Trip report from 18+ NTRP Nationals (Doubles) @ Naples

leech

Rookie
Just returned from a weekend at NTRP Nationals for 3.5 men's doubles. It was hosted by Academia Sanchez-Casal in Naples, FL, on clay courts.

First, I'll explain how my doubles partner and I qualified. In the MidAtlantic Section, players can qualify for NTRP Nationals in one of two ways: (1) by being the year-end tournament points leader in the Section for your NTRP level, or (2) win the MidAtlantic Section championships, a tournament held in the fall. My partner and I played just one tournament together, in December, and we won it, earning 400 points. I did not expect that to be enough to qualify us, but apparently that was enough. I had been trying to qualify in singles, but was around 4th place, so was pleasantly surprised to get the invitation for the doubles event. (I was unable to play in the MidAtlantic Section championships in the fall.)

The NTRP Nationals used a modified Fast Four format. Five minute warmup. Best of three sets to 4 games. No-ad scoring. Set TB to 5 to be played if it reaches 3-3 in a set, win by 1. 2 serves per player; switch sides after 4 points. If set TB reaches 4-4, then spin racquet to determine which team serves for the sudden death point. We received so many different rulings on how the set TB should be played, though. Do we keep the same service order in the set TB, as we do in a normal set TB? There is an argument that each team should be able to choose the service order, if they wanted to keep the servers serving from the side they've been serving throughout the set. We got two different rulings on two different days. And then for the "golden point" if the set TB reaches 4-4, the receiving team should be able to choose which partner receives, as they would in any other "game point" situation, right? Nope, in our final match, the official told us that the server HAS to serve from the deuce court...which neither team agreed with, but didn't matter because that was what the receiving team had chosen anyway. But the tourney staff should set forth these rules more clearly to the participants and to the officials.

I enjoyed the Fast Four format. It allows more matches to be played; can easily play three Fast Four matches in a day if needed. There are a lot more pressure-packed moments. One change I'd make is to have regular ad scoring for doubles matches, and keep no-ad scoring for singles matches (which could go on forever if regular scoring were used). I think doubles matches would be done in about an hour, even with regular ad scoring, using the Fast Four format.

For 3.5 men, there were 15 doubles teams split into four flights. We were in a flight with four teams, so had three round-robin matches to determine which "knockout" bracket we'd be placed in. The first place finisher from each flight would compete in a bracket to compete for places 1-4; second place finishers play for places 5-8, etc.

Our first opponents were a pair from AL. Looked up their stats from TennisRecord. One was 53-16 in 2018, with a current estimated rating of 3.29; the other was 45-28 in 2018, with a current estimated rating of 3.32. On paper, should be our easiest match of the flight. We won the toss and I elected to serve...and was immediately broken. And then fell down 0-40 in the second game; couldn't keep the ball away from the net person. But we ran off four straight points (including the game point once it got to 40-all) to win the game and then figured things out from there to win the first set 4-1. Couldn't pull away in the second set, so had to play a 5-point tiebreak, which we won 5-2. Got a 4-1, 4-3(2) win on the books to start the tournament.

We had about 90 minutes to wait for our second flight match, so we chilled inside to avoid the Florida heat and humidity. Our next opponents were from GA and just demolished the pair that we thought would be our toughest flight opponents in the first round. The TR stats for the GA pair showed a 22-7 record in 2018 with a 3.40 current rating for one, 18-4 record in 2018 with a 3.45 rating for the other. They both had their families with them, and seemed like they were pretty serious about winning this thing. One guy was pretty active at net, and the other guy could seemingly rip DTL winners at will. We started out in a 1-3 hole, but managed to find a break back and force a first set TB. We were fortunate enough to win the set TB 5-3. The second set was just as close, with each of us holding until it got to 3-2. One of our opponents was up 40-0 on his serve, one point away from forcing a second set TB, but we reeled off four straight points to end the match. Whew.

Our final flight match was the next morning, versus a pair from FL. Both our AL and GA opponents had crushed the FL opponents, so we weren't very concerned, despite me tweaking an ankle during the second match, and despite TR showing estimated ratings of 3.53 and 3.58 for this pair. Maybe we should have been more concerned...we won a couple of game points to take a closely contested first set 4-2, then fell behind 0-3 in the second set! I could not keep a ball in play, missing 6 or 7 shots that I had no business missing. But perhaps nerves got to our opponents, and may partner and I started playing better, just in time to come back and win the second set in tiebreak (5-2 in the TB).

Not sure how they determined which semifinalists play each other; it seemed like it was pre-determined based on the flights, rather than seeding based on performance. Because even though one team got through to the top bracket with a 2-1 record, it was my partner and I who faced the top pair, who had rolled through their flight dropping 5 total games in their three matches. TR showed that these guys were by far the most formidable opponents we could possibly face. One guy was 18-1 in 2018 (13-1 in 2019 as a 4.0), with a 3.62 estimated rating. The "weaker" opponent had gone 22-8 in 2018 (11-1 in 2019 as a 4.0), with a 3.60 rating. And they'd barely broken a sweat in their three flight matches.

They both have blistering forehands and serves with a lot of pace...and a cheering contingent. We would have our work cut out for us. We manage to somehow break both of them to take a 3-0 lead to start the match (including one game point in our favor), but those guys dug in and we found ourselves in a set tiebreak. A couple of key defensive plays kept us in it, and we took the set tiebreak 5-3 to get up a set. The second set didn't seem all that close, as the Dallas boys started absolutely crushing their forehands (didn't help that neither my partner or I could hit serves with any pace or placement that match...served up lollipops that they consistently smashed for winners or near-winners). They took the second set 4-2. Both of them were serving well, finding their groove after a shaky start. The third set didn't seem close, with them holding easily and my partner and I struggling on our serves. The opponents were up a break at 3-2 and were serving at 40-0...four match points. We staved off three of them to force a game point. If we won that, perhaps nerves would have gotten to our opponents. I chose to receive. Opponent faults on the first serve. I half-expected a double fault, given the pressure of the moment. But the opponent got a decent second serve in the box, I hit a safe return past the net person. But two shots later, one of the opponents hits a well placed ball right between my partner and me. It would have been a tough backhand volley for my partner, so he let it go, but I was expecting him to hit it so wasn't ready. The ball bounced a second time before I could reach it...match over. Opponents from Dallas won it 3-4(3), 4-2, 4-2. (And then won the Finals, dropping just one game. They were good.)

So that sucked. It was still before noon, but they'd scheduled the 3rd/4th place match for the next morning. We asked the tournament staff if we could play the 3rd/4th place match Saturday afternoon, if our opponents were willing. The staff said yes, but they could not reach our opponents. We ended up playing the next morning as scheduled.

Our opponents in the 3rd/4th place match were also from TX (San Antonio). They had TR estimated ratings of 3.54 (18-12 in 2019 as a 4.0) and 3.51 (4-0 record in 2019 as a 4.0). One kid hit serves and forehands with as much pace as anyone we'd faced, and his older partner was crafty at net with a lot of well placed angles. Felt like it would be a good match, and it was. Lots of extended rallies, each of us making good defensive plays to keep the points alive. Very few non-volley winners. The kid had to take a medical timeout to stop bleeding from a gash he got from running into the fence chasing down a ball. Each set went to tiebreak. We played our first "golden point", where I served at 4-4 in the TB. It was another extended rally, and we breathed a sigh of relief after an opponent's ball sailed a couple of feet out to give us the first set. The second set was more of the same...I don't think there was a break of serve the entire match. We won the second set TB at 5-2 to take third place.

Both the 3rd and 4th place finishers received a medal. The champions and finalists received a trophy.

I felt the tournament was well run. They kept us on schedule, and enforced the 5-minute warmup (which I hadn't seen done at other Nationals). Plenty of officials roaming around (I never saw them engage other than to conduct the coin toss and warn players their 5-minute warmup time was ending, but good to have a presence). Courts were very well groomed. Liked everything but the final result for my partner and me, ha.
 

Ft.S

Semi-Pro
Great story. I guess the trip was well worth it :D

Your last year as a 3.5 could not have gone better; even Federer, Nadal or Joker don’t win that many, 3rd place is amazing achievement given the competitors. Well done!!! (y)
 
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ChaelAZ

Legend
Just returned from a weekend at NTRP Nationals for 3.5 men's doubles. It was hosted by Academia Sanchez-Casal in Naples, FL, on clay courts.

First, I'll explain how my doubles partner and I qualified. In the MidAtlantic Section, players can qualify for NTRP Nationals in one of two ways: (1) by being the year-end tournament points leader in the Section for your NTRP level, or (2) win the MidAtlantic Section championships, a tournament held in the fall. My partner and I played just one tournament together, in December, and we won it, earning 400 points. I did not expect that to be enough to qualify us, but apparently that was enough. I had been trying to qualify in singles, but was around 4th place, so was pleasantly surprised to get the invitation for the doubles event. (I was unable to play in the MidAtlantic Section championships in the fall.)

The NTRP Nationals used a modified Fast Four format. Five minute warmup. Best of three sets to 4 games. No-ad scoring. Set TB to 5 to be played if it reaches 3-3 in a set, win by 1. 2 serves per player; switch sides after 4 points. If set TB reaches 4-4, then spin racquet to determine which team serves for the sudden death point. We received so many different rulings on how the set TB should be played, though. Do we keep the same service order in the set TB, as we do in a normal set TB? There is an argument that each team should be able to choose the service order, if they wanted to keep the servers serving from the side they've been serving throughout the set. We got two different rulings on two different days. And then for the "golden point" if the set TB reaches 4-4, the receiving team should be able to choose which partner receives, as they would in any other "game point" situation, right? Nope, in our final match, the official told us that the server HAS to serve from the deuce court...which neither team agreed with, but didn't matter because that was what the receiving team had chosen anyway. But the tourney staff should set forth these rules more clearly to the participants and to the officials.

I enjoyed the Fast Four format. It allows more matches to be played; can easily play three Fast Four matches in a day if needed. There are a lot more pressure-packed moments. One change I'd make is to have regular ad scoring for doubles matches, and keep no-ad scoring for singles matches (which could go on forever if regular scoring were used). I think doubles matches would be done in about an hour, even with regular ad scoring, using the Fast Four format.

For 3.5 men, there were 15 doubles teams split into four flights. We were in a flight with four teams, so had three round-robin matches to determine which "knockout" bracket we'd be placed in. The first place finisher from each flight would compete in a bracket to compete for places 1-4; second place finishers play for places 5-8, etc.

Our first opponents were a pair from AL. Looked up their stats from TennisRecord. One was 53-16 in 2018, with a current estimated rating of 3.29; the other was 45-28 in 2018, with a current estimated rating of 3.32. On paper, should be our easiest match of the flight. We won the toss and I elected to serve...and was immediately broken. And then fell down 0-40 in the second game; couldn't keep the ball away from the net person. But we ran off four straight points (including the game point once it got to 40-all) to win the game and then figured things out from there to win the first set 4-1. Couldn't pull away in the second set, so had to play a 5-point tiebreak, which we won 5-2. Got a 4-1, 4-3(2) win on the books to start the tournament.

We had about 90 minutes to wait for our second flight match, so we chilled inside to avoid the Florida heat and humidity. Our next opponents were from GA and just demolished the pair that we thought would be our toughest flight opponents in the first round. The TR stats for the GA pair showed a 22-7 record in 2018 with a 3.40 current rating for one, 18-4 record in 2018 with a 3.45 rating for the other. They both had their families with them, and seemed like they were pretty serious about winning this thing. One guy was pretty active at net, and the other guy could seemingly rip DTL winners at will. We started out in a 1-3 hole, but managed to find a break back and force a first set TB. We were fortunate enough to win the set TB 5-3. The second set was just as close, with each of us holding until it got to 3-2. One of our opponents was up 40-0 on his serve, one point away from forcing a second set TB, but we reeled off four straight points to end the match. Whew.

Our final flight match was the next morning, versus a pair from FL. Both our AL and GA opponents had crushed the FL opponents, so we weren't very concerned, despite me tweaking an ankle during the second match, and despite TR showing estimated ratings of 3.53 and 3.58 for this pair. Maybe we should have been more concerned...we won a couple of game points to take a closely contested first set 4-2, then fell behind 0-3 in the second set! I could not keep a ball in play, missing 6 or 7 shots that I had no business missing. But perhaps nerves got to our opponents, and may partner and I started playing better, just in time to come back and win the second set in tiebreak (5-2 in the TB).

Not sure how they determined which semifinalists play each other; it seemed like it was pre-determined based on the flights, rather than seeding based on performance. Because even though one team got through to the top bracket with a 2-1 record, it was my partner and I who faced the top pair, who had rolled through their flight dropping 5 total games in their three matches. TR showed that these guys were by far the most formidable opponents we could possibly face. One guy was 18-1 in 2018 (13-1 in 2019 as a 4.0), with a 3.62 estimated rating. The "weaker" opponent had gone 22-8 in 2018 (11-1 in 2019 as a 4.0), with a 3.60 rating. And they'd barely broken a sweat in their three flight matches.

They both have blistering forehands and serves with a lot of pace...and a cheering contingent. We would have our work cut out for us. We manage to somehow break both of them to take a 3-0 lead to start the match (including one game point in our favor), but those guys dug in and we found ourselves in a set tiebreak. A couple of key defensive plays kept us in it, and we took the set tiebreak 5-3 to get up a set. The second set didn't seem all that close, as the Dallas boys started absolutely crushing their forehands (didn't help that neither my partner or I could hit serves with any pace or placement that match...served up lollipops that they consistently smashed for winners or near-winners). They took the second set 4-2. Both of them were serving well, finding their groove after a shaky start. The third set didn't seem close, with them holding easily and my partner and I struggling on our serves. The opponents were up a break at 3-2 and were serving at 40-0...four match points. We staved off three of them to force a game point. If we won that, perhaps nerves would have gotten to our opponents. I chose to receive. Opponent faults on the first serve. I half-expected a double fault, given the pressure of the moment. But the opponent got a decent second serve in the box, I hit a safe return past the net person. But two shots later, one of the opponents hits a well placed ball right between my partner and me. It would have been a tough backhand volley for my partner, so he let it go, but I was expecting him to hit it so wasn't ready. The ball bounced a second time before I could reach it...match over. Opponents from Dallas won it 3-4(3), 4-2, 4-2. (And then won the Finals, dropping just one game. They were good.)

So that sucked. It was still before noon, but they'd scheduled the 3rd/4th place match for the next morning. We asked the tournament staff if we could play the 3rd/4th place match Saturday afternoon, if our opponents were willing. The staff said yes, but they could not reach our opponents. We ended up playing the next morning as scheduled.

Our opponents in the 3rd/4th place match were also from TX (San Antonio). They had TR estimated ratings of 3.54 (18-12 in 2019 as a 4.0) and 3.51 (4-0 record in 2019 as a 4.0). One kid hit serves and forehands with as much pace as anyone we'd faced, and his older partner was crafty at net with a lot of well placed angles. Felt like it would be a good match, and it was. Lots of extended rallies, each of us making good defensive plays to keep the points alive. Very few non-volley winners. The kid had to take a medical timeout to stop bleeding from a gash he got from running into the fence chasing down a ball. Each set went to tiebreak. We played our first "golden point", where I served at 4-4 in the TB. It was another extended rally, and we breathed a sigh of relief after an opponent's ball sailed a couple of feet out to give us the first set. The second set was more of the same...I don't think there was a break of serve the entire match. We won the second set TB at 5-2 to take third place.

Both the 3rd and 4th place finishers received a medal. The champions and finalists received a trophy.

I felt the tournament was well run. They kept us on schedule, and enforced the 5-minute warmup (which I hadn't seen done at other Nationals). Plenty of officials roaming around (I never saw them engage other than to conduct the coin toss and warn players their 5-minute warmup time was ending, but good to have a presence). Courts were very well groomed. Liked everything but the final result for my partner and me, ha.
Awesome write-up and thanks for posting. Sounds like it was a great trip and experience - the kinda stuff we all want when we play.

All the best.
 

leech

Rookie
Great story. I guess the trip was well worth it :D

Your last year as a 3.5 could not have gone better; even Federer, Nadal or Joker don’t win that many, 3rd place is amazing achievement given the competitors. Well done!!! (y)
Thanks! Was a fun way to cap off our final year at the 3.5 level.

Each match was competitive. We played set TBs in six of our 13 sets...and were fortunate enough to win all six of them!
 
Just returned from a weekend at NTRP Nationals for 3.5 men's doubles. It was hosted by Academia Sanchez-Casal in Naples, FL, on clay courts.

First, I'll explain how my doubles partner and I qualified. In the MidAtlantic Section, players can qualify for NTRP Nationals in one of two ways: (1) by being the year-end tournament points leader in the Section for your NTRP level, or (2) win the MidAtlantic Section championships, a tournament held in the fall. My partner and I played just one tournament together, in December, and we won it, earning 400 points. I did not expect that to be enough to qualify us, but apparently that was enough. I had been trying to qualify in singles, but was around 4th place, so was pleasantly surprised to get the invitation for the doubles event. (I was unable to play in the MidAtlantic Section championships in the fall.)

The NTRP Nationals used a modified Fast Four format. Five minute warmup. Best of three sets to 4 games. No-ad scoring. Set TB to 5 to be played if it reaches 3-3 in a set, win by 1. 2 serves per player; switch sides after 4 points. If set TB reaches 4-4, then spin racquet to determine which team serves for the sudden death point. We received so many different rulings on how the set TB should be played, though. Do we keep the same service order in the set TB, as we do in a normal set TB? There is an argument that each team should be able to choose the service order, if they wanted to keep the servers serving from the side they've been serving throughout the set. We got two different rulings on two different days. And then for the "golden point" if the set TB reaches 4-4, the receiving team should be able to choose which partner receives, as they would in any other "game point" situation, right? Nope, in our final match, the official told us that the server HAS to serve from the deuce court...which neither team agreed with, but didn't matter because that was what the receiving team had chosen anyway. But the tourney staff should set forth these rules more clearly to the participants and to the officials.

I enjoyed the Fast Four format. It allows more matches to be played; can easily play three Fast Four matches in a day if needed. There are a lot more pressure-packed moments. One change I'd make is to have regular ad scoring for doubles matches, and keep no-ad scoring for singles matches (which could go on forever if regular scoring were used). I think doubles matches would be done in about an hour, even with regular ad scoring, using the Fast Four format.

For 3.5 men, there were 15 doubles teams split into four flights. We were in a flight with four teams, so had three round-robin matches to determine which "knockout" bracket we'd be placed in. The first place finisher from each flight would compete in a bracket to compete for places 1-4; second place finishers play for places 5-8, etc.

Our first opponents were a pair from AL. Looked up their stats from TennisRecord. One was 53-16 in 2018, with a current estimated rating of 3.29; the other was 45-28 in 2018, with a current estimated rating of 3.32. On paper, should be our easiest match of the flight. We won the toss and I elected to serve...and was immediately broken. And then fell down 0-40 in the second game; couldn't keep the ball away from the net person. But we ran off four straight points (including the game point once it got to 40-all) to win the game and then figured things out from there to win the first set 4-1. Couldn't pull away in the second set, so had to play a 5-point tiebreak, which we won 5-2. Got a 4-1, 4-3(2) win on the books to start the tournament.

We had about 90 minutes to wait for our second flight match, so we chilled inside to avoid the Florida heat and humidity. Our next opponents were from GA and just demolished the pair that we thought would be our toughest flight opponents in the first round. The TR stats for the GA pair showed a 22-7 record in 2018 with a 3.40 current rating for one, 18-4 record in 2018 with a 3.45 rating for the other. They both had their families with them, and seemed like they were pretty serious about winning this thing. One guy was pretty active at net, and the other guy could seemingly rip DTL winners at will. We started out in a 1-3 hole, but managed to find a break back and force a first set TB. We were fortunate enough to win the set TB 5-3. The second set was just as close, with each of us holding until it got to 3-2. One of our opponents was up 40-0 on his serve, one point away from forcing a second set TB, but we reeled off four straight points to end the match. Whew.

Our final flight match was the next morning, versus a pair from FL. Both our AL and GA opponents had crushed the FL opponents, so we weren't very concerned, despite me tweaking an ankle during the second match, and despite TR showing estimated ratings of 3.53 and 3.58 for this pair. Maybe we should have been more concerned...we won a couple of game points to take a closely contested first set 4-2, then fell behind 0-3 in the second set! I could not keep a ball in play, missing 6 or 7 shots that I had no business missing. But perhaps nerves got to our opponents, and may partner and I started playing better, just in time to come back and win the second set in tiebreak (5-2 in the TB).

Not sure how they determined which semifinalists play each other; it seemed like it was pre-determined based on the flights, rather than seeding based on performance. Because even though one team got through to the top bracket with a 2-1 record, it was my partner and I who faced the top pair, who had rolled through their flight dropping 5 total games in their three matches. TR showed that these guys were by far the most formidable opponents we could possibly face. One guy was 18-1 in 2018 (13-1 in 2019 as a 4.0), with a 3.62 estimated rating. The "weaker" opponent had gone 22-8 in 2018 (11-1 in 2019 as a 4.0), with a 3.60 rating. And they'd barely broken a sweat in their three flight matches.

They both have blistering forehands and serves with a lot of pace...and a cheering contingent. We would have our work cut out for us. We manage to somehow break both of them to take a 3-0 lead to start the match (including one game point in our favor), but those guys dug in and we found ourselves in a set tiebreak. A couple of key defensive plays kept us in it, and we took the set tiebreak 5-3 to get up a set. The second set didn't seem all that close, as the Dallas boys started absolutely crushing their forehands (didn't help that neither my partner or I could hit serves with any pace or placement that match...served up lollipops that they consistently smashed for winners or near-winners). They took the second set 4-2. Both of them were serving well, finding their groove after a shaky start. The third set didn't seem close, with them holding easily and my partner and I struggling on our serves. The opponents were up a break at 3-2 and were serving at 40-0...four match points. We staved off three of them to force a game point. If we won that, perhaps nerves would have gotten to our opponents. I chose to receive. Opponent faults on the first serve. I half-expected a double fault, given the pressure of the moment. But the opponent got a decent second serve in the box, I hit a safe return past the net person. But two shots later, one of the opponents hits a well placed ball right between my partner and me. It would have been a tough backhand volley for my partner, so he let it go, but I was expecting him to hit it so wasn't ready. The ball bounced a second time before I could reach it...match over. Opponents from Dallas won it 3-4(3), 4-2, 4-2. (And then won the Finals, dropping just one game. They were good.)

So that sucked. It was still before noon, but they'd scheduled the 3rd/4th place match for the next morning. We asked the tournament staff if we could play the 3rd/4th place match Saturday afternoon, if our opponents were willing. The staff said yes, but they could not reach our opponents. We ended up playing the next morning as scheduled.

Our opponents in the 3rd/4th place match were also from TX (San Antonio). They had TR estimated ratings of 3.54 (18-12 in 2019 as a 4.0) and 3.51 (4-0 record in 2019 as a 4.0). One kid hit serves and forehands with as much pace as anyone we'd faced, and his older partner was crafty at net with a lot of well placed angles. Felt like it would be a good match, and it was. Lots of extended rallies, each of us making good defensive plays to keep the points alive. Very few non-volley winners. The kid had to take a medical timeout to stop bleeding from a gash he got from running into the fence chasing down a ball. Each set went to tiebreak. We played our first "golden point", where I served at 4-4 in the TB. It was another extended rally, and we breathed a sigh of relief after an opponent's ball sailed a couple of feet out to give us the first set. The second set was more of the same...I don't think there was a break of serve the entire match. We won the second set TB at 5-2 to take third place.

Both the 3rd and 4th place finishers received a medal. The champions and finalists received a trophy.

I felt the tournament was well run. They kept us on schedule, and enforced the 5-minute warmup (which I hadn't seen done at other Nationals). Plenty of officials roaming around (I never saw them engage other than to conduct the coin toss and warn players their 5-minute warmup time was ending, but good to have a presence). Courts were very well groomed. Liked everything but the final result for my partner and me, ha.

Just wondering when you're going in the USTA 2018 Hall of Fame.
 
Yeah the Dallas team was reluctant to tell us what level they were playing, just said we're going to Nationals, but we found out it was 3.5 and those of us that know them chuckled in mild amusement. They were playing well below level and self rated. The 4.0 records are a pretty good indicator. Does anyone have a strong opinion on this?
 

schmke

Hall of Fame
Yeah the Dallas team was reluctant to tell us what level they were playing, just said we're going to Nationals, but we found out it was 3.5 and those of us that know them chuckled in mild amusement. They were playing well below level and self rated. The 4.0 records are a pretty good indicator. Does anyone have a strong opinion on this?
It's Texas ...
 
  • guy could seemingly rip DTL winners at will.
  • They both have blistering forehands
  • and serves with a lot of pace...
  • boys started absolutely crushing their forehands .
I LOL how 3.5 players are dismissed on this fantasy world forum as people who can barely bunt a tennis ball over the net.
The above is the reality of 3.5, as I've stated for years. 3.5 players can be amazing players with pro-caliber shots.
They are just inconsistent maniacs with poor shot selection, while many 4.0 are bunty junker pushers with garbage strokes.
My goal is to be a bunty garbage junker like them!
 
Hopefully an addendum to this story is "I was grateful to have this last chance as a 3.5 and know I'm where I need to be at the 4.0 level."
 

jmc3367

Rookie
Just returned from a weekend at NTRP Nationals for 3.5 men's doubles. It was hosted by Academia Sanchez-Casal in Naples, FL, on clay courts.

First, I'll explain how my doubles partner and I qualified. In the MidAtlantic Section, players can qualify for NTRP Nationals in one of two ways: (1) by being the year-end tournament points leader in the Section for your NTRP level, or (2) win the MidAtlantic Section championships, a tournament held in the fall. My partner and I played just one tournament together, in December, and we won it, earning 400 points. I did not expect that to be enough to qualify us, but apparently that was enough. I had been trying to qualify in singles, but was around 4th place, so was pleasantly surprised to get the invitation for the doubles event. (I was unable to play in the MidAtlantic Section championships in the fall.)

The NTRP Nationals used a modified Fast Four format. Five minute warmup. Best of three sets to 4 games. No-ad scoring. Set TB to 5 to be played if it reaches 3-3 in a set, win by 1. 2 serves per player; switch sides after 4 points. If set TB reaches 4-4, then spin racquet to determine which team serves for the sudden death point. We received so many different rulings on how the set TB should be played, though. Do we keep the same service order in the set TB, as we do in a normal set TB? There is an argument that each team should be able to choose the service order, if they wanted to keep the servers serving from the side they've been serving throughout the set. We got two different rulings on two different days. And then for the "golden point" if the set TB reaches 4-4, the receiving team should be able to choose which partner receives, as they would in any other "game point" situation, right? Nope, in our final match, the official told us that the server HAS to serve from the deuce court...which neither team agreed with, but didn't matter because that was what the receiving team had chosen anyway. But the tourney staff should set forth these rules more clearly to the participants and to the officials.

I enjoyed the Fast Four format. It allows more matches to be played; can easily play three Fast Four matches in a day if needed. There are a lot more pressure-packed moments. One change I'd make is to have regular ad scoring for doubles matches, and keep no-ad scoring for singles matches (which could go on forever if regular scoring were used). I think doubles matches would be done in about an hour, even with regular ad scoring, using the Fast Four format.

For 3.5 men, there were 15 doubles teams split into four flights. We were in a flight with four teams, so had three round-robin matches to determine which "knockout" bracket we'd be placed in. The first place finisher from each flight would compete in a bracket to compete for places 1-4; second place finishers play for places 5-8, etc.

Our first opponents were a pair from AL. Looked up their stats from TennisRecord. One was 53-16 in 2018, with a current estimated rating of 3.29; the other was 45-28 in 2018, with a current estimated rating of 3.32. On paper, should be our easiest match of the flight. We won the toss and I elected to serve...and was immediately broken. And then fell down 0-40 in the second game; couldn't keep the ball away from the net person. But we ran off four straight points (including the game point once it got to 40-all) to win the game and then figured things out from there to win the first set 4-1. Couldn't pull away in the second set, so had to play a 5-point tiebreak, which we won 5-2. Got a 4-1, 4-3(2) win on the books to start the tournament.

We had about 90 minutes to wait for our second flight match, so we chilled inside to avoid the Florida heat and humidity. Our next opponents were from GA and just demolished the pair that we thought would be our toughest flight opponents in the first round. The TR stats for the GA pair showed a 22-7 record in 2018 with a 3.40 current rating for one, 18-4 record in 2018 with a 3.45 rating for the other. They both had their families with them, and seemed like they were pretty serious about winning this thing. One guy was pretty active at net, and the other guy could seemingly rip DTL winners at will. We started out in a 1-3 hole, but managed to find a break back and force a first set TB. We were fortunate enough to win the set TB 5-3. The second set was just as close, with each of us holding until it got to 3-2. One of our opponents was up 40-0 on his serve, one point away from forcing a second set TB, but we reeled off four straight points to end the match. Whew.

Our final flight match was the next morning, versus a pair from FL. Both our AL and GA opponents had crushed the FL opponents, so we weren't very concerned, despite me tweaking an ankle during the second match, and despite TR showing estimated ratings of 3.53 and 3.58 for this pair. Maybe we should have been more concerned...we won a couple of game points to take a closely contested first set 4-2, then fell behind 0-3 in the second set! I could not keep a ball in play, missing 6 or 7 shots that I had no business missing. But perhaps nerves got to our opponents, and may partner and I started playing better, just in time to come back and win the second set in tiebreak (5-2 in the TB).

Not sure how they determined which semifinalists play each other; it seemed like it was pre-determined based on the flights, rather than seeding based on performance. Because even though one team got through to the top bracket with a 2-1 record, it was my partner and I who faced the top pair, who had rolled through their flight dropping 5 total games in their three matches. TR showed that these guys were by far the most formidable opponents we could possibly face. One guy was 18-1 in 2018 (13-1 in 2019 as a 4.0), with a 3.62 estimated rating. The "weaker" opponent had gone 22-8 in 2018 (11-1 in 2019 as a 4.0), with a 3.60 rating. And they'd barely broken a sweat in their three flight matches.

They both have blistering forehands and serves with a lot of pace...and a cheering contingent. We would have our work cut out for us. We manage to somehow break both of them to take a 3-0 lead to start the match (including one game point in our favor), but those guys dug in and we found ourselves in a set tiebreak. A couple of key defensive plays kept us in it, and we took the set tiebreak 5-3 to get up a set. The second set didn't seem all that close, as the Dallas boys started absolutely crushing their forehands (didn't help that neither my partner or I could hit serves with any pace or placement that match...served up lollipops that they consistently smashed for winners or near-winners). They took the second set 4-2. Both of them were serving well, finding their groove after a shaky start. The third set didn't seem close, with them holding easily and my partner and I struggling on our serves. The opponents were up a break at 3-2 and were serving at 40-0...four match points. We staved off three of them to force a game point. If we won that, perhaps nerves would have gotten to our opponents. I chose to receive. Opponent faults on the first serve. I half-expected a double fault, given the pressure of the moment. But the opponent got a decent second serve in the box, I hit a safe return past the net person. But two shots later, one of the opponents hits a well placed ball right between my partner and me. It would have been a tough backhand volley for my partner, so he let it go, but I was expecting him to hit it so wasn't ready. The ball bounced a second time before I could reach it...match over. Opponents from Dallas won it 3-4(3), 4-2, 4-2. (And then won the Finals, dropping just one game. They were good.)

So that sucked. It was still before noon, but they'd scheduled the 3rd/4th place match for the next morning. We asked the tournament staff if we could play the 3rd/4th place match Saturday afternoon, if our opponents were willing. The staff said yes, but they could not reach our opponents. We ended up playing the next morning as scheduled.

Our opponents in the 3rd/4th place match were also from TX (San Antonio). They had TR estimated ratings of 3.54 (18-12 in 2019 as a 4.0) and 3.51 (4-0 record in 2019 as a 4.0). One kid hit serves and forehands with as much pace as anyone we'd faced, and his older partner was crafty at net with a lot of well placed angles. Felt like it would be a good match, and it was. Lots of extended rallies, each of us making good defensive plays to keep the points alive. Very few non-volley winners. The kid had to take a medical timeout to stop bleeding from a gash he got from running into the fence chasing down a ball. Each set went to tiebreak. We played our first "golden point", where I served at 4-4 in the TB. It was another extended rally, and we breathed a sigh of relief after an opponent's ball sailed a couple of feet out to give us the first set. The second set was more of the same...I don't think there was a break of serve the entire match. We won the second set TB at 5-2 to take third place.

Both the 3rd and 4th place finishers received a medal. The champions and finalists received a trophy.

I felt the tournament was well run. They kept us on schedule, and enforced the 5-minute warmup (which I hadn't seen done at other Nationals). Plenty of officials roaming around (I never saw them engage other than to conduct the coin toss and warn players their 5-minute warmup time was ending, but good to have a presence). Courts were very well groomed. Liked everything but the final result for my partner and me, ha.

Jeez did you have to remind me about loosing at 40 love.........
 

jmc3367

Rookie
I LOL how 3.5 players are dismissed on this fantasy world forum as people who can barely bunt a tennis ball over the net.
The above is the reality of 3.5, as I've stated for years. 3.5 players can be amazing players with pro-caliber shots.
They are just inconsistent maniacs with poor shot selection, while many 4.0 are bunty junker pushers with garbage strokes.
My goal is to be a bunty garbage junker like them!
Very True, the majority of mistakes we all made at the nationals were mistakes of choice. not really dumping in the net or blasting one out. the mid Atlantic guys were super nice. I was pulling for them to win after they beat us.
 

atatu

Hall of Fame
I LOL how 3.5 players are dismissed on this fantasy world forum as people who can barely bunt a tennis ball over the net.
The above is the reality of 3.5, as I've stated for years. 3.5 players can be amazing players with pro-caliber shots.
They are just inconsistent maniacs with poor shot selection, while many 4.0 are bunty junker pushers with garbage strokes.
My goal is to be a bunty garbage junker like them!
I really don't think many 3.5 players have pro caliber strokes ? Just the fact that they are inconsistent by definition means they don't have pro level strokes.
 
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