In tennis, the Big 12 plays by its own rules.
New league rules were aimed at creating a better fan experience, including no-advantage play, no warmups with opponents and, most important, cheering and yelling allowed at any time during Big 12 conference matches.
The cheering rule, known now as the Roditi Rule — named after TCU’s head coach David Roditi, who pitched the idea — are naturally just for the fans.
“If you go to somebody’s party and you’re not sure how to behave, you’re probably not going to go back to that same party because you don’t really understand how to behave,” Roditi said.
Part of tennis etiquette also forbids fans heckling or even talking to opposing players or teams.
“Can you imagine a football game where you couldn’t say anything about the opposing team? Come on. It feels like we’re little princesses. Come on,” Roditi said.
But a few of the other rules, made to shorten the length of tennis matches for the spectators, seem to be paying dividends on the court as TCU and three other Big 12 teams — Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas — enter the NCAA Championship in Waco.
No-advantage scoring eliminates the back and forth of deuce-advantage play after a game reaches a 40-40 tie. In Big 12 play, it’s sudden-death scoring, giving the game to the victor of the point that follows 40-40.
The byproduct is the value of a single point.
“I think playing no ad, it does make you a lot more focused. Every point is just a little bit more crucial,” senior Nick Chappell said. “There’s not as much room for error. I think that will definitely help us going to play ad because there is a little bit more of a margin.”
To earn a berth to the NCAA Championships at Baylor’s Hurd Tennis Center in Waco, TCU already had to revert back to the traditional tennis rules. The result was two 4-0 wins over Marist and Tulsa in the regional last weekend at TCU.
“It was such a non-issue. I didn’t even ask the guys. I totally forgot,” Roditi said. “Everyone in that regional played the NCAA format during conference and we didn’t and we were the ones that got through and we actually kind of killed them.”
Beyond focus, Roditi believes his players looked fresh physically during the regional without many extra hours of advantage scoring weighing on their bodies at this point in the year.
TCU takes the court at noon Thursday in the Round of 16, facing Wake Forest, a team that has already beaten the Horned Frogs once this season, 4-3 in Winston-Salem, N.C., on March 8. Chappell said, for that reason, it’s a match the higher-seeded team isn’t taking for granted.
“We’re the higher seed so normally somebody may overlook them or be overconfident. Since we’ve already lost to them, that’s definitely not the problem. We’re definitely looking forward to playing them and beating them since we lost to them. It definitely puts a little chip on our shoulder.”
If TCU wins, the Horned Frogs will play their Elite Eight matchup Saturday at noon or 4 p.m.
The men’s semifinals take place at 1 p.m. Monday and the finals are at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Chappell said this is a team he believes that could make its first final four appearance since 2001 and possibly see the final and beyond for the first time in school history.
“It’s fun to be here,” he said. “My first three years, this is where we always wanted to be. It’s been good since we’ve got here, but we’re all pretty hungry and we know that we can really make a run here.”
NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship
at Baylor’s Hurd Tennis Center
No. 5 TCU vs No. 12 Wake Forest: noon today, Riverside Courts
Team quarterfinals: noon and 4 p.m. Saturday
Semifinals: 1 p.m. Monday
Final: 1 p.m. Tuesday
Individual singles and doubles: May 20-25