Nobody is a fan of change
This year, the NCAA is attempting some major rule changes to women’s tennis.
The rule tweaks have completely changed the way the matches are played. Most of the modifications are made to shorten the length of dual matches. Those have lasted as long as four and a half hours; far longer than other student-athletes are asked to compete.
“The matches were taking really long, especially when you have a long weekend and are playing three dual-set matches,” said UNLV women’s tennis senior Aleksandra Josifoska. “By the third day, you are pretty much dead, so you’re really saving your time and energy and you’re saving your body.”
The NCAA removed the warm-up with opponents before singles and doubles. Teams were allotted their normal warm-up time, but no time was given for the player and their opponent to warm up before the match.
“We try to extend our warm-up just a couple of minutes before we start as opposed to giving them 10 minutes to change,” said head coach Kevin Cory.
The time between doubles and singles play was also reduced to five minutes, with the changeover time between sets limited to 60 seconds.
While those changes can disrupt a team’s normal preparation, they don’t directly affect the matches. The more impactful changes were shortening the matches. Doubles matches were no longer played to eight. Instead teams raced to six points, with a tiebreaker.
“That’s actually when you get to the point where the game is breaking,” Josifoska said. “That’s when you might actually lose the match or win it.”
Singles matches didn’t escape the alterations either. The traditional best-of-three set format was replaced by two sets, with a super tiebreaker — first player to 10 points — to decide the final set if the first two are split.
“I like the 10-point tiebreaker,” Cory said. “It makes it really exciting at the end.”
These overhauls to the game came from the NCAA and International Tennis Association (ITA) due to the dwindling fan support. The ITA said shortening the format will make the game more exciting for fans, and programs will be able to attract fan support and attention.
“Anything we can do to get more people out to support the team would be great,” Cory said.
The two entities hope that by standardizing match length, it will allow teams to schedule more creatively.
The strangest part is that these rules were only for a trial period. The NCAA decided to try this until Feb. 10.
“I would rather, if we’re going to make a change, let’s do it for a year and then let’s evaluate it at the end of the year,” Cory said. “I’d like it to be a little more consistent going forward.”
While he considers himself part of the old-school mentality, Cory isn’t alone in his views on the changes.
“My feeling is that I like to prepare the team to play the same way we’re going to play at the conference tournament and the NCAA tournament, as opposed to changing mid-stream, which is I think a lot of the feedback I’ve heard from the other coaches,” he said.
The players have been affected more than anyone..
“We are used to the other rules our entire life,” Josifoska said. “It’s not good, but the bottom line is we have to accept it even if we don’t like it because nobody really asked us.”