The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has today (Thursday) unveiled a major restructuring of the sport at its entry level that will lead to the creation of a new global Transition Tour in 2019.
The reform programme of changes will include a radical reduction in the number of truly professional players and the formation of the Transition Tour, which the ITF says will provide opportunities for the next generation of talented players to enter the professional pathway.
The reform programme is in response to a three-year ITF Player Pathway review of professional and junior tennis that included an analysis of player and event data from 2001-13, and a survey of more than 50,000 stakeholders. The ITF said the review established that there are too many players trying to compete on the professional circuit; too few players are breaking even; and the age of these players is increasing. The ITF claims there are currently around 14,000 players competing in professional tennis events, almost half of whom do not earn any prize money.
The review also identified that it is taking longer for players to reach the top levels of the sport, and that many talented junior players experience considerable difficulty in transitioning to professional tennis. The entry level of the sport has also been susceptible to instances of corruption and match-fixing, with tennis one of the worst affected sports in this regard.
The ITF Transition Tour will feature a new category of interim tournament at entry-level that will seek to better aid the transition from junior to professional tennis and ensure a continued opportunity for players from any nation to join the player pathway. These tournaments will be held within a localised circuit structure that reduces costs and increases opportunity for players, and reduces staging costs for organisers.
Transition Tour tournaments will be created through the repositioning of the existing $15,000 (€13,787) Level One tournaments on the ITF Pro Circuit that will no longer be held as part of the Pro Circuit in 2019. Transition Tour tournaments will offer ITF Entry Points instead of ranking points for the ATP men’s and WTA women’s tours, with the two systems linked to ensure that the more successful players are able to use their ITF Entry Points to gain acceptance into ITF Pro Circuit tournaments.
The ITF’s proposed restructuring will radically reduce the number of professional players competing for ATP and WTA ranking points. The ITF’s extensive modelling work has led to a recommended professional player group of no more than 750 men and 750 women players. The ITF said this new approach will introduce a clearer and more effective professional pathway and ensure that prize money levels at ITF Pro Circuit events are better targeted to ensure that more players can make a living from the professional game.
The ITF will now work closely with its member nations, ATP and WTA on the implementation of the Transition Tour, including confirmation of the technical requirements, tournament schedule and new ranking point structure.
ITF president David Haggerty (pictured) said: “The ITF’s Player Pathway study is the most comprehensive review of professional tennis ever undertaken and has highlighted the considerable challenges at the base of our game. Over 14,000 players competed at professional level last year which is simply too many. Radical changes are needed to address the issues of transition between the junior and professional game, playing affordability, and tournament cost.”