Minnesota experiences experimental rule changes

The Gophers will play matches with traditional scoring this weekend.

Jace Frederick

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association implemented experimental scoring rules for the first month of this season. These rules were designed to speed up matches and make them easier for fans to watch.

These experimental rule changes also benefited the health of the student-athletes by eliminating ridiculously long matches, Gophers women’s head coach Chuck Merzbacher said.

Minnesota’s men’s and women’s teams will return to traditional collegiate scoring rules this weekend.

“I think it went pretty well,” Merzbacher said, “[but] I think there are some things they can tweak.”

Men: no-ad scoring

The men’s game featured probably the biggest change — no-advantage scoring.

Thus, whenever a game reached 40-40, or deuce, the next point was a sudden-death scenario in which the winner won the game.

Gophers men’s head coach Geoff Young said that rule change made for more upsets and surprising results.

“I like that; I think that’s good,” he said. “I wasn’t a fan of it at the beginning of the year, but as it went on, it was at times exciting. I’m more open to it than at the beginning.”

Women: third-set tiebreak

The biggest change in the women’s game was replacing a third set with a tiebreaker in singles matches.

So when a singles match featured a split of the first two sets, instead of playing a third set, the two players competed in a tiebreaker played to 10 points.

“I like that,” Merzbacher said. “That’s fan-friendly. … That gives you some gray hairs.”

Both: shortening doubles

In the college game, doubles matches have always been short, relatively speaking. They generally consist of a set that stretches to eight games.

In the experimental rules, however, the single set was cut down to a first-to-six-games format.

Young and Merzbacher both seemed hesitant about the move because they said fans enjoy the doubles matches.

“Shortening the doubles is trying to make a McDonald’s hamburger faster,” Merzbacher said.

And with the men’s no-ad scoring, some doubles matches wrapped up in less than 20 minutes.

“You don’t even have time to react,” senior Juan Pablo Ramirez said. “If you go down, it’s really hard to come back.”

Both: no warm-up time

At the college level, players usually have three minutes to warm up with their opponents before the match. That period was cut in both the men’s and women’s game.

Ramirez said the change affected him at the start of the matches. He said it’s especially tough transitioning right from a doubles match to a singles match.

“I think at the beginning, it does affect you,” Ramirez said. “You’re used to playing a certain way, and all of the sudden, it’s like, ‘Boom!’ change.”

Permanent?

While the past month was deemed an experiment, it seems like permanent change is on the way. It just won’t happen this season.

Merzbacher said he thinks the ITA is going to implement rule changes that are close to what the players experimented with this season.

“I think we’re on the right track,” he said.

Still, not everyone is in favor of the changes.

Ramirez said he liked the “clinch” policy. With this policy, once a team earned the four matches necessary to win, the dual was over.

As for the other modifications, he’s not a fan.

“I honestly didn’t like it at all,” he said. “It’s weird to change the score of a sport that’s already set. You don’t have to make any more changes. The sport is already invented, so you don’t need to modify that.”