The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has unveiled further details of its transition tour, which will be launched in 2019 as part of a major restructuring of professional tennis.
First mooted in March 2017, the tour is intended 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.
According to ITF research the break-even ranking in the men’s game is number 336 in the world, and number 253 for women, and that is without consideration of coaching costs. The same research shows over 14,000 players compete each year in professional tournaments.
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 tour forms part of a new worldwide tournament structure that has been agreed between the ITF and the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), the 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 a current total of 3,000 to approximately 750 men and 750 women.
The new transition tour tournaments will replace the existing US$15,000 men’s and women’s tournaments on the ITF Pro Circuit in 2019, and award ITF Entry Points instead of ATP and WTA ranking points, with the prize money remaining the same.
Under the restructure, women’s tournaments with a minimum of $25,000 in prize money will continue to offer WTA ranking points.
The changes in the men’s game, $25,000 ITF Pro Circuit events will offer both ATP ranking points (later rounds) and ITF Entry Points (all rounds). The qualifying rounds of ATP Challenger tournaments will offer ATP ranking points for all events and ITF Entry Points for 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 in order 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 plans for national associations to have increased opportunity to stage events due to the cheaper hosting requirements of transition tour tournaments. The tournaments will be shorter in length than current 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.”