Using Cutthroat for Tournament Play

By Rokosz, Frank | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, October 1996 | Go to article overview

Using Cutthroat for Tournament Play


Rokosz, Frank, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


Sports such as racquetball, tennis, and badminton are normally played in a singles or doubles format. However, under certain circumstances, cutthroat play is possible. Cutthroat involves three players participating in a match instead of two or four.

Cutthroat is most appropriate for physical education class tournaments that operate on a ladder concept, where winners move up a court (toward court 1) and losers move down a court (toward the last court). When the number of students in class is equal to or less than the number of courts times three, and the instructor wants to keep all the students active simultaneously, matches can be conducted on a singles-cutthroat basis.

Figure 1 shows an alignment of 15 players on six tennis, badminton, or Pickle-Ball[R] courts. Notice that the three cutthroat courts are positioned inside the two end courts. Whenever possible the end courts are used for singles play, for reasons that will be explained later.

On the cutthroat courts, one player is on one side of the net playing singles against a doubles team. The singles player must always be the server. Using court 2 in figure 1 as an example, player 14 serves right-to-left to player 2 when his or her score is zero or an even number, and left-to-right to player 3 when his or her score is an odd number. Since tournament matches in physical education class are usually timed to last 5 to 10 minutes, standard scoring for tennis cannot be used - points must be scored as in other sports (i.e., 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.).

As long as player 14 continues to score points (one can only score when serving), he or she continues to serve. Once the doubles team scores (gains a side-out), a rotation must take place to get a new server.

The rotation can take place in one of two ways. Figure 2 shows a clockwise circular rotation. Although this system is easy to remember, it has one potential difficulty - the server is always facing the same alignment of players on the other side (e.g., player 14 is always looking at player 2 on the left and player 3 on the right). A problem will arise if, for example, one of the doubles players has a particular serve reception weakness in his or her fixed half of the court (this is particularly noticeable in the game of racquetball, where the player on the right would be defending the backhand corner of the court, assuming that players are right-handed).

To avoid that situation, a more complicated scheme would have players rotating in a V pattern [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 3 OMITTED]. Note that on the first rotation players 14 and 2 simply switch positions, while player 3 stays put. …

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