Junior tennis tournament switches to team format

Ty Gardner, playing for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles team, returns a shot Friday from Sam Shaver, who played for the Straight Sets team, during the Community Hospital Team Tennis Tournament at the Elliott Tennis Center.

A new name and a new format were part of a complete makeover this year of the Community Hospital Team Tennis Tournament.

The tournament, which is played at the Elliott Tennis Center at Colorado Mesa University and was previously called the Community Hospital Junior Tournament, needed to revamp after a huge downward spike in participants last year.

Although the tournament involvement increased only slightly, from 44 players last year to 52 this year, longtime tournament director Ron Elliott remains excited about the new team approach and round-robin format.

“It is a team tennis format where we have 13 teams, and there are four people to a team, and we use no-ad scoring,” he said. “Every point is critical.

“The way a team wins is not by (winning) the match, it’s a culmination of all the matches they play. Each team plays a singles and a doubles match, so they are getting a lot of tennis in a small amount of time.”

Last year the tournament, which experienced low numbers because it conflicted with Country Jam and out-of-town tennis tournaments, followed a normal open-draw format, with losers playing in consolation matches.

Elliott said he believed the tournament needed a change of pace, so he settled on the team format.

There are three divisions in the tournament, each represented by the name of a professional tennis player. The Nadal Division features the best teams in the high school age group. The Djokovic Division is the second-level high school division, and the Federer Division is made up of middle school players.

There are five teams in the Nadal Division this year, five in the Djokovic and three in the Federer.

“We wanted a change of pace, something unique and different,” Elliott said. “With this new format, kids that would never play in a tennis tournament are now playing. Usually if a kid plays in a tournament and loses their first (match), they go to the consolation and then maybe are done after that. Here, they get a lot more tennis in. It’s sort of a concept that every game counts.”

Aaron Gossage, a Grand Junction High School senior and longtime tournament participant, said the new format encourages players to play their best each match.

“I like how every game counts as a point because it makes you play for every game,” he said.

The tournament is coed because of the low number of female participants. Out of 52 players, only 13 are girls, making separate boys and girls divisions impractical.

Elliott said the low number of girls reflects the same pattern he sees in the Mesa County Junior Tennis league. He hopes to increase participation in the coming years, but he has no plans to separate play based on gender.

Elliott said he likes the coed format because it brings teams to an even playing field and gives players a chance to face opponents they normally wouldn’t.

“We are a couple years away from being able to do different gender divisions,” he said. “I probably wouldn’t do it anyway. I just sort of like the idea that the girls and the guys get to play together.”


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