The International Tennis Federation is coming under fire over their controversial revamp of lower level tournaments with players saying they have been made worse off due to the changes.
The ITF Transition Tour was brought into effect this year with the aim of cutting down the number of players to make is easier for those on a tour to earn a living. A study conducted by the governing body found that that over 14,000 players participate in professional tournaments over a year. Under the new system, tournaments will be staged within a more localise circuit to make costs lower for both players and tournaments. On top of that, ITF ranking points have been brought in instead of ATP and WTA Points.
The idea of ensuring lower ranked players earn more is a welcomed one. According to the ITF, the ranking players need to achieve to break even is 336 for men and 253 for women. However, since the revamp many players have said they have not benefited and some have even stated that they have been made worse off.
“I would really like to meet a person who came up with this idea about the ITF transition tour and congratulate him. All the ideas that person got cannot function even in a perfect world because players have zero benefit from it and they don’t make any sense.” World No.457 Ana Vrljić wrote in a Facebook post earlier this week.
“Players could see a clear path for them if they play good for a year, if they are consistent eventually they would get there. With these new rules, players lost that vision, they lost seeing it clearly how to get to the top cause it seems almost impossible.
“Even by winning 16 15.000$ tournaments your ranking would be around 270 which is not enough for Grand Slam so you would be obligated to move to higher tournaments.”
Vrljić has extensive experience of the tour. The 34-year-old Croat has been playing in lower level tournaments for almost 20 years and has been ranked as high as 180th in the world. It appears that Vrljić belongs to an increasing group of players who feel that they are being treated as second-class citizens.
Bulgaria’s Sesil Karatantcheva has experience of playing at both the highest and lowest level of the sport. A former world No.35, she has played in 14 grand slam main draws and has eight ITF titles to her name. At present she is placed outside of the top 200.
“Money talks and money rules. They don’t need any players outside of top 100. They need the big names and the big profit from slams.” Karatantcheva wrote to Vrljić.
“By changing the rule, they secured easier stability for the top and impossible possibility for young, mid and lower ranked players to exist. If you don’t have the big agency behind you or a big sponsor you might as well quit.”
It appears that the lower ranked a player is, the worse the situation. 524th ranked Sviatlana Pirazhenka played in 24 tournaments last year. This year she failed to get into a $60,000 event she signed up for and was an alternative entrant for two other $25,000 events.
The situation is no better for the men either. Under the transition tour, the rules are slightly different. Former player Mark Petchey, who has a daughter that plays on the ITF circuit, has previously blasted the changes.
“It’s a shambles. Everyone is responsible for this mess. It’s impossible to state how much knock in effect this will have negatively for anyone involved in tennis.” Said Petchey.
A friend of mine who is ATP670 showed me his entry list coming up for futures. When he once would be seeded in these events he’s now Alternate for qualifying in all but one… seems like less opportunities with the new system? pic.twitter.com/dqANsg1LXk
— John Millman (@johnhmillman) January 25, 2019
Dave Miley, who has recently announced his candidacy for the ITF presidency, has conducted one of the most comprehensive reviews of the new system yet. In a 3000-word article written on his Facebook account, he has said the governing body has failed to provide a better pathway for players, help them break even and reduce the costs of playing on the tour. Miley has previously been in charge of overseeing the juniors, veterans and wheelchair activities of the ITF.
“It appears that there will be significantly less opportunity for players to get started on the tour if they are unranked or lowly ranked or coming back from injury. It will also be hard for late developing players from developing tennis regions to get started.” Said Miley.
“Remember Kevin Anderson and Malek Jaziri were not so highly ranked as juniors and developed much later.”
Following those comments, it remains to be seen how Miley would address the changes should he become president later this year.
Whilst the ITF had good intentions with their new structure, it is debatable if it is actually working effectively. One also has to question if they took into account evidence that proved the average age of a player peaking is rising, especially on the men’s circuit.
With a growing amount of dissatisfaction, it looks like this prediction of the ‘great tennis scandal’ of 2019 by Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim is becoming more of a reality every day.
“A realization that the ITF’s transition tour—and the USTA’s capitulation—was a sloppily-conceived mistake that will stunt the growth of the sport, reduce opportunity, curtail diversity and harm college tennis.”
Only time will tell if the ITF will change their format in the future.
Spain to face Russia and Ecuador in Davis Cup Finals next November
The draw of the 2020 Davis Cup Finals in Madrid took place at the ITF offices in London on 12th March. The Davis Cup Finals will begin in Madrid on 23rd November 2020.
Defending champions Spain has been drawn in the Group A against Russia and Ecuador. Last year Rafael Nadal guided the Spanish team to the triumph in the final against Canada at the Caja Magica.
This year’s ATP Cup champions Serbia will face Germany and Austria in a Group A, which features three top 10 players Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev. Djokovic beat Thiem in this year’s final of the Australian Open.
In the Group E the USA will take on Italy in a re-match of last year’s late round-robin match. These two teams were drawn against Colombia.Last year’s finalists Canada will meet Sweden and Kazakhstan.
Three former Davis Cup champions France, Great Britain and Czech Republic have been drawn in Group C.
Croatia will clash against Australia and Hungary in Group D.
Fed Cup Finals And Play-Offs Postponed Due to Coronavirus Concerns
The Fed Cup Finals and play-offs have been postponed due to fears over the Coronavirus.
April’s Fed Cup Finals and play-offs have been postponed due to current health concerns associated with the coronavirus.
Today’s announcement comes hours after the Hungarian government announced a ban on any indoor events which has more than 1000 people in it.
The Fed Cup finals were due to take place between the 14th and 19th of April in Budapest but the increasing amount of cases around the world and 13 in Hungary left the ITF with no choice.
In addition, April’s play-offs have also been postponed and will be moved to a later date, with the ITF finding away to solve the problem around eligibility for the summer’s Olympic games.
Speaking on the announcement, ITF President David Haggerty expressed his disappointment but insisted health is more important, “We are extremely disappointed to have to make this decision, but we will not risk the safety and welfare of players, captains, event staff or spectators,” Haggerty said.
“This decision has not been made lightly; the threat posed by the COVID-19 is a serious one and calls for us to act responsibly as a federation and as human beings. This situation goes beyond sport.
“New dates for the Finals and for the Play-offs will be announced in due course and will primarily be guided by the length of time that tennis as a whole is affected by COVID-19. We will continue to collaborate with our colleagues across the sport to ensure that the impact on players, tournaments, rights holders and fans is as minimal as possible.”
The Fed Cup Finals and play-offs are the second tennis event to be postponed because of the coronavirus after the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells was cancelled a couple of days ago.
Currently the Miami Open is set to go ahead although there is a big chance that this tournament could also be cancelled.
The ATP and WTA tournament at the Hard Rock Stadium is set to start on Monday the 25th of March.
John Millman Praises ‘Special’ Atmosphere After Australia’s Davis Cup Triumph
John Millman praised the ‘special’ Davis Cup atmosphere in Adelaide after their 3-1 win over Brazil.
John Millman praised the ‘special’ Davis Cup atmosphere in Adelaide this weekend after Australia booked their spot in the Davis Cup Finals.
As Australia headed into the second day with a 2-0 advantage, many people expected a comfortable 3-0 win for the hosts but that turned out not to be the case.
Marcelo Demoliner and Felipe Meligini Rodrigues Alves gave Brazil hope after an epic 2 hour and 54 minute win over James Duckworth and John Peers.
A 5-7 7-5 7-6(6) victory for the Brazilians saw the tie taken into a fourth rubber as John Millman knew he had to step up to seal victory for the Aussies.
Another sensational match as Millman battled past Thiago Monteiro 6-7(6) 7-6(3) 7-6(3) to secure a thrilling win and Australia’s place in November’s Davis Cup Finals.
After sealing the win, Millman praised the special atmosphere in Adelaide over the two days, “To have an experience like this, that’s better than just about any experience I’ve had,” Millman told Tennis Australia.
“It was something pretty special this weekend. I enjoyed every second of it. It was so much fun. It was an emotional rollercoaster and we’re so happy to get through. To do it with these boys, it’s been a really special week.”
As for captain Lleyton Hewitt, this win typified what he loves about the home and away format that the Davis Cup Qualifiers shows, “There were ebbs and flows in all the matches. It could have gone either way,” Hewitt said.
“That is what Davis Cup is about and that’s why I love the home and away format. To have the atmosphere and the crowd involvement, it was a lot of fun for us to be out there.
“For these guys to play in front of their home fans again, they don’t get to do it throughout the year that often. I’m just thrilled for them that they get to enjoy it and be part of it. It is something really special.”
Next for Hewitt and his Australian team will be the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid, where they will join last year’s semi-finalists Spain, Canada, Great Britain and Russia as well as wildcards Serbia and France.
Also qualifying for November’s showpiece were Ecuador and Kazakhstan after their respective wins over Japan and the Netherlands.
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