The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has announced that qualifying draws at ITF World Tennis Tour events will be increased from 24 players to 32, following an analysis of data gathered during the first eight weeks of the new Tour and feedback from players, coaches and National Associations.
The ITF’s mission is to support the entry of the best male and female players into professional tennis and deliver them to the top of the game. Changes which led to the introduction of the ITF World Tennis Tour in 2019 were supported by ATP and WTA and incorporated the 2018 Independent Review Panel’s recommendations on structural change that identified the need for a set number of professional players.
The ITF is confident that the benefits to tennis of the new Tour will be far-reaching and long-term – it will increase the number of nations hosting events and retain the sport’s global character, it will set a realistic pathway for the best talent in our game and allow more players to financially support themselves. The former structure catered for 14,000 players of which less than 600 could cover their basic costs; this model was unsustainable.
The ITF has made it clear from the outset that it will act promptly where it is apparent that improvements are required to benefit players and strengthen the Tour under its existing structure.
The ITF Men’s and Women’s Circuit Committees conducted a review of the existing data and concluded that an expansion of the qualifying draw to 32 would benefit players by increasing the number of playing opportunities, while allowing tournaments to remain within the desired seven days. Qualifying draws will now see eight players advancing to the main draw. The new qualifying draw size will come into effect from 1 April to allow enough time for players and tournament directors to make the necessary arrangements where practical.
The ITF World Tennis Tour was developed following an independent analysis of players and events for the period 2001-13 and a global survey undertaken by University of Kingston of more than 55,000 players, coaches, administrators and organisers. The independent analysis determined that wide-ranging change was necessary to address a number of issues, namely that there were 14,000 players competing in professional tennis events in 2013 and almost half of them earned no prize money and only approximately 250 women and 340 men broke even.
Executive Director of ITF Circuits Jackie Nesbitt said: “The ITF, ATP and WTA all agreed that the previous tour structure was not fit for purpose. The new ITF World Tennis Tour, which was developed based on extensive independent analysis, has been designed to address the issues that were identified and better support talented players to progress from the junior circuits into the professional game.
“As the only global organisation that, together with member nations, invests in the future of the tennis, the ITF can say with confidence that all decisions are taken based on what is best for the sport. Significant change is never easy, but significant change was necessary.
“Clearly, just eight weeks in to the new Tour, we need to be patient and gather more data evidence before we can make objective conclusions on its overall impact. However, we did note from the evidence and feedback we have so far that expanding qualifying draws to 32 players would fit within the existing structure of the Tour, while delivering greater opportunities for players; and we did not hesitate to make that adjustment.”