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Mon, Nov. 11

My Point: How change takes place in today’s tennis world

In my limited lifetime of tennis there are a few things in the game I would love to see take place that probably won’t.

Most of these types of changes take years of lobbying the shakers and movers in key positions, thus you almost need to dedicate more time than I have left with those ideas and then sway each individual who has the power to help that cause come to fruition.

When I’ve had the ear of a biggie in the business and explained a well thought out idea their reply has been, “Wow, that’s pretty good, but it’ll probably never happen because there’s too many people who have to come together on it.”

A rich gentleman by the name of Jimmy Van Alen with roots of old New York and an Astor/Vanderbilt bloodline spent summers in Newport, R.I. learning to play the game of tennis in the early 30’s. Later he became an idea man and managed the Newport Casino which was primarily a men’s club.

His first claim to tennis fame was to refurbish the Casino (1954) and get the USLTA to authorize it as the new National Lawn Tennis Hall of Fame, which has now become the International Tennis Hall of Fame and owned by the USTA.

In 1957 he came up with a new scoring method for tennis called VASSS (Van Alen Simplified Scoring System).

In VASSS zero replaces the term love, and deuce and advantage are eliminated entirely. Briefly put, individual games are simply scored one, two, three instead of 15, 30, 40, and the game goes to the first player who wins four points. Should players be tied 6-6 in games, they then play a nine-point sudden death with the set going to the player who first scores five points. By using VASSS, no match can last longer than about an hour and 10 minutes or, as Van Alen put it, “Just about as long as I care to watch people play tennis.” (That has now changed to the first to 7 points win by 2.) By using VASSS, no match can last longer than about an hour and 10 minutes or, as Van Alen put it, “Just about as long as I care to watch people play tennis.”

It took him from 1957 until 1970 to get the tie-break recognized, tried and finally sanctioned. He was rich and had the ear of the tennis establishment, whereas most others do not.

As far as rule changes go there have been a few others in the past 25 years or so:

• Recently time violations for spending more time than 25 seconds between points.

• Service let’s are played in men’s division one college tennis.

• Double hits have to be intentional.

• Tennis racquets have set length/width limitations.

So, let’s add a few more changes. On the serve when you toss the ball it counts for one of your two tries no matter you hit it or not. This would make it a bit fairer to the receiver who only gets one try to return it. Let’s also only go with one type of tie break - the same the pro’s use so there is less confusion to the general tennis public.

Scoring will be as Van Alen suggested. The first to 4 points win by two each game. 1-2-3-game, win by two. Build tennis huts/patios at each small public tennis facility and set up a fair simple contract for a tennis professional to run programs. If you don’t the facilities don’t get the use they should. (I’d love to see this done at the Armory courts in Prescott and the BSM high school courts in Prescott Valley.) Have one day tournaments (round robins) instead of full weekend and longer ones; people just don’t have the time unless they’re hard core players.

You either stay up with the times or the game and its facilities will falter.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 50 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or

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