On Thursday, at the Four Seasons Tennis Club on Williams Drive in Fairfax, a United States Tennis Association league match ended in tie breaks on all three courts. A ninety minute limit for USTA league matches at the facility affected the result in men’s 65 and over doubles.
On the previous Monday, it was the same, except more so.
Bob Shriner, Captain of the Racqueteers, who felt his team to be adversely affected on Monday, said in an email to USTA league coordinator Alice Hume, “We realize there may be constraints on court time due to availability of courts, but we strongly urge USTA to negotiate more forcefully for at least 120 minutes of court time for future league matches."
Later he added, "We now have a bunch of very unhappy players.”
Hume responded, "In almost all winter leagues in Northern Virginia the standard is 90 minutes. We don't really have the court time to do otherwise. As I said, to get two hour slots would be difficult and would probably involve playing at a different time of day, or at a location further from the Beltway. The reality is we do not have enough courts for USTA leagues in the winter months and just have to make do."
Hume added that one of the alternatives would be to move matches outdoors in the Spring. But of course it would no longer be a 'winter' league.
On at least two of the courts on Thursday the matches consisted of two completed sets, split 1-1. At #3 doubles Jerry Vance and Charlie Wheeler of the Racqueteers defeated Jim Jones and Dick Schmitt of the Stringers in a ten point tie breaker. The final score was Vance and Wheeler the winners at 2-6, 6-4, tie break 10-4. It was the only match of the day not to be affected by the clock.
Thursday's #2 doubles match also involved a 10 point tie breaker. But time ran out before either team could reach 10 points. Wayne Bell and Curt Chandler of the Racqueteers defeated Stanley Tucker and Bob Westall 2-6,6-1, and a breaker at 5-2 when time ran out.
The Racqueteers needed that win, since they lost at #1 doubles at 4-6,7-6. The second set seven point tie breaker was cut short at 4-1 as time ran out. The stringers won based on a total games score of 12-11.
The close win on Thursday, with help from the clock in #2 doubles, was a reversal of the action on Monday for the Racqueteers, when they lost to the Court Jesters, 3-0. On close inspection it was anything but a convincing Jesters' win. The #1 and #2 doubles went to tie breaks in the first sets.
In #1 doubles, Bill Walsh and Stephen Wade of the Jesters won a first set tie break over Wayne Bell and Charlie Henkin. The second set was at 2-2 when time was up, so the Jesters were the winners at #1 doubles.
In #2 doubles, Jerry Vance and Fred King of the Racqueteers won a first set tie break over Phil Doherty and Terrence McCarthy. The second went to 4-2 in the Jesters favor with no time left. At a set each, the win went to the Jesters for most total games won. The Jesters had won at #1 and #2, and secured the match.
In comments after the match, Bell said, "I believe that given just a little more time we could have won on both courts 1 & 2."
But maybe this time limit is like the points on balls that hit the tape and dribble over the net. It evens out over time.
And after the win on Thursday, the Racqueteers may be just a little bit happier.