Charlottesville Area Tennis Singles

Fun and Friendly Tennis since 2006


Rules and FAQ

Each player in the CATS league is encouraged to play as many matches as he or she can during the season. After all, more tennis is what we're all about. Those players who have elected divisional play must minimally complete one match against every other player in their division. Included below are rules associated with match play, conduct, and an overview of the ranking procedures used.


Q: What are my choices for membership types?

A: Each player must decide at the begin of each seasonal session whether he or she is a Divisional member or is enrolled only in CATS Open Play. Divisional membership is the larger commitment, but also promises the most fun and more guaranteed matches against opponents with similar abilities. Divisions will consist of somewhere between 7 and 10 players, and each player must commit to completing a match with each other player in the same division during the CATS session. This will generally equate to a commitment of a little less than one match per week.

Players that are new to CATS and interested in divisional play are strongly encouraged to play at least one CATS match against an established member or come to a CATS hit-around event to ensure placement in an appropriatedivision. The Board uses these evaluations to help assess new players' skills so that divisions can be aligned as competitively as possible.

We understand that some folks will feel that they are too busy to commit to a division. For these players, a CATS Open Play membership will provide a way to participate in CATS and to be able to enjoy as many matches as each player can manage. CATS Open Play matches may be scheduled against any other CATS member.

Players are automatically part of CATS Open Play, regardless of membership type. Every match played counts as a CATS Open Play match, regardless of the membership type.

Q: How do I decide which membership type is better for me?

A: The largest consideration is your ability to commit to playing 7 to 9 matches over a 10 or 11 week season. We do ask you to take your commitment seriously, so if you are dubious, CATS Open Play is probably a better choice. The Board strives to form divisions with evenly skilled players, so divisional play is an advantage for those who would rather let the Board figure out their opponents. Of course, divisional players are free to schedule as many Open Play matches as they like to augment their divisional schedules.

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Q: OK, what is the big difference between the ladder system and this CATS Open Play thing?

A: The current CATS ladder will be replaced by the CATS Open Play ranking system that is based on your best 10 performances over the past 12 months. The CATS Open Play Ranking System is the primary tool used for comparing two CATS players, for seeding in tournaments, and for forming divisions at the beginning of each session. While this system is inherently much more complicated than the old Ladder system, the Board feels that it is more accurate and fair tool for ranking its players.

Q: What was wrong with the ladder? Why can’t we leave a good thing alone?

A: Ladders are very much a “what have you done for me lately?” phenomenon. A relatively mediocre player could upset the top person on the ladder and move into the top position. He could then decide not to play another match for several weeks, and then to only play weaker opponents. It could take a very long time for this player to move back down to his/her natural position. Furthermore, the Board has received numerous complaints and queries about its policy regarding inactive players (turn name gray and demote five spots after 4 consecutive weeks of no play). We could easily go with the status quo, but better systems are achievable and we want to try them out. We could always revert back to a ladder system if CATS 2.0 is not meeting the needs of the community. The new system should exhibit these advantages:

    - Rating cannot be dramatically improved with a single victory. Instead rating is gradually improved with consistent good play. In fact, new players will not be able to approach the top of the rankings until they have completed nine or ten matches.

    - There is no longer an advantage for delaying or avoiding a specific match.

    - The concept of "inactive player" is eliminated, except to designate injuries. Players who play very infrequently will have difficulty establishing or maintaining high ranking position.

    - The new system, coupled with known USTA ratings, should provide a better indication of player talents and should help those without USTA ratings to better describe their playing ability.

To be fair, the system has the disadvantages of being more difficult to understand and more difficult to administer.

Q: How will matches be evaluated in this new system?

A: A new rating system will be used for evaluating each match. This rating system will be used in both divisional play and CATS Open Play. Points are awarded for each match as follows:

1. Each player is awarded 12 points for playing the match.
2. Match Winner receives 6 points, Match Loser receives zero points.
3. Winner of each set receives 3 points, loser of each set receives zero points.
4. Winner of most games receives 1 point for each game in differential, loser of each game receives negative 1 point for each game in differential.

Thus the maximum possible blowout score for a match (winning 6-0, 6-0) would yield the following results:

Winner: 12 + 6 [match win] + (2 x 3) [set wins] + (12) [Game differential] = 36 points.
Loser: 12 + 0 + 0 - (12) = ZERO points.

Alternatively, the tightest possible match would be a 7-6, 0-6, 7-6 victory. In such a match, scores would be calculated as follows:

Winner: 12 + 6 + 6 - 4 [game differential] = 20 points
Loser: 12 + 0 + 3 + 4 [game differential] = 19 points

Q: How will this affect divisional play and figuring out divisional champions?

A: This is a subtle change. In the old divisional rating system, winners could receive up to 100 points per match and losers could receive as little as negative 50. In the new system, divisional matches are rated the same as CATS Open Play matches, i.e. 0 to 36 points. Players should be motivated to complete each match because a rating cannot be lowered, even by playing an obviously superior opponent.

CATS Divisional Championships shall be awarded based on the following criteria, in order of priority: (1)The champion will be the player with most divisional wins. (2) If exactly two people tie for the most divisional wins, also tie in losses, and have played a head to head match, the champion will be the winner of their head to head match. (3) If two or more people tie for the most divisional wins, the champion will be the person with the most CATS Rating Points. In the event of equal CATS Rating Points, tied players will decide whether they want to have a playoff match. If either player elects not to participate in a championship match, the division will have multiple champions.

The Board will no longer maintain a policy where divisional matches are "erased" if a player drops out of a division prior to completing all of his or her matches, regardless of the reason. The Board does reserve the right to make adjustments that are deemed fairest under these circumstances.

Q: Will divisional matches count towards my CATS Open Play Rating?

A: Yes. I really needed a break, so thanks for the yes/no question.

Q: How does the CATS Open Play Rating System work? How is my rating calculated?

A: We'll begin with a leap of faith. The Commissioner will periodically run a special algorithm that will compute an All-Time Ranking for each player who has ever completed a CATS match. This procedure uses as input nothing more than the final score of each match ever played. All matches are weighted equally and an All-Time rating is generated for each player. If you take a look at these ratings, you might nitpick a little, but we think you’ll agree that they are a pretty accurate reflection of overall skill levels.

If you accept that these ratings are pretty accurate, the rest is straightforward. The CATS software simply evaluates all of your matches over the past twelve months and identifies your top 10. Any player with fewer than 10 matches played will find it very difficult to approach the top of the heap. Unlike the ladder, it will likely take a new player at least 7 or 8 impressive matches to crack into the Top 10.

In order to understand how this works, ask yourself how you would evaluate your 10 best matches. Would you simply take the 10 biggest margins of victory, or would you consider the skill level of your opponents? Could a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 loss against a player 30 spots above you be more impressive than a 6-4, 6-3 win against a player 30 spots below you? We think so, and so the evaluation of your 10 best matches takes into consideration both the score and the rating of each opponent.

Remember, the ATP tour, the NCAA, and most serious tennis organizations use rating systems to evaluate players. If there is sufficient interest, the Commissioner has offered to author a white paper on the rating system for CATS members who approach his level of geekdom.

Q: Simply speaking, how do I improve my CATS Open Play Rating?

A: Play frequently. The more matches you play, the more opportunities you will have to get a better “top 10” profile. Challenge up when you can (within reason). Wins or even close losses against better players are likely to reward you more than close wins against those rated lower than you. By all means, make sure you have at least 10 matches on your resume over any 12-month period.

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Q: Who do I play this week?

A: If you are playing in a Division, the CATS Home page will usually have a suggested opponent for you. This suggestion is for convenience only. Please feel free to schedule your own matches. If you are a CATS Open Play member, you will schedule all of your own matches. Under the Ladder system, matches were restricted to opponents within a specified range of rungs on the ladder. This restriction no longer exists, and CATS Open Play matches may be scheduled between any two members.

Q: There sure are a lot of CATS!! How do I select an opponent with compatible skills?

A: Check out the ability bands on the Members page and choose someone from your own band +/- one level. You may want to check out the Standings page and start with players who aren't currently playing in a division. Players with lots of match experience are more likely to respond to your requests. Invite several players and take the first one to respond, queueing up others for subsequent match play.

You can contact other members using the mailing lists sent via e-mail. Have fun out there!

Q: How do I contact my opponent?

A: You should have an Excel Spreadsheet that contains the CATS Master mailing list. This will be updated from time-to-time as we add new members or contact information changes. The e-mail links on these mailing lists should launch your registered e-mail application. The e-mail addresses have been removed from the web pages due to concerns about e-mail harvesting by SPAMmers.

Q: What date and time are matches played?

A: You are free to schedule your match whenever you wish. It would be very difficult to attempt to accommodate everyone's schedules on a weekly basis. Some folks have expressed an interest in meeting in groups to play these matches. We think that's a great idea and welcome your suggestions for standard meeting places and times.

You should still schedule a specific match, even if coming to a group event. There is no guarantee that you will find an unmatched opponent if you just show up.

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Q: What constitutes an official match?

The format of each match will be best 2 out of 3 sets, with a 7-point tiebreaker played when the game score is 6-6. The following is a rule change that was voted into the by-laws at the Summer 2011 CATS Board Meeting. If either player prefers, a single 10-point tiebreaker will be substituted for the third set.

Tiebreakers shall use the familiar alternating serve method, switching sides after every six points, unless an alternate method is agreed upon by both opponents.

Q: Can I play the same divisional opponent more than once?

Sure. The first score reported counts as your divisional match. Subsequent scores count towards your CATS Open Play ratings.

Q: Who provides the balls for a match?

A: In general, we'll leave this up to the players. However, we suggest the following approach. Each player brings a new, unopened can of balls to each match. One of the cans is opened and used for the match. The winner of the match takes the new, unopened can while his/her opponent takes the can that was just used.

Q: How do I report a score?

A: The winner of each match should send an e-mail to the Commissioner (see link on Home Page) with the names of the winner and loser and the set score, e.g. Nadal d. Heatwole 7-6, 0-6, 7-6. All matches should be reported, even CATS Open Play matches where the upper seed wins.

Q: I was beating a guy above me in the rankings, and he quit when it started to sprinkle. What do we do?

A: If there is an injury, tornado, or any other situation where a match cannot be completed, the players are encouraged to work out a mutually agreeable strategy to resolve the match, including but not necessarily limited to:

    A. Replay entire match
    B. Replay entire set
    C. Replay from the exact point of stoppage [this is the USTA default ruling]
    D. Injured player defaults
    E. Trailing player defaults

We prefer the options that involve replaying, because that's just more fun.

When all else fails, we will default to the ITF and USTA rules, which can be found at the USTA web site.

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Before getting to the questions, we would like to make a plea for you to adopt the CATS philosophy of fun and friendly tennis. Please try to be generous with calls. Don't call it out unless you SEE it out. Please try to avoid ticky-tack calls related to the fine points in the rule book, e.g. foot faults and players catching a hit ball when it is clearly way long.

Q: How do disputes get resolved?

A: CATS members are generally known to be solid citizens who enjoy the game and make great opponents. We hope that our adult members are able to resolve any disputes that may arise between contestants. When a rule or scoring dispute occurs, the bottom line is: work it out for yourselves. If you can't work it out, see if you can agree to simply avoid reporting a score. In the event that a dispute about rules or a score cannot be resolved, either player (or better yet, both) may contact the Commissioner or any Board member to seek a ruling.

Q: Help! I can't get a divisional member to acknowledge my requests for a match. What should I do?

A: If Player A is continually frustrated by attempts to schedule a match with divisional Opponent B, Player A may file a complaint with any Board member. The Board member (or Commissioner) will then contact Player B and ask for his/her response. Both submissions will be submitted to all Board members for a vote. If the Board votes that the originator has legitimate grounds for the complaint, the board shall either (a) award a 6-0, 6-0 default victory to the originator, or (b) set a deadline by which the match must be played, otherwise resulting in a 6-0, 6-0 default victory. If the Board rules against the originator, the matter shall be dropped.

Q: What do I do about cheating or objectionable behavior?

A: If any CATS member encounters an opponent who uses offensive language, intimidation tactics, threats, or sexual harassment, please let us know right away. Also, please report any opponent who you observe showing a consistent pattern of cheating. These will all be dealt with on an individual case basis.

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