Official changes format DURING a match??? Is this allowed?

#1
A USTA sanctioned tournament is being played and the players start their second match of the tournament. The format for the first match was best 2 out of 3 sets with a 10 point tie break in lieu of a third set. The tournament desk does not advise either player at check-in of any change to the format. USTA official comes out to the court for the start of the match to advise players "time to play" and the match begins.

Score of first set is 5-2. During a changeover, a USTA official stops the players as they are about to resume play. The official tells the players that there has been a change to the format (now short sets, best 2 out of 3, first to 4 games, and a 10 point tie break in lieu of a third set) and they should have been told prior to play starting. Both players state that they were not aware of the change in format and tell the official that he too did not say anything to them at the start of their match about any change to the format.

The official says he has to correct "their mistake" and awards player A the first set, changes the on court score keeper and starts to walk away. Player A says that since he had already won 5 games (score was 5-2 at this time), shouldn't he start the second set with the score 1-0 since he already earned that game? The official says, "no, you guys didn't use the right format". Player A says that is not fair to me since we were not told AND now you are penalizing me by taking a game away from me - what about player B? How are you going to penalize him for not knowing the format change since you penalized me by taking a game away from me? The USTA official literally walked away without explanation.

Any comments and/or insight as to how this SHOULD have been handled would be appreciated. Of course the players could have inquired at the desk when checking in for their second match but they did not have any reason to believe the format was being changed because it was not posted anywhere either online or at the tournament site.
 
#2
How did the game scores go?

Example:

Game 1 player A wins 1-0
Game 2 player A wins 2-0
Game 3 player B wins 2-1
Game 4 player B wins 2-2
Game 5 player A wins 3-2
Game 6 player A wins 4-2 <--- set should be over here...
Game 7 player A wins 5-2 <--- you could make the case that the 5th game should count towards the second set and the score should be 1-0 in set 2 with player A up a set. HOWEVER... look at this next example:

Game 1 player A wins 1-0
Game 2 player A wins 2-0
Game 3 player A wins 3-0
Game 4 player A wins 4-0 <--- set should be over here...
Game 5 player B wins 4-1
Game 6 player B wins 4-2
Game 7 player A wins 5-2 <--- should the last 3 games be moved to set #2 and the score be 2-1 with player B ahead, but Player A up a set?

For this reason, I think that despite the shabby situation that happend with the format change mid-match, the best thing they could do was just truncate the score and move on - not a great solution, but given that the tournament officials already messed up by not being clear about the format, they likely would have made it worse by doing anything else than what they did.
 
#3
Thanks for the reply - good question?

It went like this...

Game 1 player A wins 1-0
Game 2 player A wins 2-0
Game 3 player A wins 3-0
Game 4 player B wins 3-1
Game 5 player B wins 3-2
Game 6 player A wins 4-2 <--- set should be over here...
Game 7 player A wins 5-2
Official changes format and takes a game away from Player A to start second set 0-0.

Here's the rub...

USTA Official #2, not involved with this match, comes over to the players AFTER the match has concluded and tells both players that IF something similar were to ever happen to them again, they should NOT alter the format of their match. She stated that once a match starts with a specific format of play, it is not to be changed. However, it can be changed for their next match. In this case, both players agreed that they were not told and if in agreement, they could have continued with traditional scoring. A risk for player A since they could have lost the set if player B came back to win the first set.

The whole thing stinks but the fundamental rules question here is "can a match format be changed once the players have started and are past a point that they can't correct to the NEW format"?
 

TagUrIt

Professional
#4
I strongly disagree with how the USTA official handled this situation. It sounds like they wanted the players to do “Fast Four” sets, but that was to explained before the match started, not when it was in progress.
 
#5
Thanks for the reply - good question?

It went like this...

Game 1 player A wins 1-0
Game 2 player A wins 2-0
Game 3 player A wins 3-0
Game 4 player B wins 3-1
Game 5 player B wins 3-2
Game 6 player A wins 4-2 <--- set should be over here...
Game 7 player A wins 5-2
Official changes format and takes a game away from Player A to start second set 0-0.

Here's the rub...

USTA Official #2, not involved with this match, comes over to the players AFTER the match has concluded and tells both players that IF something similar were to ever happen to them again, they should NOT alter the format of their match. She stated that once a match starts with a specific format of play, it is not to be changed. However, it can be changed for their next match. In this case, both players agreed that they were not told and if in agreement, they could have continued with traditional scoring. A risk for player A since they could have lost the set if player B came back to win the first set.

The whole thing stinks but the fundamental rules question here is "can a match format be changed once the players have started and are past a point that they can't correct to the NEW format"?
Thanks for explaining. I am guessing here as I am not really familiar with USTA match format rules (apologies), but what Official #2 said is in keeping with other USTA rules that say things like when you get out of rotation for serving, or forget to switching sides of the court or whatnot, and notice it later, you just keep going the way you are and assume good faith, but keeping the new court switch/serve rotation... i.e. Official #2s explanation sounds to me like what SHOULD have been done.

I would also say that regardless of whether or not the players were past the point to correct to a new match format, the match format agreed to at the start of the match should stand... for example, let's say you're down 3-2 and think it's a 6 game set format and your opponent is serving. You might play at a different level to break him than if you were trying to break to stay in the set...

So... yeah, I think that once a match starts, the format should not be changed if at all possible.
 
#6
I guess the answer is: "before you step out to play a match in a tournament make sure you are aware of the format for scoring in case its changed." I've played in lots of tournaments where due to time constraints consolation matches were changed to abbreviated scoring formats (mostly no-ad).

Question is whether the onus is on the players to ask or the officials to inform?
 
#7
Given this was match #2 and both players had already played a first match using traditional scoring, neither player had any reason to believe there was a change to the format.

So is the onus on the players or the officials/tournament staff to be advised/informed?

I can't find anything in the Friend at Court that explicitly speaks to this but maybe I am missing something...
 
#8
Given this was match #2 and both players had already played a first match using traditional scoring, neither player had any reason to believe there was a change to the format.

So is the onus on the players or the officials/tournament staff to be advised/informed?

I can't find anything in the Friend at Court that explicitly speaks to this but maybe I am missing something...
Was match #2 a consolation? If that's the case I'd always suggest asking beforehand. If it was main draw then I've never seen that before and would think that's an officials job to inform.
 
#9
Match #2 was in the main draw.

I agree that asking beforehand is the way to go but I have NEVER seen anything handled like this in all my years around competitive tennis.
 
#10
The only time I have seen a tournament change formats in the middle of the draw was when their was impending bad weather .... e.g. they knew that early afternoon t-storms were moving in.... and in that case the TD was running around making 100% certain everyone knew about it (changed to no-Ad).... you were told when you checked in, you were reminded when you went and picked up your balls and got your court assignment .... if you didn't know, it was on you.

You shouldn't have to ask .... perhaps in hindsight, if you knew bad weather or some such might cause a problem you might have wanted to ask, but definitely no onus on you to do so ... that is 100% the TD's responsibility.
 
#11
but definitely no onus on you to do so ... that is 100% the TD's responsibility.
Agreed. The format is outlined prior to the tournament, and if there's any deviation from that you should be informed by tournament staff.

IF something similar were to ever happen to them again, they should NOT alter the format of their match.
Frankly I would've talked to my opponent to try and do that anyway. We can agree on a score to report after we're done, but we're playing this out the way we started.

Player A says that since he had already won 5 games (score was 5-2 at this time), shouldn't he start the second set with the score 1-0 since he already earned that game?
My understanding is that things done in good faith are not usually "erased", so probably a second mistake in handling the situation.
 
#12
A USTA sanctioned tournament is being played and the players start their second match of the tournament. The format for the first match was best 2 out of 3 sets with a 10 point tie break in lieu of a third set. The tournament desk does not advise either player at check-in of any change to the format. USTA official comes out to the court for the start of the match to advise players "time to play" and the match begins.

Score of first set is 5-2. During a changeover, a USTA official stops the players as they are about to resume play. The official tells the players that there has been a change to the format (now short sets, best 2 out of 3, first to 4 games, and a 10 point tie break in lieu of a third set) and they should have been told prior to play starting. Both players state that they were not aware of the change in format and tell the official that he too did not say anything to them at the start of their match about any change to the format.

The official says he has to correct "their mistake" and awards player A the first set, changes the on court score keeper and starts to walk away. Player A says that since he had already won 5 games (score was 5-2 at this time), shouldn't he start the second set with the score 1-0 since he already earned that game? The official says, "no, you guys didn't use the right format". Player A says that is not fair to me since we were not told AND now you are penalizing me by taking a game away from me - what about player B? How are you going to penalize him for not knowing the format change since you penalized me by taking a game away from me? The USTA official literally walked away without explanation.

Any comments and/or insight as to how this SHOULD have been handled would be appreciated. Of course the players could have inquired at the desk when checking in for their second match but they did not have any reason to believe the format was being changed because it was not posted anywhere either online or at the tournament site.
Gotta love that USTA. The more and more I hear these stories, makes me just want to play for fun; no leagues, no tourneys


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

J_R_B

Hall of Fame
#13
Thanks for the reply - good question?

It went like this...

Game 1 player A wins 1-0
Game 2 player A wins 2-0
Game 3 player A wins 3-0
Game 4 player B wins 3-1
Game 5 player B wins 3-2
Game 6 player A wins 4-2 <--- set should be over here...
Game 7 player A wins 5-2
Official changes format and takes a game away from Player A to start second set 0-0.

Here's the rub...

USTA Official #2, not involved with this match, comes over to the players AFTER the match has concluded and tells both players that IF something similar were to ever happen to them again, they should NOT alter the format of their match. She stated that once a match starts with a specific format of play, it is not to be changed. However, it can be changed for their next match. In this case, both players agreed that they were not told and if in agreement, they could have continued with traditional scoring. A risk for player A since they could have lost the set if player B came back to win the first set.

The whole thing stinks but the fundamental rules question here is "can a match format be changed once the players have started and are past a point that they can't correct to the NEW format"?
I agree with official #2. I would have told official #1 that I'm not changing the format mid match and that if he/she has a problem, send the tournament director over.
 

MathGeek

Hall of Fame
#14
Unfortunately, I've known miscommunication on match format to be fairly common at USTA events. But I've never encountered a heavy handed attempt to erase games or points played in order to correct a miscommunication. My understanding is even in cases of miscommunication - all points played in good faith stand and all games played in good faith stand.

But I don't think I've seen a rule or other guidance insisting that matches continue with the same format they started with in the event of a miscommunication. And I have seen matches change in mid-stream from ad to no-ad and vice versa. I just don't think I've ever seen a set get past 4 wins on one side when it was supposed to be a short set. I think declaring the first set over is within the discretion of the tournament officials, but that it should be recorded as 5-2, since all games played in good faith stand. But I don't think the extra game(s) can be credited to the second set, since both players understood them to count toward the first set when they were played. Part of "good faith" is not just who won each game. Part of "good faith" is what set they counted toward. You wouldn't argue that if you won a game accidentally playing "ad" when you were supposed to play "no ad" that the extra point should count toward the next game, would you? That would just be silly.

But if I was an event director (any sport) and participants refused to follow my instructions, they'd both be immediately disqualified from the tournament and sent home. They can appeal to the sanctioning agency later if they like. Letting participants get away with that kind of intentional disruption is a recipe for anarchy. See ya!

After a while, one gets the sense for which local directors are in the habit of shortening matches based on any pretext to get home early rather than those who have legitimate (usually weather-related) reasons and which local directors are better or worse at communicating changes. I recommend voting with your feet and not attending those tournaments any more. Friends and family have noticed (at least in our area) these occurances are more common for USTA events than for UTR and independent events. Most of us have let our USTA memberships lapse and are now focused on other events, of which there are plenty to choose from.
 
Last edited:

Nacho

Professional
#16
A USTA sanctioned tournament is being played and the players start their second match of the tournament. The format for the first match was best 2 out of 3 sets with a 10 point tie break in lieu of a third set. The tournament desk does not advise either player at check-in of any change to the format. USTA official comes out to the court for the start of the match to advise players "time to play" and the match begins.

Score of first set is 5-2. During a changeover, a USTA official stops the players as they are about to resume play. The official tells the players that there has been a change to the format (now short sets, best 2 out of 3, first to 4 games, and a 10 point tie break in lieu of a third set) and they should have been told prior to play starting. Both players state that they were not aware of the change in format and tell the official that he too did not say anything to them at the start of their match about any change to the format.

The official says he has to correct "their mistake" and awards player A the first set, changes the on court score keeper and starts to walk away. Player A says that since he had already won 5 games (score was 5-2 at this time), shouldn't he start the second set with the score 1-0 since he already earned that game? The official says, "no, you guys didn't use the right format". Player A says that is not fair to me since we were not told AND now you are penalizing me by taking a game away from me - what about player B? How are you going to penalize him for not knowing the format change since you penalized me by taking a game away from me? The USTA official literally walked away without explanation.

Any comments and/or insight as to how this SHOULD have been handled would be appreciated. Of course the players could have inquired at the desk when checking in for their second match but they did not have any reason to believe the format was being changed because it was not posted anywhere either online or at the tournament site.
Players "should" have been notified of the scoring before they even stepped foot on the court.

Only reason for scoring adjustments during the tournament would be because of time constraints (Weather etc...) and this happens moderately in all tournaments

If an official comes over and corrects the players during the match, without the players being aware, the tournament director should have been notified and permitted to rule on the situation.

The losing player could conceivably protest the outcome, or the result with the USTA. My guess is the tournament site would say they informed them, so it would be a "he said" "she said" situation, which wouldn't be one the player would win unless multiple players complained.

Lets face it, its a USTA tournament....Frustrating, but not the end of the world. Its not the pro tour, or rocket science. They are a local level volunteer run organization, with some average ref's roaming around making a few bucks on the weekends at random tournaments. Some of them are really great and care, for others its a senior citizens job program and they are sloppy at how they administer these things. Not much you can do except run your own tournament outside of the USTA without their sanctioning....I would like to think the more the feedback is given to the powers that be at the USTA the more they will listen, but unless you cancel memberships and interest in their cash cow programs they really won't care....No one said you couldn't host tournaments on your own, but its an undertaking and not a very profitable one...Situations like this don't help the perception of USA tennis being subpar at all levels, and the interest in pro tennis waning.
 

JLyon

Hall of Fame
#18
this is why every tournament needs to have a competent referee to cancel out an ill-informed official. The players have the right in this case to call the referee to court to decide the dispute with the official.
 
#19
this is why every tournament needs to have a competent referee to cancel out an ill-informed official. The players have the right in this case to call the referee to court to decide the dispute with the official.
This is correct. A player can call for the referee on a rule of law.

When i was an official i was trained to state the scoring format at the time of the coin toss (prior to the warm up). And if there were format changes the referee asked that me make sure to reiterate that to the players prior to starting the match. But i think i was trained by some quality officials and worked under some quality referees. And I also knew who some of the less quality referees were and didn’t work under them.

Unfortunately, it sounds like you got a poor referee and a poor official (#1).

Friend at Court does have some provisions as to what you if players realize they’re playing a third set out rather than a match TB if that was the correct format. I don’t recall the provisions off the top of my head, but basically once you get past a certain point, they gotta play it out. So, i would say the same spirit should be applied to this circumstance and the match should be played in the same format as round 1.

The only wild card may be if the change in format was posted on the tournament site on tennislink prior to round 2. Whoever was sending you on court and the official before the match should have reiterated the change, but then an argument is created that you should have known about the posted change.

Whatever the case may be, I believe the official should have involved the tournament referee in such a critical decision in the match.
 
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