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ITF outlines vision behind restructuring of pro tennis

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has unveiled further details behind the transition tour, which will be launched in 2019 as part of a major restructuring of professional tennis. 

First revealed in March 2017, the tour intends to provide a more effective pathway linking the ITF Junior Circuit and the senior professional game, and ensure that prize money at professional level tournaments is better targeted to enable more players to make a living.

The creation of the transition tour has been based on ITF research that shows that while over 14,000 players compete each year in professional tournaments, only around 350 men and 250 women break even financially without consideration of coaching costs.

The transition tour will be staged within a more localised circuit structure that reduces costs for players and tournament organisers. The ITF said this will also increase opportunities for players from more countries to join the pathway and be supported in their transition to professional tennis.

The transition tour forms part of a new worldwide tournament structure that has been agreed between the ITF and the ATP and WTA, organising bodies of the men’s and women’s pro tours, in order to address the current challenges at entry level. The structure is expected to reduce the number of professional players with ATP and WTA rankings from 3,000 to approximately 750 men and 750 women.

The new transition tour tournaments, which will offer $15,000 (€12,260) in prize money, will replace the existing $15,000 men’s and women’s tournaments on the ITF Pro Circuit in 2019, and will award ITF Entry Points instead of ATP and WTA ranking points.

In women’s tennis in 2019, tournaments offering a minimum of $25,000 in prize money will continue to offer WTA ranking points. In men’s tennis in 2019, $25,000 ITF Pro Circuit events will offer both ATP ranking points (later rounds) and ITF Entry Points (all rounds); while the qualifying rounds of ATP Challenger tournaments will also offer both ATP ranking points (all events) and ITF Entry Points (events up to $125,000 in prize money). From 2020, it is anticipated that $25,000 men’s tournaments will also form part of the transition tour and offer ITF Entry Points only.

The ITF, ATP and WTA will implement new ‘play-down’ rules to prevent higher-ranked players from competing in transition tour tournaments to maximise opportunities for other players. The implementation of the new ATP, WTA and ITF ranking systems will take place at the end of 2018.

The ITF added that more national associations will have the opportunity to stage events due to the cheaper hosting requirements of transition tour tournaments. The tournaments will be shorter in length than Pro Circuit events and take place over seven days.

ITF president David Haggerty said: “The new worldwide tournament structure in which we have collaborated with the ATP and WTA will help address the issues of transition between the junior and senior game, and enable more professional players to make a living. 

“However, it is vital that we do not reduce the chance for players of any nation or background to enter the professional pathway. The introduction of the transition tour will allow players to take the first steps towards becoming a future champion within a more targeted and affordable circuit structure.”