Tennis Scoring Abbreviations – The Hidden Consequences Will Impact Everyone

Chuck KrieseI have a guest post from a man I am honored to call a friend and mentor, Coach Chuck Kriese.  

With all the changes going on to the scoring system in collegiate and the junior tennis this is a MUST read.  We need to think long and hard about how changing the scoring system changes the game of tennis itself, and the lasting impact those changes will have.


For 141 years, the consistent barometer for marking levels of playing abilities, determining the rites-of-passage to new levels and the measuring of every competitor’s achievement has been the fascinating and challenging scoring system of tennis.  Traditional Tennis Scoring is now under assault as there is an attempt to change or abbreviate it at nearly every level.   The stated motive by the ITA and the USTA has been to attract more participation and the building of larger fan-bases at collegiate events.

As the 10-pt Tie-Breaker is now being used regularly instead of a learning-packed 3rd set for matches in junior tennis, No-ad Tennis is being bled into our youngster’s events as well.   In the college ranks, strong opposition by coaches and players was not enough to prevent the ITA from finally forcing it through.  Regardless of an ugly 4-year battle, the ITA made it a rule anyway for 2016.  Players and coaches complained in unison, but the end result was for coaches to do-it-or-else.   Multiple junior events are following suit this year with a narrative by USTA that suspiciously states, “Our kids need to play no-ad to get ready for college tennis.”  REALLY!!!    It is time to take notice!

The unintended consequences of such changes to the fundamental structure of tennis does much greater harm than is noticed on the surface.  Youngsters and Collegians are getting skewed and random results.  More harmful is that they don’t learn the depths of the game.  Seemingly, the path is being paved for abbreviated tennis to go into other levels of tennis. Since experimentations are already commonplace at the junior and collegiate levels, it might not be a stretch to assume that it soon becomes experimental at Grand-Slam and Davis Cup events.  The plan seems to be that in a few short years our youngsters and collegians to be integrated into acceptance of abbreviators.  Unfortunately, making things ‘easier to pick-up also makes them easier to put down!’

The fall-out of trying to make tennis easier could be far reaching and be impossible to reverse.  The following list shows 10 reasons why ‘Hard to pick up has also been proved as hard to put down’ and why Traditional Tennis Scoring and this great game have survived the many up’s and downs since 1874.  Other sport’s scoring systems have never been able to compare in depth nor in genius.  The scoring system of tennis is the game’s ‘most precious heirloom.’  It must be protected as such.  The following list represents the brilliance of our game’s wonderful scoring system.  Maybe it is not too late to let our tennis voices be heard.

  “Honor our Game – Protect Traditional Scoring!!!”    

Like many aspects of tennis that seem simplistic on the outside, the depth and intrigue of its scoring system have inspired and challenged players for 132 years.  Successes or non-successes have been benchmarked and gauged by its accuracy of measurement.  Its’ genius has presented the ultimate challenges to the body, mind and spirit of the competitor.  It is a most precious heirloom and should be respected as such.  Consider the following:

Traditional scoring is a fair, accurate and time-tested barometer for the many skill-sets that it takes to win in tennis. Skills to overcome ‘pecking orders’ and to go through the normal ‘rites-of-passages,’ for tennis levels have been assessed by consistent measurement for over a hundred years.  These give critical guidelines for player development.  Randomness and skewed results greatly harm developmental process.

Tennis is a game of simultaneous scoring opportunity for both offense and defensive postures. Thus, the need to win by 2 points instead of one per-game is paramount!! The 7th point of no-ad is of double-jeopardy value and is actually worth two games instead of one.  (eg. This overloaded value is easily understood when the set-score is 4-2 and one point makes it either 5-2 or 4-3;   however, the same weight is true every time a player loses the 7thSadly, the benefits gained from dishonest line-calls are enhanced because such weight is given to the 7th point of the game.

Fitness is a Corner-stone for Success in Tennis. Abbreviations to traditional scoring dilute and minimize the elements of conditioning and endurance of mind, body and spirit; therefore, results are often skewed.  Best USA athletes will not be inspired by dumbing down the physicality of the great sport of tennis!!!

Conversion Point (3-in-a-row) mastery is a critical skill-set for success in traditional scoring – The length of every game in no-ad scoring is 4-7 points. Also, no-ad requires the winning of only 1 point in a row for success. Those multiple situations that require very disciplined skill-sets to solve are minimized by no-ad. The skill of ‘War-Zone Endurance’ or the ability to carry and defend a lead is critical for success in tennis.

Abbreviated scoring promotes random momentum swings and neutralizes the small differences in the better player’s skill base.  Traditional scoring is designed for small differences of skill to become a big advantage as a match unfolds. This is where separation of players takes place. Early war-zones that are won usually set the tone for the match; however, no-ad diminishes that hard-earned separation earned by the stronger player.  Momentum that is well-earned by the better player is usually minimized.

Point Construction and a well-rounded game are highlighted by Traditional Scoring. No-ad accelerates false parity between levels without the deeper mastery of skill-sets usually required for advancement.   Abbreviated scoring rewards Ball-striking skill more than Point-construction skills.

Traditional Scoring produces great drama in the closing out of each game, set and match. The bi-product is usually heightened excitement. No-ad and abbreviated scoring dilute these opportunities for drama as one false crescendo after another is manipulated by the scoring system and not by skill-sets.

Players and Coaches want to play regulation tennis! They want to play the same system that professionals have used for 132 years.  They do not want to mark improvements nor important rites-of-passage that are manipulated by hybrid scoring methods.

No-Ad is not a rule of tennis – No-ad was originally invented as a novelty experiment during the tennis boom of the 1970s. There was no research done before its implementation into competitive arena. It has always been marketed as a ‘Time-Saver.’ Research in the 1980s prove that is causes more 3-set matches.

When we use traditional scoring, we are ‘Honoring of the game’ and protecting a precious Heirloom. Abbreviated forms of scoring will not sustain interest nor do they inspire players for the long-run.

Please  Do Your Part to Protect and to Promote Traditional Scoring….Ask our tennis leaders to do the Same!!!

Chuck Kriese was the coach at Clemson for 33 years and retired as a hall-of-fame coach in 2008. He has returned to collegiate coaching ranks at ‘The Citadel.’  During Kriese has been named to 4 national-coach-of-the-year awards.  He has coached 5 players to Junior Grand-Slam titles and 4 other second place finishes.  11 of Chuck’s players have risen to top 100 spots in the ATP and WTA.  He has authored four published Tennis books and has co-authored 2 others on Clemson sports history.  His 36 years of collegiate coaching produced 34 All-Americans, 4 national sr. Players of the year, 16 top 10 teams.  He is a former USA national Coach; Junior Davis Cup Coach and technical Director for SE Asia Tennis. He continues to teach, coach, to write and to give motivational speeches for coaches and young people.  To learn more about Coach Kriese visit his website www.ChuckKriese.Net.

Ending The Early Specialization Debate

I was just talking to the parents of a fairly elite 10 year old swimmer in how to deal with the issue of early sport specialization. They were concerned their son is spending too much time in the pool but at the same time worried he will lose his edge if he does not swim enough.  I immediately saw the parallels to what tennis parents and coaches experience and it inspired me to write this post to help those of you out there going through the same issues.

In tennis it is without a doubt true that early sport specialization is linked to overuse injuries, prematurely peaking careers, and plateaus in player development.  It is fairly common to see the best tennis players at the age of 10 go on to later be plagued by injury, hit a roadblock in development, and burn out.  While at the same time it is also true that you must be a fairly decent player at younger ages and regularly play tournaments if you want a shot at doing something special.  If you understand tennis you know how important technique is and that players must hit a countless number of balls to lock in their strokes.  The end result is that we end up at the paradox of “how do I hit a lot of tennis balls and not specialize early on?”

Being both a tennis and physical preparation coach I have a unique perspective because I see both sides of the argument.  I am actually not against deciding on one main sport early on provided a long-term athletic development approach is taken from the beginning.  I believe the odds are good that you can specialize in making tennis your main sport at a young age, remain injury free, and continue to break through to new levels of physical and tournament performance.  The key to doing this is to understand the role strength and conditioning plays in tennis player development.

As I said before tennis is a sport that requires a lot of time spent hitting tennis balls.  If you spend a lot of time on the court you will get very good at tennis specific skills.  The goal of a tennis player is to then accumulate as much tennis-specific volume as possible on an annual and multi-year basis.  To clarify, by tennis-specific volume I mean hitting tennis balls or playing matches because being on the court is as specific as it gets.

This would lead one to conclude that specializing early and spending as much time on the court as possible is the way to go.  However, you must understand that in order to accumulate as much tennis-specific volume as possible a player’s body must have the fitness to support such a high volume of training.  This is where most people miss the boat.  They have juniors accumulating a ton of volume hitting balls and playing matches but their bodies cannot handle it.  The high levels of specific volume lead to better and better tennis but at the same time all the stress slowly but surely accumulates, wears down the body, and injury occurs and/or performance suffers.  This is why strength and conditioning or general physical preparation is so important.

The ultimate goal of strength and conditioning in tennis is to achieve a high enough level of fitness to support all the necessary specific training volume and recovery from it.  Sure strength and conditioning will make a player bigger, faster, stronger, and allow them to express their strokes at a higher level.  However, in a technical sport like tennis the best way to improve your skills is to hit tennis balls and lots of them.  The trap people fall into is that they think if they keep hitting more and more tennis balls they’ll continue to improve and they will but without a strong base of fitness to support that amount of specific volume, and the ability to recover from it, it is only a matter of time before injury or burnout occurs.  Achieving this level of fitness takes a long time and it is only achieved through a variety of movement patterns and training methods.

So to answer the paradoxical question of “how do I hit a ton of tennis balls without specializing in tennis” is to take a long-term athletic development approach from the very beginning.  Begin with the idea that tennis is going to be the main sport and hit a lot of tennis balls while at the same time working on all aspects of fitness (coordination, balance, strength, conditioning, etc.).  Over time you will gradually build up the fitness to support hitting more and more tennis balls and the ability to recover properly from doing so in order to stay injury and burnout free.

If you really want to do this right you have to educate yourselves or get with a coach who truly knows what they are doing because strength and conditioning looks very different at different ages and the process is unique to each child.  For example, strength and conditioning in general for an 8-year-old involves playing tag, crab walking, climbing, and free play to improve conditioning, agility, coordination and strength.  While strength and conditioning for a high school junior will involve running to develop the aerobic energy system, lifting weights to develop strength, or doing more of what comes to mind when you think of traditional fitness.  But making an 8 year old run hill sprints or hit the weight room isn’t going to get the job done.  In fact, inappropriate training will only increase the odds something bad will happen.

Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments below and if you have any questions add them as well, I’ll be happy to answer them.

For those coaches and parents out there who are looking for more information the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA) is launching a product this week called Long-Term Athletic Development.  It is a darn good resource to have if you are working with kids and thinking long-term in developing them.  It also happens to be on sale this week for $99.

15:1 Rule

The job of a coach is to get people to do the things they don’t want to do, in order to achieve the things they want to achieve” – Tom Laundry

I remember Coach Kriese saying something along the lines of, “when a kid tells themselves to do something it is as powerful as a coach telling them 15 times over.”  I never forgot that and it relates back to the power of self-motivation and deep practice.  The best coaching occurs when the student becomes inspired to take control and start teaching themselves.

I have often told players about this concept in what I refer to as the “15:1” rule.  The rule simply means what you tell yourself one time is as powerful as a coach telling you 15 times.  There is no scientific data to base it on it simply is a metaphor for how powerful engaging one’s mind really is.

I have had the ability to film players technique in slow motion for a few years now and it has been an invaluable tool.  Recently, I have found a way to combine it with the 15:1 rule, making it even more powerful.  By taking a few minutes to analyze the video and share it with the players online it has allowed them to take a more active role in their development.  It has allowed them to recall what was talked about in their lessons and then take charge to start coaching themselves to improvement.

Here is an example of video analysis:



2015 Summer Camp Dates Released

Coach Slezak's Camp LogoAssuming that we do not get a blizzard in March (or April at this point) the dates for tennis camp are final.  This summer the school calendar allows us to get in 9 weeks of camp in which is one more than usual!

Camp will run weekdays June 15th – August 14, 2015 at the FoxChapel High School Tennis Complex.

CLICK HERE to find out more information or to register


Why Choose Tennis for Your Child?


Fox Chapel Tennis ComplexI am somewhat biased in thinking that tennis is the greatest game in the world.  I can honestly say I would not be the person I am today without the influence of the game.  Of course sports in general can teach profound life lessons but tennis is unique because it is primarily an individual sport but can be played as a team as well.  Here are the top 5 profound lessons I believe tennis teaches.  I think often we can get caught up in tournaments, rankings, team records, and college scholarships.  If a child learns these 5 things from tennis, regardless how far they get competitively, they will be successful.

#1 – Develop a Strong Work Ethic

To be good at tennis it takes hours upon hours of training and practice.  There is no magic or secret recipe. The formula is simply good old fashioned hard work.  Players learn that hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard.

#2 – Dream Big and Go After It

Tennis allows children to dream big, aiming for the high school varsity team, winning a tournament, playing in college, and maybe even beyond.  They then learn how to make these big dreams take shape in the form of goals and objectives along the way.

#3 – Learn That Setback & Successes Are Both Helpful

There will be both setbacks and success over the course of a tennis career.  A professional tennis player was once asked what attribute was needed to be successful at that level and his answer was “a stomach for losing.”  Children learn that successes are an opportunity to grow and build confidence while setbacks are an opportunity for improvement and reveal character.

#4 – Develop Perseverance

Perseverance is the virtue that allows an athlete never to quit, no matter how great the adversity.  Children discover how difficult it is to keep going when things are going poorly, but at the same time are developing courage.

#5 – Learn How To Seize The Moment

Competitive players quickly learn the opportunity to take charge of a tennis match present itself quickly and can disappear even faster.  It is a learned skill to recognize this moment and be willing to dive into it.  Children learn that dreams and goals can be made but courageous action must be taken when the time comes to take advantage of an opportunity.

These 5 lessons happen over the course of a child’s long-term development in the sport of tennis and they take some nurturing as well.  They are not always easy lessons to learn either but as with many things in life nothing truly worth while is typically easy.

After reading this blog post I hope you better understand how tennis has shaped my life for the better.  If you are on the fence about getting your son or daughter involved in tennis I hope this provides some clarity in what tennis really is all about.  If your son or daughter is already involved in tennis then I hope this reaffirms your choices.  And if you happen to be a player go back and re-read all 5 of those lessons just one more time and be proud if you have learned any or all of those lessons through this great sport.

How Repetition Develops Skill

Flamingo Park, Miam Beach

Flamingo Park, Miam Beach

It is said that repetition is “the mother of skill.”  What that means in the real world is that if you practice something a lot then you get good at it. Today in the blog I want to talk about how repetition impacts skill development in tennis. I guarantee it is not what you think…

The brain learns skills in astounding ways. I am constantly learning and seeking new information to be a better coach and recently I have been reading about the brain. There is a term often used to describe skill acquisition called “muscle memory.” The truth is your muscles are dumb and they have no memory. Skills like hitting a forehand or serving are motor programs stored in the brain. If they are practiced enough the brain and nervous system prioritizes them as being important and strives to become as efficient and effective at performing them for future tasks. It relates back to evolution where our brains allow us to adapt to our specific environment in order to survive.

If we have to repeat a motor program over and over again our brain recognizes that this skill must be important for survival and it aims to be able to execute the skill as efficient and effectively as possible. We have countless motor programs that have developed in our lives like walking, squatting or even keyboarding. These skills have all developed because the brain has tagged them as important because we are performing them so often.

In tennis skill development occurs the same way, through practice and the brain then prioritizing the skill. That is why it is critical to hit lots and lots of tennis balls. In fact, there is a direct correlation early on between how many tennis balls a player hits and their skill level.  It has nothing to do with an innate talent and more to do with the fact that some players may have just hit more tennis balls than their peers.

However, doing something like hitting a forehand is different than playing a piano because there is an element of randomness to tennis.  Learning to play a song on the piano is different than learning to hit a forehand. You see the keys on a piano are always in the exact same place when you play a song so you can truly make each and every repetition identical. This is not the case in tennis because there is an element of randomness where every ball has a different level of spin, pace, height, bounce, etc. There are so many variables it is impossible to truly have identical repetitions hitting a forehand. The truth is even if you could create identical ball bounces, spins, etc. you would not want to because playing a match is a random open skill.

The thought that enters my mind is, “How then do players learn to acquire a skill like hitting a forehand if there is no such thing as identical repetitions?” Well the answer is actually very interesting. Hitting something like 500 forehands is more like data collection for the brain than repetitions. It is more accurately viewed as hitting 500 forehand samples. What happens in the brain with those samples is very amazing. When you are sleeping your brain compiles all the information from those samples and begins building and refining a motor program. The next day if you hit 500 more forehands it does the same thing. And this process continues with the brain continuing to refine the forehand motor program from all the random samples striving for efficiency and effectiveness.

The Importance of Every Ball


As the leaves turn colors and the temperatures get colder players begin scrambling to indoor courts in the Pittsburgh area.  When I train players outside everyone get spoiled because there is ample time, courts, balls, and opportunities.  That all changes when you go indoors during the school year when both time and space become limited.  Most people look at this as a negative but I choose to look at it a different way.  I believe training indoors when resources are limited teaches players the importance of hitting every ball with a purpose.

When a player truly knows the value of each and every ball they hit their mind becomes locked in.  And when they become that engaged a coach has both their mind and body.  As I always tell the players, “the real practice doesn’t happen out here, it actually happens inside your head.”

Thank you cold months for teaching us the value of hitting every single ball with a purpose…

How Accurate is the Universal Tennis Rating System?

I have blogged about the Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) System before (Ratings vs. Rankings)  and I believe it is an unmatched tool for coaches, players, and parents to accurately see just how good they really are in comparison with everyone from professional players across the world to anyone in your backyard.  I know many college coaches are using UTR to evaluate how a player would fit into their line-up, top collegiate players are using it to see if pro tennis is a dream they should attempt to pursue, and junior players are using it as the measuring stick to see if they really are improving at a faster rate than their peers.

With the all the undeniable valuable surrounding UTR people still ask, “How accurate can the Universal Tennis Rating System really be?”

Well just this week I did a case study of my own to answer that very question using the results of the Pennsylvania AAA State High School Singles Qualifying Tournament here in Western, PA.  Once the tournaments concluded and all finals results were published I logged into UTR and looked up the ratings of every single player who attempted to qualify.  I put each player’s rating number next to their name on the draw sheets and looked to see if the actual results mirrored what each player’s respective UTRs were.  What I discovered in doing this was nothing short of amazing!

In AAA High School Tennis in Western, PA there are 4 conferences or sections.  Each section holds a singles qualifying tournament in which the top 4 players in each (16 total) move onto the next round where they square off to complete and qualify for the state tournament.

In looking at each player’s UTRs in the 4 section tournaments the outcomes mirrored the UTR ratings perfectly.  In all of the section tournaments the player with the highest UTR finished 1st, second highest UTR 2nd and so on.  The correlation between actual results and UTRs were beyond coincidence!

Section 1

Section 1

Section 2

Section 2

Section 3

Section 3

Section 4

Section 4











I was intrigued so I continued my case study on to the next qualifying round.  The second qualifying rounded consisted of a tournament where the 16 best high school tennis players in Western, PA square off to qualify for the State Championship Tournament.  I thought if anywhere the Universal Rating System would not predict results would be here where players are so closely matched.  Out of all 16 matches played in the entire tournament 14 of them mirrored results the UTR ratings would have predicted.

Qualifying Championships

Qualifying Championships

So what about the 2 matches where the lesser rated player won?  This must mean UTR is not accurate, right?

Well, what I discovered in these two matches supported the accuracy of the Universal Rating System even more.  The first match in which the lesser rated player won had a margin of 0.04 difference between the two competitors.  The second match had a difference of 0.27.  I think It is pretty safe to say these players were very evenly matched and neither was the favorite.  What was even more interesting was the same player was involved in both of those matches, signifying that perhaps this was a breakthrough tournament for her.

After closely looking at the UTRs of players in a competitive tournament setting it just reaffirms to me how accurate it is.  I’ll be continuing this experiment in a few weeks by looking at the Universal Ratings of all the players who will be competing in the Pennsylvania State Singles Tournament in a few weeks.  Stay tuned for the findings…

Stop Chasing Points & Start Chasing Ratings

“The moment a player starts worrying about their ranking the is moment they stop improving” is a wise old tennis saying because it is true.  As soon as a young athlete begins focusing on what they are ranked instead of improving 1% each time they train or compete they lose focus of the long-term process.  They end up with a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset and development comes to a grinding halt.

Allow me to paint a picture about our current junior tennis landscape.  The points per round and ranking system in USTA junior tennis looks really good on paper, after all it is exactly what the ATP and WTA tours are doing.  The problem is children are smart and they know the most important thing is the points they earn and the ensuing ranking they get because it is ultimately what qualifies them for bigger tournaments.  And like I said before this all looks good in theory but the problem is the players are not chasing improvement instead they are chasing points because that is what they are rewarded for.  They start looking for ways to manipulate the system and a big disparity comes into play because some players simply have the means to travel and play lots of tournaments thus have more opportunity to earn points.  I hope the bigger picture is starting to become clear.  And I want to go on record as saying that I am not against rankings because they have their place and purpose but there is a much better way to measure just how good you are…

The best way to measure how good you are is with a rating.  To be specific a Universal Tennis Rating (UTR).  I have blogged in depth about the Universal Tennis Rating System before and its benefits.  The biggest benefit is that the only way to improve your UTR is to chase improvement and prove those gains in competitive match play.  If every player was focused on improving their own unique UTR they would have a growth mindset and look at every single time they take the court as a way to improve just 1%.  And as Coach John Wooden says, “a bunch of small improvements eventually add up to be a big improvement.”


So players, parents and coaches out their stop chasing points and start focusing on improving your rating.  And If you do that you will certainly be on the right track to truly becoming the best you can be.

What You Can Learn From Charley Lau

Often times coaches promote their playing background as credentials to prove their worthiness.  It is as if being the #1 player in the world instantly qualifies them to be the #1 coach in the world.

"Charlie Lau" by From collection of User:JGHowes for Wikipedia - Detroit Tigers Official Profile, Photo and Data Book. Published by the Detroit Tigers without any copyright notice in 1957.. Via Wikipedia -

“Charlie Lau” by From collection of User:JGHowes for Wikipedia – Detroit Tigers Official Profile, Photo and Data Book. Published by the Detroit Tigers without any copyright notice in 1957.. Via Wikipedia –

I think playing a sport is a critical part of becoming a great coach.  However, in my sporting experiences the most naturally gifted athletes tend not make the best coaches.  Instead, it is those coaches that had to struggle, fail, learn and work extremely hard just to succeed in their sport who make the best coaches.  It is almost as if since they have made so many mistakes and failed so many times along the way those failures actually become assets.  You see when you have failed so many times and in so many different ways it makes it easy to spot the exact mistake an athlete is making.  It is the accumulation of failures that serves as education for a future hall of fame coach.

For example, take perhaps the greatest baseball hitting coach you never heard of, Charley Lau.  Charley had an average career in the major leagues and certainly did not set any records for hitting.  After his playing career was over he went on to become one of the greatest and most sought after hitting coaches of all time.  I guarantee Coach Lau would not have been so great had he not learned so much from so many of his failures.  In fact, it was all his failures and struggles that allowed him to see things about hitting in a way no one else could.