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Rainy Day Rant: Dropping Lines. Stop It!


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Rainy Day Rant: Dropping Lines. Stop It!

Sometimes, a girl’s gotta get something off her chest. And that time is now. That’s what happens when my Wednesday league match gets rained out – and I’m bored, lol!

Speaking of league tennis…

If you play league tennis, then no doubt you’ve played opponents who had no business being on your court. You remember the match – the one where you actually felt sorry for your opponents for acing them – for the hundredth time. Or perhaps it was you, in your normal spot on line 4, getting an unbelievably humiliating spank from players who you find out later, normally play (and win) line 1. Neither scenario sounds like a very fun OR competitive match, does it?

For those of you who enjoy the sport, but don’t play in leagues, a league match consists of either 4 “lines” or courts of doubles tennis (such as the HLTA and WHLTA League Tennis), or 3 lines of doubles and 2 lines of singles (USTA League Tennis), with player strengths in ascending order on the courts, with strongest players on line 1 (for both doubles and singles courts). And what I’m griping about in this post, are the sad jokes matches that occur when a non-USTA team captain makes the underhanded decision to play the strongest players on the lower lines.

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Line-dropping happens ALL. THE. TIME. And it sucks. It’s ridiculously unfair, and in my opinion, unsportsmanlike. Why do it? And for what? A few lousy points?? So the droppers can ensure they move up to the next level, where they’ll no doubt continue sacrificing weaker players so they won’t move back down? So the droppers can ensure they stay at the same level, where they’ll have to continue sacrificing weaker players?

Not all teams do this (thank God!!), and to those that do, I say:

If you can’t make your points playing straight up, then you don’t belong at that level. That goes for moving up a level, too. All you’re is proving that you can’t achieve your goals without duping your opponents, which pisses off both the players you sacrificed AND the players you set up for a loss on the lower lines. And what about your ringers? Do you really think they can really be proud of that slaughter win?

It’s just sad, and so are the people who do it.

Starting this year, the USTA has discouraged line-dropping by assigning a new point system for the Spring and Fall leagues, with line 1 is worth 10 points; line 2 is worth 6 points; line 3 is worth 4 points; and line 4 is worth 2 points. Time will tell to see if this works, but I think it will. I’m not sure what the summer league will be like, but I’m sure it will be similar.

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**EDIT: This post is NOT referring to USTA teams (most of them, anyway), or those who make last minute substitutions of a stronger player to a lower line due to things like injury, sickness, or traffic problems. That’s simply dealing with an immediate problem that has time constraints. This post is referring to non-USTA teams who show up with their regular players on time and with no injuries, and who put their stronger players on lines 3 and 4. And since league members have access to all team rosters and all of the previous match line ups and scores, it’s easy to spot who “stacks”.

Do you agree with me, or do you think I’m just being hormonal? (Don’t answer that, lol!) Have you ever played a match in which one or more lines were dropped? Were you the ringer or the “sacrificial lamb”? How did that make you feel? I really want to know! Please tell me about it in the comments below :-)

4.5 USTA rated/open champion level tennis player, vegan, fitness freak, animal lover, and smart ass who firmly believes that champagne is anathema for all ills. Right now I'm either up to my eyeballs in paint swatches and fabric samples, or kicking some butt on a tennis court (hopefully the latter).



  1. Angelina Sportelli

    September 17, 2017 at 12:17 am

    I understand M. Hatchers point and if you have 3 4.0 players then it is hard to call/enforce stacking. However, I am captain of a 7.5 combo usta team. When a team stacks their lineup even if they are all 7.5 teams you can tell. However, I would never complain since technically all the teams are 7.5 level and it could be due to a line just not playing well. But what upsets me is blatant line stacking. At my teams match yesterday in a 7.5 level league, the #1 line of our opponents had a combined ranking of 6.5 but their number 2 line has a combined ranking of 7.5. I even understand how occasionally a 7.0 team can be better than a 7.5 but not a 6.5. It was massively clear that they did not have enough people and they sacrificed their number 1 line to give their team a chance. Even though it is not technically illegal, I call that cheating. They blatantly line stacked and just made the match not fun. My team did win the match, so I am not angry or upset about that. I just dont think line-stacking should be allowed and when it is clearly blatant, the team doing it should have consequences.

  2. M Hatcher

    September 6, 2017 at 11:52 am

    I don’t think there is such a thing as stacking” in USTA tennis. When you are playing high school or college tennis, you are expected to ladder your players and play straight up. In USTA adult league, you are ranked… 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, and so on. Since no one is allowed access to the computer rankings, then there is no way to stack. If you have a 4.0 team and everyone is ranked 4.0, then any player can play on any court and should be able to. I don’t consider USTA matches to be about the #1 court being better than the #3 court. The rules do not say that either. The rules say that 18+ 4.0 women will play 3 doubles matches and 2 singles matches.

  3. DA

    March 2, 2015 at 9:03 am

    I remember when I played team tennis in high school, we were required to have our players scrimmage against each other and keep a “ladder” for the team so that we could justify which people got assigned to which courts. Perhaps this is too much overhead for recreational league tennis? Anyway stacking doesn’t usually buy too much in my experience. Swapping 1 and 3 for example just exchanges wins at most, and sliding people down one level doesn’t have much of an impact on teams with reasonable depth.

    In my area in the USTA, we have another problem. Teams in contention for going to sectionals suddenly sign up 3 or 4 new players at the end of the season for their last few key matches. These players are the top players from other teams across the state, and they often play on the lower courts for the teams they are “visiting.” I’ve seen that happen over and over, and a friend of mine who went to sectionals recently played against a team where most of the members had ever met each other before — they were all last-minute roster packing mercenaries. Yes they had each played their required 2 matches for the team, but none together at the same time.

    • Lynn

      March 2, 2015 at 11:02 am

      Wow! I’ve heard of similar things happening but had no idea it was done to that extent! I suspect the USTA would condone this under the table, as it brings the best players to sectionals regardless of what team they are on to start with. But this is TEAM tennis not individual competition so it seems wrong IMO.

  4. Wendy

    February 26, 2015 at 5:58 am

    in Georgia we call it ‘Sandbagging’- it has happened quite a bit in my USTA leagues because there’s really no rule against it just a suggestion to play by order of strength. But in ALTA, there are some serious rules against it. People still try to do it but it could screw up your entire season and ruin playoffs. You should check out their rules and push for implementation in your area. They have rules about the movement from line to line. For instance if I play line 1 and win I can’t be moved below a losing player or team and If I do move I can only move down one line with my current partner or two lines of we split up. Overall it’s a pretty fair system and hard to cheat. I’m usually a line 1 player and for me it really stinks when they ‘sandbag’ and I end up crushing an opponent. We’re all in this for fun right!? So why ruin the fun buy cheating. It’s pretty sad!! I feel strongly that teams who do this should have to sit out a season and not be allowed to play. Then the whole team would put pressure on to play fair!

    • Jen

      February 26, 2015 at 7:59 am

      Hi there Wendy :-) WOW! I love that ALTA has such rules – E and F – that prohibits sandbagging. I’m definitely going to suggest this to our HLTA and WHLTA. Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. Lynn

    February 25, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    I hear your pain, but as a captain I have to mention the other side of the (court) table….. sometimes there are reasons for playing what looks like a “stacked” line (which is what our league calls it). I had to do that once when the player scheduled for line 1 who lives 90 mins out of town was stuck in traffic behind a wreck- I could’t guarantee she would make it so I had to move her to line 3 doubles to avoid possibly having to default all 3 lines if she didn’t show. She did make it last minute, played and won at line 3. Did I feel bad? sort of. But if she had been 16 minutes late at line 1 I can guarantee you the opposing captain would’ve gleefully claimed all 3 lines as per league regulations.
    I’ve done it when I had a gal who always faithfully played singles wanted a try at doubles- she is an erratic doubles player at best and although a look at her singles record puts her squarely a line 1 player, she and her partner managed to lose their match at line 3 to a team fully one ranking below us- so did I do the right thing? Clearly i think I did.
    I’ve put an injured but game line 1 player (including myself once) in line 3 on occasion and I’ve paired a line 1 player with a line 3 player at line 3 when no one else was available, or to give the disheartened line 3 gal a chance at a win she wouldn’t normally get. Wrong? Idk, in this case my player was given a small but needed confidence boost. And lastly, sometimes my entire lineup is a whole rating higher than the opposing team- in that case no matter who I put there they are going have to work not to humiliate the opponents. And lastly, we all know that aggressive hard hitting successful line 1 gal whose game absolutely falls apart when she has to play a lower ranked team that lobs and “poufs” the ball around, mishitting every other shot. Am I stacking in that case?? Nah, I don’t think so. I just think that there are too many variables in the leagues I play in to warrant trying to really rank every player and stick to that lineup. Its easier in high school and college tennis bc the coach knows he will have the same 8 (or whatever) varsity players available for every match, and knows exactly where they will play and which opponents. Then stacking would be unsportsmanlike. But for my league, although I don’t consciously stack, I don’t sweat it too much beforehand.

    • Jen

      February 25, 2015 at 9:29 pm

      Hi Lynn :-) Thanks for sharing, but what you’re describing is not what I would consider “stacking”; that’s simply dealing with a short roster in an emergency, and I’d like to think that think most teams are forgiving in such instances. I know mine are. Perhaps an edit is in order ;-)

      • Anonymous

        February 26, 2015 at 6:06 am

        Absolutely! It’s nice to be able to look up records to see which teams like to stack ahead of time. Better still not to have to do it at all but just play straight up tennis! Thanks for your post.

  6. Cindy

    February 25, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    i don’t think a team should bottomload consistently but I know there are circumstances that it is acceptable. The teams I play on don’t do this but with our crazy lives sometimes the only players available have to be bumped up. Most of our team are fairly equal with some a bit stronger than others. However some get injured, some travel, some get sick, and we have to use the people available. We had three upper line players go to other teams. We dropped one level, but hope to find some upper level players to join our team. May have to bottom load until we do. lol

    • Jen

      February 25, 2015 at 3:21 pm

      Hi Cindy :-) Thanks for sharing! It’s a bummer your teammates went to other teams, leaving you somewhat stranded. Good luck rebuilding!

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