CIAC expands state tournament format


CHESHIRE — A format in 2021 which saw men’s tennis replicate women’s tennis with team tournaments in four divisions, and the addition of an invitational tournament to replace the State Open, has been continued for another year by the CIAC men’s tennis committee.

“It was the brainchild of our tennis committee a year ago,” said Jim Solomon, Hall’s coach for 47 years and a member of the committee. “We also went with the girls format in the USA for the boys. There are still mixed reviews. Some like it, some don’t. We’ve had polls over the years, every time it was almost 3 to 1 in favor of the old format we used with individuals deciding class tournaments. We decided if we were going to do this, let’s do it two years and then evaluate.

The LL, L, M and S class tournaments for boys and girls will be a single team versus team elimination event, where teams are paired based on their records. Each division will recognize a champion and runner-up team. Former Boys’ State Tournaments saw 64-man singles and doubles champs compete against each other.

Solomon said: “COVID is still an issue. When the committee made the decision, we didn’t have the four major sites needed. Yale is not available. When we do tournaments like we did in the past, you need places with three groups of courts nearby.

“This year’s boys’ and girls’ finals will be held all day at Wesleyan University (June 3), with the Invitational following next week (June 10),” he added. “We’ll be doing S class boys and girls, M class boys and girls…it’s going to be a true celebration of both genders showcasing our best tennis.”

John Keogh (Chairman), Steve Jasulavic (Southington), Gary Meunier (Weston), Ben Young (New Canaan), Dave Maloney (Manchester), Jeff Roets (Wethersfield), Solomon and Ryan Healey (East Catholic) are the coaches and the site administrators who contributed to the decision.

Healey, a coach at East Catholic for 19 years, did not cast a dissenting vote but still favors the old format.

“I prefer our traditional format which has both 64 single and double draw fields for the state tournament. It’s more true for the sport of tennis,” Healey said. “But I think in this time of COVID it’s important to continue to compete in a safe way. The team format and the Invitational have filled out really well.

Kris Hrisovulos coaches a Staples men’s team that has been successful in both configurations, having won or shared (Greenwich 2016) five consecutive LL titles.

“I think from an excitement point of view, player involvement, the old format was more conducive to that. I think it was a better experience,” Hrisovulos said. “Now you play the first round as a team and if you lose your season is over and you go home. That was your experience. This (format) comes down to better seeds and that’s life (that’s life) You don’t feel like a jamboree, you can’t compete with people from other areas.

“Before the team competes for a state title, they always have to be involved. Individual children might win a round or two. Everyone is on the same site. That’s exciting. Teammates can come cheer you on. It gives the player that energy and that experience.

The Invitational will expand to 48 players in singles and 24 teams in doubles.

“I would say it’s one of the best end-of-season tournaments we’ve had,” Solomon said. “Of the 32 singles spots, 31 players came and 24 filled the field. We had 16 doubles teams accepted and 12 played. It’s better than most of our State Opens. Through the dedicated efforts of the committee, we reach every corner of the state. We were clear that we needed representation from all areas and divisions.

Healey said: “The Invitational was an amazing tournament of the best players in the state. We had better turnout (from the players). We guess it was because they weren’t able to compete against individuals in their divisions. It was outstanding tennis from start to finish. I think we will have another amazing tournament that week after the states.

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