Middle States Blog

Ask Aunt Sally – Order of Strength

Question: At USTA events – where you have access to the players ratings – why not ask the captains for the players names and then assign the courts (1,2,3, etc.) according to the players ratings?

Answer: This question addresses whether or not a captain should have the discretion to place players on court regardless of how strong they are.  Should the best players be on court one?  Is it fair to stack your lineup?

This question is debated across the country by league players everywhere.  Some feel that strategy is part of play.  Others say that the best tennis comes from  best players on Court 1.  Also, they say that the ratings would be better if there was an order of strength rule.

If there was an “order of strength” rule, how would order of strength be determined?  Since captains do not know the ratings of their players in hundredths, they would have to guess based on results who is the best team they have.  Rules could say that if you have 3.0 players on 3.5 teams that the 3.0 players cannot play in a higher court than a 3.5 player.  What happens if a 3.5 player with a 3.0 partner always beats two 3.5 players on their team?

As we can see there are many questions out there about how to mandate order of strength or whether we should mandate order of strength.

It is true that section administrators know whose ratings are the highest on the team.  If someone other than the captain put together a lineup for a match based on whose ratings in hundredths are the highest, how would it be decided who would play singles and who would play doubles?  Suppose the two best players cannot play together in first doubles?  And it would be exceedingly time consuming at a tournament to be able to do this.

Currently, USTA does not have a rule in place that mandates order of strength.  Captains can put together lineups as they see fit.

A possible future rule would involve giving teams points for each court won.  If you win first singles or first doubles, your team would get 5 points and fewer points would be assigned for lower courts.  The team with the highest number of points at the end of the season would advance.  An example, two teams could be tied 8 and 1 at the end of the season.  Team A won mostly 1st singles and 1st doubles and Team B won mostly lower courts.  Team A would advance because they had more points even though their match record would be tied.

If you have a question for Aunt Sally, submit it here.

Categories: Middle States Blog

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