Saturday, December 23, 2017

IRT matches to become best of 3 games

The International Racquetball Tour (IRT) announced this week that it will change its scoring system in 2018. Since 1981, IRT matches have been best of 5 games with each game to 11 points. Beginning in 2018, IRT matches will be best of 3 games with the first two games to 15 and tie-breaker to 11. 

Perhaps more importantly, each game will be win by one point. IRT games have been win by two since 1989.(1) 

The rationale given for this change was to make IRT matches consistent with USA Racquetball (USAR), International Racquetball Federation (IRF), and World Racquetball Tour (WRT) matches. Yet there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with the best of 5, win by 2 system, and unless something is a problem, there’s no reason to fix it. 

Also, having matches be the best of 5 games, when other organizations - especially the non-professional USAR - were using a best of 3 games format meant IRT matches were different from regular non-professional matches. It made them special. They will no longer be special.

The IRT also cites playing time as a consideration in making the change, suggesting overall match time could be reduced. A reduction in match time suggests the role of athlete fitness may be reduced, which is not good, because fitter athletes should be rewarded for being in better condition than their opponents.

The Racquetball Blog strongly believes games should be win by 2, not 1. Our reasoning is that racquetball involves serving, and having serve a big advantage in a rally. If a game is win by 1, then one lucky serve (or unlucky return) can determine the winner, which shouldn’t be the case. Every other sport involving serving - tennis, table tennis(2), squash, volleyball, badminton - uses a win by 2 rule. 

The only exceptions were USAR, the IRF and WRT, which uses IRF rules, and now the IRT. Racquetball Canada matches are best of 3 games (two to 15, breaker to 11) and win by 2. The Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT) singles matches are best of 5 games to 11, win by 2, and an LPRT representative told The Racquetball Blog they have no plans to change. LPRT doubles matches use the best of 3, win by 1 format. 

In making the change, the IRT cited US Open history which has yet to see a five game match in the final. Most of those finals have involved Kane Waselenchuk, who has rarely played five games with anyone, so that evidence is not compelling to us, especially when you consider the US Open is the longest pro event, so by the final one of the players may be in better condition than the other, and that small an advantage can make the difference. 

Moreover, it ignores US Open semi-final history that has given us some of the best matches in IRT history, including Cliff Swain versus Jack Huczek in 2004 and again in 2005, as well as Jason Mannino versus Huczek in 2006, and more recently Rocky Carson against Daniel De La Rosa, who split semi-final matches at the 2015 and 2016 US Opens. All those matches went five games and some took over two hours to play. They were great, but nothing like that will happen in 2018. Sad. 

Finally, changing the scoring system after 36 years means comparisons from matches in 2018 and on to matches from 1981-2017 will be impossible. Any single game records will not be valid moving forward, because the games will be a different length.

Line Judges

The IRT will allow line judges on an “as needed basis,” which seems like a good idea, as it will help to increase the likelihood the correct call is made. The discriminations in racquetball - was that a short serve? did the ball bounce twice before it was hit? - can be difficult at the best of times, so we’re all in favor of helping the referee make the correct decision.

Replay on the IRT Network will be the “primary option,” but line judges may be used depending on the local conditions.

(1) History information from Pro Racquetball Historical Data Archive.
(2) Badminton games are to 21 win by 2, but are capped at 30, so if a game gets to 29-29, the person who gets the next point will win the game 30-29.

Follow the bouncing ball….


Todd Boss said...

Yeah, pretty much spot on with my opinion.

I'm kinda bummed about it.

Commish said...

Your expertise and passion for racquetball is so deeply appreciated. HAPPY NEW YEAR