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Important announcement about Doubles handicaps

Jan 08, 2009

From The Tennis and Rackets Association

Interim guidance to tournament organisers and UK tennis clubs on the use of handicaps in national and club-level competitive doubles matches

The Handicap & Rankings Sub Committee (H&RSC) has issued the following interim ruling on the use of handicaps in competitive Doubles matches to organisers of national tournaments in the UK on 1st January, 2009:

Except as specified below, the T&RA policy is to use Singles handicaps as displayed on the RTO system for entrants to all national Singles and Doubles tournaments.

In cases where no appropriate Singles handicap is available on the RTO Website, for whatever reason, or where a player is demonstrably better at Doubles than Singles, the entrant may submit a best estimate of his or her handicap.

In all national tournaments, the tournament organiser will have the primary responsibility for reviewing and accepting the handicaps of tournament entrants.

Providing adequate evidence exists supporting the accuracy of an entrant's Singles handicap, no further action would be required by the tournament organiser. Three or more Singles handicap results recorded on RTO in the previous three months would constitute adequate evidence for entrants with an established handicap. A player will be treated as having an established handicap if that player has had a handicap registered on RTO for at least six months or, if not, has had at least six results entered on RTO.

Where adequate evidence is not available, the entrant has used an estimated handicap or the tournament organiser is, for any other reason, in doubt about the handicap of the entrant, he or she must obtain confirmation of the entrant's handicap from the senior professional, or his nominated deputy at the entrant's primary club.

In any cases of dispute, the final arbiter shall be the Chairman of the Handicaps and Rankings Sub-Committee.

The H&RSC has recommended that the same procedure is adopted in all club level tournaments.

The purpose of the supplementary note below is to provide additional guidance on the implementation of these recommendations in the UK.


The H&SRC considers that the Singles handicap system is well understood by players and has a fair degree of integrity and therefore forms a reliable basis for tournaments. The advantage and main source of credibility of the computer based Singles system is that it is evidence based and uses accumulated results, which summarise the achievements of a player playing alone. As things stand, and perhaps irremediably, Doubles handicaps recorded on RTO fall short on these tests. Moreover, in the UK, we suspect that data collection of Doubles results is not being carried out on a regular basis[1]. Accordingly, we consider that, as things stand, the use of Doubles handicaps as recorded on RTO may not be reliable and the Committee considers that there is a need to look for other evidence to assist in the process of handicap setting.

Use of Singles handicaps

We assume that the requirement to use Singles handicaps will ensure coverage of the majority of tournament entrants who already have a valid Singles handicap. For this purpose, three or more Singles handicap results recorded on RTO in the previous three months by a player with an established handicap would constitute adequate evidence of a valid Singles handicap.

This leaves us to deal with those who do not have an up-to-date Singles handicap or whose existing Singles handicap is unreliable for use in Doubles play for some reason. The main exceptions we have identified which would need to be addressed are where:

(I) a player has no Singles handicap;

(ii) a player's Singles handicap is unreliable; or

(iii) an entrant to a Doubles tournaments has a Singles handicap, but is demonstrably better at Doubles than Singles.

Dealing with exceptions

Players entering national and club tournaments who fall within the exceptions outlined above are required to provide a best estimate of their handicap for the purpose of the tournament (where necessary, taking account of whether it is a Doubles or Singles tournament). Such estimates will be reviewed by the club professional, who will be required to verify that the player's handicap is reasonable in all the circumstances In making this decision the professional should base his or her judgement on all available evidence, including any results recorded by the player, either in competitive or friendly matches, and (depending on the nature of the tournament) his or her ability at Doubles and Singles. Where necessary, the professional should gather additional evidence by watching the player on court.

In order to facilitate this review process and in the normal course of proper club management the professionals may decide to review periodically members handicaps (perhaps once a quarter) to confirm their validity for use in tournaments and, if necessary, to make adjustments to correct handicaps that do not reflect a player's true ability. In recommending this and as noted above, we anticipate that the majority of member's handicaps will be supported by a record of current Singles results so that relatively few adjustments will be required. We acknowledge that, for a number of reasons, clubs may wish to introduce an element of internal review of the actions of their professionals on handicap matters, perhaps in the form of a local Handicap Committee. We would support this, although at this stage we consider it a matter for local consideration and decision.

We further acknowledge that these recommendations may lead to clubs keeping records of those few players within their club whose ability at Doubles is genuinely superior to their Singles play. We consider that this is a logical next step and, once our recommendations are implemented, we will consult over the next twelve months on whether a facility to identify such players should be introduced to the RTO system and, if so, what form it should take.

Adjustment to handicaps

Where a handicap is altered in this review process, we recommend that the adjustment is always made to the Singles handicap in order to be consistent with our recommendations above. The adjustment should be made by the club professional and should be clearly identified on the RTO system with the words, adjustment made in connection with [name of Tournament]. We acknowledge in a small number of exceptional cases, this may lead to a problem where a player who plays both Singles and Doubles has entered a Doubles Tournament and receives an adjustment. In these circumstances, the professional may consider allowing an adjustment to be made solely for the purpose of that tournament.

Monitoring of results

The H&RSC intends to monitor the performance and results of players in Singles and Doubles competitions to review the response to these recommendations. It also wishes to collect data on competitive Doubles results for the purposes of its ongoing deliberations. It therefore proposes that the Doubles Handicaps system should continue to be operated on RTO and requests that clubs and tournament organisers enter the results of all competitive club level and national handicap Doubles matches. For the avoidance of doubt, the recording of friendly matches will be a matter for local decision.

The H&RSC is keen to hear from clubs and tournament organisers on their experience of implementing these recommendations. Please email any comments to the HRSC Chairman,

Handicap & Rankings Sub Committee

1st January 2009

[1] In the year to 31 October 2008, some 2,500 doubles matches had been recorded on RTO, compared with nearly 24,000 Singles matches.

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