How To Improve Tournaments?

Several years ago, I excitedly entered one of the Florida January tournaments, only to discover my first round match was vs. Fred Drilling (who had just been named the #1 60s player in the world!). My tournament ended in just about one hour of play.

Many players have had similar experiences; so Larry Turville suggests a concept called “Block Seeding” as a possible solution. He writes …

Block Seeding

“Haven’t heard of Block Seeding? It isn’t used much anymore, but it has a lot of benefits and I believe it could be a big help to sectional tournaments.

“One of the complaints I hear from players is traveling to a tournament, having to play a seed in first round, and not getting many matches. There is usually a consolation bracket, but that’s not the same thing as main draw. With Block Seeding it’s a little like playing in a levels tournament: all the players in the first round or two are non-seeds.

“For example, with a 16 draw (up to 20) tournament, there would be four seeds, and the rest of the field would play ‘to them.’ Non seeds (depending on byes) normally would get two matches against each other before playing a seed.

“The seeded players also benefit as they don’t have to show up until later. Sometimes it can be a little tough on the seeds playing their first match against a player who has already played a couple, but most probably won’t feel too sorry for them.

“For National tournaments where air travel is involved, this doesn’t work as well because it is not quite fair to have players have to make their travel plans before knowing they may be seeded and then have to show up three days earlier than necessary. However, for sectional events where travel is by car this would seem to make sense and win-win for everyone.

“Do you think Block Seeding is an answer for better State/Sectional tournaments like our Super Senior (Masters) Circuit down in Florida? Please comment below.

“A quick story on block seeding… the old National Clay Courts was held for long time at the Cincinnati Tennis Club and they used Block Seeding. In 1973(?), I played Bill Harris, unknown but a great clay courter from Florida, in the round of 16. Bill always won or lost in three sets, didn’t matter who he played. I indeed won the second set and started to think I had a chance. At the change over, Bill gave me the look like you don’t really think you’re going to win do you. He stepped it up a notch and won the third set 6-2.

“The National Clays was still amateur then so they would have couple stars (paid a stipend), and put them into the semi’s so they just had to play just two rounds. This year it was Tom Gorman and India’s Premjit Lall. So to end the story, Harris played Lall in the semi’s, and Lall won the first set joking with the crowd and thought he was going to win easily. Harris was also talking to the crowd telling them this guy is going to lose. It was great theater.

“Unseeded Harris beat him 6-2, 6-2 in the last two sets, and then took care of Gorman (not know as clay courter) easily in three sets to win the tournament. Unfortunately that was the last year of the tournament; but if you ever play in Cincinnati, look for the trophy on the wall with Bill Harris’s (along with a couple other good players like Rod Laver and Tony Trabert) name on it.”

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9 thoughts on “How To Improve Tournaments?

  1. I agree totally with the concept. Funny, the only ones really at a disadvantage would be players like me: those who are borderline seeded players, who then would have to play really solid non-seeds in their first match! But i would go for it.

  2. I agree with the Block seeding concept as i feel it would be a fair way to approach the problem

  3. The current seeding system creates an aura that many mid and lower level players choose to not play in any of our events. Many times I see a player that might be the 5th best in the tournament play a 1 or 2 seed in the opening round, this becomes discouraging and causes mistrust in the system. Also tournament directors need to pay more attention to “graduates” into a new age category. As a seed in a Cat 2 event, we had to play our opening round against Florian and Mazo who should have been seeded 1 or 2 for the event. Too many of these instances drive many players away.

    I have been in conversations that a tournament event should be created for those players without Gold Balls or some other restriction that keeps the better players out of the event. The feeling was that it would bring more players into the event. I think the block seeding is a version that would give the same feel and attract more players.
    My personal opinion is I play to win and feel you must beat everyone in the draw to be the Champ. So if you get too hung up on how you got screwed by the draw you have already lost. My vote is that Blocks will help bring more players into the MASTERS events and create a friendlier environment.

  4. what are back draws? aren’t they a way of getting back into the main draw?

    Joe – my understanding is that a “back draw” is just another name for the consolation bracket. no? george

  5. Great concept – has my vote. We experienced a first round loss to a top seed in a Sarasota tournament a few years ago.

  6. I just played a 55+ tournament here in Middle States where I, an unseeded player, got paired against the #2 seed in the first round. The problem is the tournament director didn’t know anything about me (mostly because I have focused on the 60+ tournaments in the last two years, eschewing the 55+ division), and said so after the fact. The “fact” is the #2 seed is a good friend of mine and just happens to be my doubles partner. We are nearly identical whenever we have played each other in singles matches and proved it again this match. He won in 3 long, close and very grueling sets, with the whole match lasting almost 3 1/2 hours. Somewhere around 2-2 in the second set, I started noticing that all the matches on the adjacent courts were concluded, leaving only our match still ongoing. Somewhere around 3-3 in the final set, I noticed the tournament director calling his wife to explain to her why he hadn’t gotten home an hour and a half earlier. When the match was finally over, my friend/ opponent went up to the tournament director and, somewhat pissed, told him it was kind of stupid pairing the two of us against each other in the first round, because we are doubles partners and both of us have winning records against most of the other players who played their matches on the adjacent courts. The tournament director apologized and acknowledged that the pairing (but not the seeding) had been a mistake on his part because he failed to check my record in the 60+ division before setting up the draw. The bottom line is that Block seeding would have been good for BOTH me AND my friend/ opponent in the tournament that we just played. Obviously, I wouldn’t have had to endure such a marathon match against a strong player, only to lose in the first round. But my friend/ opponent complained to me, after the match, that he felt so exhausted and drained by the marathon match, and had also suffered a few wear and tear injuries during the long match, that he was afraid he might lose to his second round opponent. And sure enough, he did, losing to a guy that he had polished off in a prior tournament only a few weeks earlier. So, by all means yes, let’s install block seeding in more tournaments and see how it goes. It does seem fairer to all concerned. My only caveat is it would seem only to work with tournaments that have enough players entered — say 16 players or more — to make it useful. With smaller tournaments, there would be too few players to make earlier rounds sans seeded players possible to schedule, I think. This is a problem in Middle States because, as I have complained before, a lot of tournaments in that section have had dwindling draws of late.

  7. I think the block seeding concept would be an improvement to the present method of making the draws. Something needs to be done to increase the size of the draws.

  8. Thanks for the comments, sounds like block seeding is getting a positive response.


  9. George

    How about using the French system where players were “classified ” into three levels and the lower levels played each other for a couple of days to advance to the next level. The next level up arrived usually on the Tuesday and they continued to play each other with the four semi finalists moving on to the next section of the draw. The top “classe ” then showed up to play on Wednesday and Thursday and the four winners were then put into the final draw. The “non-classe” or international players then joined the event and the whole thing was completed on Saturday and Sunday. In those days, they did play two singles matches a day however. It did avoid having local players playing the top International players right off the bat. It really increased the size of the draws for these regional tournaments though which was great. However, it was very tough as an International player to start at the end of the week against some local ‘dirt baller” who had played six or eight matches and was tough as nails!!

    Just another thought for your seeding predicament. Although I do believe it is good for the lower level players to play against the top seeds- remember they probably won’t get the opportunity at any other time!!!

    Hank – thanks for the input. and, when will we see you back on the tournament circuit? george.

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