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Tennis Anyone?

Junior tournaments

Q. When is a junior ready for tournaments?

At a bare minumum, the main technical requirement for beginner tournaments is the ability to serve well enough not to lose more than the occasional service game to double faults. Excessive double faulting isn't fun for either player. Once the serve goes in, the kids will get the feel of really playing, and they're likely to have fun.

A first tournament can be a lot of fun, but it can also sour a kid on tennis, so parents should not be in any hurry. If a kid expresses an interest, a tournament with players of similar ability, especially if it uses a fun format, can increase a kid's excitement about tennis.

The best formats for first tournaments are round robins and compass draws, because the kids keep playing, win or lose, and they usually end up with a mixture of wins and losses. An elimination tournament can be quite discouraging, especially if a kid has an unlucky draw and gets blown out in the first round, but some kids go in truly understanding that this is likely to happen, and they don't mind. Others think they're ready for getting blown out, but they end up not playing much tennis after that.