis Checklist – Download my free checklist for aspiring college tennis players

NCAA Eligibility Center

NAIA Eligibility Center


TOEFL – exam for international players

Universal Tennis Rating



Athletics Partner

Towson Tennis

Towson Tennis Facebook Page

10 UMBC 2007 America East Champions

They Cut My Team – UMBC and the Alarming Demise of College Tennis

As a proud former UMBC Tennis player, I looked forward to attending my alma-mater’s matches for years to come. There’s an immense amount of joy associated with visiting your school, cheering on the team, and reliving the wonderful days of college athletics.

That dream has been destroyed.

Monday, November 2, was a dark day for UMBC Tennis. Both its men’s and women’s programs were declared eliminated after this season. Unfortunately, this is a common trend for college tennis, and not enough is being done about it.

The Decline of Tennis in the United States

In my previous article on The NCAA’s Move to No-Ad Scoring, I noted that according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, approximately 250 tennis programs have been cut since 2000. That’s around 2000-3000 spots on college tennis teams that have been eliminated since the beginning of this century. This is a staggering number of young men and women who no longer have the opportunity to play collegiate tennis.

We wonder why tennis isn’t as popular in the U.S.  You don’t need to think about this for too long when you consider that the presence of tennis teams in hundreds of schools are no more.

How do you expect tennis to grow by eliminating so many college tennis programs around the country? 

Each time we eliminate a college tennis team, the message sent is that tennis simply isn’t worth it. 

As a member of the UMBC tennis team, club tennis players and others who watched us play routinely asked us questions about tennis. They stopped by to watch us practice and cheer us on against other teams. I know for a fact that more people played tennis because they saw more high-level tennis around them.

Collegiate tennis programs serve as a motivating presence on campus and in the community.  Eliminating college tennis teams negatively impacts a community’s desire and excitement to play the game. 

While working on my previous article, 30 College Coaches Reveal Top Character Traits of Student-Athletes, I mentioned the elimination of UMBC Tennis to a couple of the coaches.

They sent their condolences, and gave a common piece of advice that stuck with me: We must be proactive in order to prevent more programs from being cut.

UMBC’s Letter Announcing the Decision

The decision to eliminate UMBC Tennis left me feeling shocked and confused. I had a lot of questions surrounding the reasons for the decision.

Let’s take a look at UMBC’s letter announcing the elimination of UMBC Tennis.

Argument 1 “Discontinuation of men’s and women’s tennis responds to a national trend of contraction in the number of sports offered at NCAA Division I schools”

This is a very weak and indefensible argument that should have been left out of the letter. The problem with this statement is that it tells the reader: “Well, other colleges are cutting tennis, so it’s fine for us to do it too.”

Contracting the number of sports at Division I schools is not the proper response to the national trend. It isn’t something we should be doing. Our response to the national trend should be to find ways to keep our athletic programs, not cut them.

Just because someone jumps off a cliff doesn’t mean you should, right?

Argument 2. “UMBC and fellow AEC schools entered into a two-year contract with the Missouri Valley Conference which concludes at the end of the 2016 Spring season. This temporary conference is not sustainable as it involves costly and time-consuming travel for student-athletes.”

While this argument may be valid, I have a lot of questions about it.

First, exactly how much additional travel did UMBC Tennis undertake by switching to the MVC last year?


Let’s take a look at UMBC’s 2014-2015 men’s away schedule against conference opponents.

It looks like the UMBC men didn’t play a new conference team (i.e. not Hartford or Stony Brook) until the MVC tournament. And UMBC has almost always had to travel somewhere for the postseason, so there’s not much of a difference being in MVC. The only additional burden is if UMBC chose to fly to the MVC tournament, which they could drive to (12 hours).

The only considerable financial burden I can see is if UMBC is required to add in away matches against its new conference foes (Drake, Illinois State, Southern Illinois, or Wichita State).

Still, I think the costs could be managed by, say, playing both Illinois schools in one trip and replacing the spring break trip to Texas with a local excursion. And wouldn’t half of those schools come to us anyway? There’s only 4 of them, after all.

So from a financial perspective, unless UMBC is required to add several away matches against MVC schools that require flights, there are virtually no additional travel costs associated with being a member of the MVC as opposed to the AEC. And the UMBC women are still in the America East as of today. No change there.

Second, could UMBC have found a home in another conference? We used to play in the Northeast Conference, so why can’t we go back there and crush it like we used to before the AEC?  And how about the Atlantic 10 conference? The vast majority of teams from both those conferences are in the Mid-Atlantic region or the east coast, which would reduce UMBC’s travel costs.

I sincerely hope UMBC considered entering another conference if the “this temporary conference is not sustainable” argument is truly a determinative reason for UMBC Tennis’s demise.

Argument 3.  “Internally, this step is also consistent with our efforts to maintain compliance with Title IX gender equity requirements for scholarships and operate our athletic programs effectively and efficiently.”

UMBC Athletics currently has 9 women’s teams and 8 men’s teams. And no football team. Therefore, I wonder how the elimination of UMBC Tennis was required to maintain UMBC’s compliance with Title IX.

According to guidance on Title IX, “the total amount of assistance awarded to men and women must be substantially proportionate to their participation rates in athletic programs.” 

So how does cutting both the men’s and women’s teams help compliance with Title IX? If only the men’s team was cut, I would view this argument as more legitimate. However, I do not see why cutting both teams would help equalize the proportion of female to male scholarships.

Admittedly, I am no Title IX expert, and I would appreciate an explanation as to how this move was required under Title IX. It doesn’t make sense to me when looking at UMBC’s men’s and women’s athletic teams.

The Excellence of UMBC Tennis

UMBC’s tennis teams have had some of the best student-athletes at UMBC. We have historically been on the high-end of the GPA scale. We dedicate ourselves to our sport and our academics, as do the vast majority of student-athletes at UMBC.

Keith Puryear, now head tennis coach at Navy, spent 19 years building UMBC into a thriving Division I program at UMBC. Rob Hubbard and assistant coach Oliver Steil continued to push the program to great heights.

I was extremely proud to hear about UMBC’s big wins over William and Mary and VCU last year. People who knew I played at UMBC remarked how strong both teams were playing. It is truly a shame to see the entire program go.

It is interesting that UMBC Tennis is the only team from the university to be eliminated. What is it about the tennis team that made it the unlucky recipient of the pink slip?

Is it because we don’t make enough money for the university? Let’s be honest, the only sports that consistently make money in college are basketball and football. There are 14 other sports at UMBC along with tennis that aren’t basketball or football.

And condolences to the Hartford University tennis program, which will be eliminated after this year.

A Message to UMBC Tennis

Give it everything you have this season. Show the university and everyone who voted to terminate our program what they are missing out on. Leave our program with a lasting impression of dignity, grit, and class.

I was lucky enough to serve as captain of the 2007 UMBC Men’s Team, the last one to win a conference title and make it to the NCAA tournament. And I want you to do everything in your power to take our place as the last UMBC Tennis team to be champions.

You are all fantastic players, and I wish you nothing but the best this season. Make us proud. The UMBC Tennis family is behind you.

You can take the dawg out of the fight, but you can’t take the fight out of the dawg.

Go Retrievers.

Aggie Women's Tennis

The NCAA’s Move to No-Ad Scoring is a Big Mistake – Here’s Why

Last week, the NCAA decided to implement no-ad scoring for the 2016 men’s and women’s Tennis Championships.

The decision to shorten collegiate tennis matches will negatively impact student-athletes and the reasoning for the change is flawed.

The Demise of College Tennis

Most student-athletes and tennis fans feel that college tennis has been under attack for decades.

The ITA reported that 204 tennis programs were cut between 2000-2009. This is nearly double the number of tennis teams cut from 1990-1999. An additional 40 programs have been eliminated since 2010. Some of the best, brightest, and most hard-working student athletes have seen their tennis aspirations cut short because tennis has been shortchanged in lieu of bigger sports such as football and basketball.

But the curtailing of college tennis doesn’t end with eliminating tennis programs. In the past few years, the NCAA has proposed a myriad of ways to shorten matches, from replacing third sets with a tiebreak, to cutting doubles from a pro set to one set to six.

Now, the NCAA’s Division I Competition Oversight Committee has approved no-ad scoring for all matches during the men’s and women’s tennis championships starting in 2016. This form of scoring will in all likelihood extend to all regular-season college tennis matches at the Division I level.

Three Reasons Why the Move to No-Ad Scoring is a Mistake

There are three important reasons why no-ad scoring has no place in college tennis.

First, the move to no-ad scoring severely alters the outcome of collegiate matches and emphasizes luck over skill. When two players fight their way to deuce, either player must win two points in a row. The deuce-ad-game format ensures that the player who deserves to win a close game is the victor. Now, with the change to no-ad, whoever wins the game becomes more of a crapshoot. A couple big serves or lucky bounces at deuce can determine whether the score of a set is 3-all or 6-0.

Second, no-ad scoring de-emphasizes physical fitness. Physical fitness is paramount to success not just in tennis but in life. College tennis teams, such as the Division I program I played for, practice for 3-4 hours a day and have fitness sessions several times a week. This does not count additional hitting sessions that many dedicated players participate in voluntarily to improve their games.

The NCAA/ITA’s decision communicates to collegiate tennis players that they do not have to worry as much about their fitness. The games will be quicker and the matches will be shorter. If I were playing now, I would be more concerned with developing a huge serve than running wind sprints, because there is no way a match is going to run over X-amount of hours with the no-ad format.

Third, no-ad scoring fails to prepare collegiate tennis players for competition after college, whether it be high-level sectional tournaments, futures events, or higher-level ATP/WTA events. Division I tennis is packed with talented and hungry players who want to continue competing after their four years are up.

How would the no-ad format prepare our highly-skilled collegiate players for future competition if no other tournament utilize no-ad play?

The best way to succeed at something is by performing in the same conditions over and over again. Therefore, the most optimal method to prepare student-athletes for future competition is to play ad-scoring, because that is the format used by virtually all bigger USTA tournaments, futures, and ATP/WTA tournaments.

The NCAA’s Arguments Supporting No-Ad Scoring are Flawed

The NCAA makes several arguments to support their decision for no-ad scoring. Let’s take a look at why none of their reasons merit the change.

First, the NCAA contends that it “made the recommendations to modify the tennis championships with hopes of reducing the length of the championship matches.”

What exactly is the benefit of reducing the championship matches? How does this really help the student-athletes? Collegiate tennis matches are already short enough with the “clinch-clinch” rule, where once a team clinches enough courts to win the doubles point or the match, the remaining matches in play are stopped.

Further, the NCAA/ITA has decided that doubles matches will be one set to six, with a tiebreak at 6-all.  While this move also unnecessarily shortens doubles by a couple games, it highlights the fact that collegiate tennis players aren’t as overworked and in need of rest as the NCAA and ITA may think.

One thing is for sure: shortening matches does help television and cable stations who broadcast tennis matches. We should care about what is best for our student-athletes, not broadcast networks.

Supporters of the move contend that tennis matches need to be shortened. But what about 7-hour college baseball games and 4-hour basketball games? Has the NCAA ever implemented rules to shorten the length of the major college sports? To the contrary: the NCAA has instituted rules to lengthen the “big-money” sports and curtail the smaller ones. Shortening collegiate tennis matches makes it seems like the NCAA wants less tennis and volleyball, and more football, basketball, and baseball.

Second, the NCAA posits that “with the health and well-being of student-athletes, the overall championship experience and fan engagement at the forefront, the ad hoc committee felt that the best direction for collegiate tennis was to move forward with the recommendation”

As noted above, tennis players work extremely hard on their fitness. By shortening the matches, the outcome is drastically changed and the game is increasingly left to chance. The physically superior players who can outlast their opponents are put at a disadvantage. Less of a premium is placed on endurance.

And who is to say that that fans prefer shorter matches? The last time I checked, fans love watching elite athletes battle it out for long periods of time. Division I tennis is the cream of the crop and only the best players and teams participate in the NCAA Championships.

Therefore, wouldn’t fan engagement increase by providing longer matches that are usually close because of the parity of the opponents’ skill level? These types of matches are the most exciting ones.

Using fan engagement as a reason for shortening matches can only suggest one thing: the NCAA/ITA thinks that fans do not enjoy watching tennis matches, and therefore would prefer that matches end quicker. Because if tennis fans truly enjoy college tennis, which is presumably the goal of the NCAA/ITA, then fans would want to see more tennis, not less of it.

Third, the NCAA states that “The ad hoc committee took into consideration feedback from all sides of the debate and was comfortable that this recommendation is in the best interest of the student-athlete experience and well-being.”

The contention that this decision is in the best interest of the student-athletes is tenuous at best.

Take a look at this survey of match format and scoring preferences of student-athletes and coaches based on a survey that ZooTennis published on its website.  The survey shows that a huge majority of student athletes (71.7% of males and 88.2% of females) and a solid majority of female head coaches (72.7%) are against no-ad scoring in the team competition.

Only a slight majority of men’s coaches prefer no-ad scoring.  The same goes for the singles and doubles championships.  It is very clear that student athletes prefer longer matches that adhere to traditional, regular scoring of tennis matches.

Top U.S. juniors have also sounded off on the no-ad format in college tennis.  Tennis prodigy Frances Tiafoe called no-ad scoring in collegiate tennis “a joke.”

Fourth, the NCAA similarly contends that “The goal of the scoring format change is to help improve student-athlete well-being at the ever-increasing high level of competition while maintaining the integrity of the game.  It emphasizes that every point counts and should make our championships matches even more exciting for fans.”

College tennis athletes are fit enough to play a set of doubles and a singles match in one day. This has been the format of college tennis for years, and there have been no major incidences or health-scares at the NCAA tournament that necessitate a move to no-ad scoring.

The contention that no-ad scoring emphasizes every point counts also doesn’t really make much sense.  Does the NCAA suggest that student-athletes don’t take every point seriously? Perhaps no-ad is good “big point training.” But we already have enough big points in the game. Clearly, every point, from deuce to ad-in/out to set and match point, are all extremely important and “count.”

Finally, maintaining the integrity of the game would be keeping the scoring as it has always been, instead of shortening the game to try and get more fans.  By the way, where is the study that shows increased attendance? And even if we do get a few more fans, respect for the game and the student-athlete playing it should come first.

Comments from UVA Coach Brian Boland

Inexplicably, the majority of the committee was in favor of the rule change. All but one coach, Brian Boland of NCAA Division I champions UVA, supported a change to the scoring of the storied game of tennis. You have got to wonder why such a convincing majority approved of the move.

Mr. Boland told Zootennis blog:

“I have voted against these absurd changes every single time. It hurts our game, I am fine with the no-ad in doubles, but this hurts us. The college coaches want to skip the hard work to get people engaged. This is not the answer at all. I am beyond disappointed.”

“I went to the College World Series (in Omaha) to support my good friend and neighbor and several of the games lasted over four hours, but I doubt they’re looking to go to six innings. They respect their game and have tremendous leadership. The atmosphere was amazing. The solution is to find a final site that can accommodate the number of teams (at the NCAAs). We have a circus-like atmosphere now and this like swallowing a pill to fix our problems.”

It is also curious that the only member speaking against the decision was not in the U.S. at the time of the decision.  Boland told Zootennis: ” I would have been much more vocal, but I have been overseas.

Closing Thoughts

The NCAA hopes that shortening matches will increase the visibility and popularity of men’s and women’s college tennis. However, this flawed approach shortchanges the student-athletes and fans who want to see high-level tennis played according to the traditional and more equitable scoring rules used in virtually all other levels of competition after college.

Instead, the NCAA needs to focus its efforts on promoting collegiate tennis matches from the ground up and developing a lasting popularity of the sport among the masses. The NCAA should work together with the USTA and ITA to restore tennis to the popularity it enjoyed during the era of John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, and Chris Evert.

Hopefully the NCAA realizes that no-ad scoring benefits no one and restores regular scoring in collegiate tennis. At this rate, if we keep shortening the length of tennis matches, we won’t have anything left to watch.