What Hube Schneider and Jim Deloye, two former tennis captains at the University of Wisconsin, have created with the help of a few beers and a computer may not be the most momentous contribution to tennis since the first net was strung across a court, but it is up there with Day-Glo yellow balls and the two-handed backhand and is miles ahead of lace panties.
The two men call it the Tennis Compatibility Rating, and if it works it could end years of embarrassment and frustration for tennis players at resorts, tennis parties, country weekends, conventions, tennis camps and in casual pickup games.
The project was born one afternoon in 1971 at the Brook Club outside Milwaukee, where Schneider and Deloye were sitting in the lounge drinking beer and watching with amazement and dismay the series of mismatches being played. The two had just founded a tennis products development company and were looking for some products to develop—admittedly a bit cart-before-the-horse, but you have to start somewhere.
It was while watching a particularly inept match, in which each set took about as long as it takes a Milwaukeean to down a couple of beers on a hot day, that they had their brainstorm.
"Eureka!" shouted Deloye, or an exclamation to that effect. "That's our product. What are tennis players looking for more than anything else? A compatible game."
They concluded that they would offer the tennis world a rating system that was simple, reasonably accurate, cheap and easy to administer. They also agreed that it should be handled by clubs or by mail, thus eliminating costly and unwieldy tests under the eye of a pro. Perhaps they could draw up a list of shrewdly conceived questions that would best evaluate a player's background and ability, and then just as shrewdly they would establish a mathematical formula to weigh the importance of the answers, which would then be fed into a computer. They grabbed for table napkins and began to make up a list of questions.
The list grew in the coming weeks, added to by pros, friends and their own long experience in the game. Schneider was the University of Wisconsin's No. 1 tennis player in 1948-49 despite being wounded in one hip at Leyte. He had also won the state championship in 1943 and had been nationally ranked. He is now an executive with a Wisconsin packaging firm; his knowledge of printing and graphics was invaluable in getting up the brochures and questionnaire.
Deloye was captain of the Wisconsin tennis team in '51 and '52 and its No. 1 singles player, and he has held high rankings in several states. He is now a management executive with IBM and a computer expert, another obvious boon to the rating system.
"The concept is simple," says Deloye, "with the computer playing a major role. By analyzing 46 questions, all of which are rated and valued, a three-digit number is produced which relates to a player's ability. This number is printed on a wallet-size card, which the player can carry around with him. TCRs can thus be assured anywhere—and at any time—of a vigorous, interesting, compatible match."
They then tested over 1,000 players, instituted a pilot program at the Brook Club and conducted tests in other Midwest tennis centers.