The International Tennis Federation (ITF) is set to impose a major restructuring to the professional circuit, in a move that will bring about a drastic change in the senior and junior tours.
What is the change?
The number of professional players on both the ATP and WTA tours will be reduced to the top 750 ranks for the men and women’s categories. This will bring out a 55.04 percent decrease in the total number of ranked players, 3,337, currently on the professional tour. The ITF Board of Directors also approved the introduction of the ITF Transition Tour for upcoming players from the 2019 season.
Why is it being imposed?
The ITF conducted a three-year Player Pathway review to analyse data from 2001 to 2013. The results provided an alarming financial crunch among lower level players.
Despite there being 3,337 ranked players on the ATP and WTA tours, there are over 14,000 players competing professionally on the circuit, most of whom do not earn any prize money. According to 2013 statistics, it’s estimated that players ranked 336 or better on the ATP tour, and 253 or better on the WTA tour break even in terms of their financial expenditure and prize money won during the season — though the calculations do not take into account coaching fees.
For upcoming players, resources on offer through tournaments are scarce, along with fewer ranking points that come from ITF Future tournaments. As such, there has not been an increase in the number of juniors turning professional despite the number of participants increasing. To address this, the ITF is introducing the Transition Tour.
At the same time, the amount of time taken for a player to turn professional and move to the top 100 has increased.
What is the ITF Transition Tour?
The concept is designed to help junior players make a secured transition to the senior level. The Transition Tour offers ‘Entry Points’ rather than ATP or WTA ranking points. The two systems (Transition Tour and ATP/WTA Tours) will be linked enabling upcoming players to use the Entry Points to make the switch to the professional circuit.
Set to be introduced in the 2019 season, the Transition Tour will involve the repositioning of existing Level 1 Futures events — $15,000 events. The tour events will be organised within a localised circuit structure, ensuring players need not travel too far from their home base to play tour matches, hence bringing down travel expenditure.
How does it help?
Prize money on the professional tour has increased by approximately $1.5 million from 2016 to 2017 according to the Player Pathway review. The drastic reduction of players on the pro circuit is expected to compress the pool of players and provide more opportunities to earn from the tour.
For junior players, the Transition Tour will provide constant competitive playing opportunities, without the prospect of heavy travel expenditure, awarding Entry Points at each stage leading towards the professional stream.
However Indian players would still have to hit foreign shores to make a living and earn points, seeing how the number of Futures tournaments in the country has dropped from 19 in 2015 to 6 this year.