The ITF Board has issued the below statement following the 19-20 March ITF Board of Directors meeting:
The ITF World Tennis Tour is a long-term project and the ITF is committed to making appropriate changes based on player feedback and analysis of data, where it is within its authority to do so.
Unquestionably, the previous structure was not fit for purpose and major change was needed to secure the long-term health and integrity of our sport. The ITF, ATP and WTA worked together to reform the Player Pathway, an approach that sought to address these issues and incorporate the clear recommendations made by the Independent Review Panel in December 2018. All three bodies have a continued joint responsibility to monitor, review and make appropriate adjustments in the best interests of players, to achieve the common objective of fair opportunities and a clear pathway in professional tennis.
The ITF Board of Directors has therefore approved the following adjustments to the ITF World Tennis Tour:
- Where Pre-Qualifying / Wild Card competitions are created to offer additional playing opportunities, such events will be governed by the full ITF World Tennis Tour regulations;
- An increase in the Singles Qualifying Draw at Women’s World Tennis Tour $60,000, $80,000 and $100,000 tournaments from 24 to 32, where tournaments have the capacity;
- The introduction of a Protected Ranking for the ITF World Tennis Singles and Doubles Rankings;
- Introduction of two (2) reserved places in $15,000 tournament Doubles Draws for teams to be accepted by ATP/WTA/ITF Doubles ranking;
- Introduction of two (2) reserved places in $25,000 tournament Doubles Draws for teams to be accepted by ITF Doubles ranking;
- Improved processing of Tournament Acceptance Lists after the Freeze Deadline to display withdrawals and remove Alternates from all but their highest priority tournament in order to provide more predictable playing opportunities for players;
- An increase in the number of year-end Junior Exempt Project places from three (3) to five (5) for elite ITF Junior players;
- To canvas player feedback on potential introduction of 48 qualifying draws noting that playing twice a day without a day off risks player health issues.
These changes follow the increase in qualifying draws from 24 to 32 players at $25,000 and $15,000 levels announced in February.
While the continued allocation of WTA ranking points at $25,000 tournaments provides for an estimated 650 female professional players, it has become clear in recent weeks, from player feedback and data, that there are issues regarding the men’s professional tennis circuit that need resolving.
The decision of the ATP to significantly reduce its points at $25,000 tournaments in 2019 has led to fewer playing opportunities and less progression for male players. Only the ATP can decide how it allocates its points, but the ITF believes that restoring ATP points at $25,000 tournaments would allow for an uplift in the number of male professional players being provided for from the current 350 to an estimated 600. A collaborative effort is critical if we are to secure an immediate and effective solution to the issues faced in the men’s game and provide much needed certainty to players.