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.
Gerard Pique Responds To Criticism From Lleyton Hewitt Over His Involvement In Davis Cup
The 32-year-old is hoping that he can prove critics wrong with the new controversial format.
Kosmos founder Gerard Pique has told The Daily Mail he ‘respects’ the opinion of Australian Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt, despite being heavily criticised by the former world No.1.
Pique is the head of the company that is overseeing the transformation of the Davis Cup. Later this year 18 teams will play in a week-long showdown that has been dubbed the ‘World Cup’ of tennis. The revamp, who was approved by a vote last August, has divided opinion within the sport. Australia has been one of the most vocal critics of the revamp with Hewitt taking aim at Pique last month.
“Now we’re getting run by a Spanish football player, which is like me come out and asking to change things for the Champions League,” Hewitt told reporters. “He knows nothing about tennis.”
Responding to the comment for the first time, Pique has tried to cool down the argument. Stating that he has no intention of ‘changing the rules of tennis.’ Although under the new format, Davis Cup matches are now best-of-three sets and the finals will see three matches played per tie instead of five.
“I respect the opinion of Lleyton, he was a great player. What I can say is that while I’m the President of Kosmos we are full of people who know tennis, people like Albert Costa, who has won a Grand Slam.” Pique told The Daily Mail.
“I can understand that when a footballer comes in the tennis world it can seem a little bit awkward or strange, but at the end of the day I’m not going to be changing the rules of tennis. I understand that I’m the new one here and I try to understand everyone. In the time we are living now it is easy to say whatever you think. If it’s with respect it’s fine.”
Kosmos has pledged to invest $3 billion into the new competition over the next 25 years. Their backers include Indian Wells Masters owner Larry Ellison, Japanese billionaire Hiroshi Mikitani and even football superstar Lionel Messi. As a result of Ellison’s involvement, Indian Wells have been mentioned as a strong candidate to hold the Davis Cup finals in the future. Although the logistics may be hard if the ATP Finals continues to be held in London. In the current schedule, the Davis Cup finale takes place straight after the ATP Finals.
“It is something we are talking about and it’s a possibility,” Pique commented about Indian Wells as a venue.
“You have pros and cons, we chose Madrid because it’s next to London. Indian Wells is far away but the facilities are incredible.”
Due to the involvement of the Barcelona F.C. footballer, the competition is referred by some as the ‘Pique Cup.’ Something that doesn’t go down too well with the 32-year-old.
“I hate it, because it’s not about me and I don’t want my name on the competition,” he said. “Davis Cup history is so big. I hope we can change this opinion. After a few years I hope they go back and say “We were wrong, Davis Cup is more alive than ever.”
The Davis Cup finals will be played between November 18-24.
ITF, Kosmos Confident Controversial Davis Cup Revamp Will Be A Hit As Draw Is Unveiled
The groups for the the finals of the team tournament has been decided with ITF President Davis Haggerty describing the event as ‘traditional, whilst having innovation.’
The draw has taken place for the inaugural Davis Cup finals with the International Tennis Federation (ITF) reiterating their support for the controversial new format.
On Thursday evening, 18 teams learned which group they have been placed in during a special ceremony in Madrid. In November 18 teams will participate in a week-long tournament held at the Caja Magica in what will be a historic change to the competition. The changes have been made after the plans was voted for in August by the majority of national tennis federations (71%). Although critics argue the change is too radical and kills the Davis Cup. There has also been heavy criticism regarding the decision to hold the finals at a neutral venue.
“Davis Cup is all about keeping tradition whilst having innovation at the same time.” Said ITF President David Haggerty.
“All of us have a special place in your heart for the Davis Cup, we all care about it. But where we are going with the Davis Cup is going to elevate it and make it better.” He later added.
There will be a total of six groups in the finals with three teams featuring in each one. Reigning champions Croatia has been placed alongside home favourites Spain and Russia. France, who were runners-up in 2018, will take on Serbia and Japan. Meanwhile, wild card entrants Great Britain has been given a favourable group alongside Kazakhstan and the Netherlands. The winner of each group and the two best second placed countries will progress to the quarter-finals of the competition.
Group A: France, Serbia, Japan
Group B: Croatia, Spain, Russia
Group C: Argentina, Germany, Chile
Group D: Belgium, Australia, Colombia
Group E: Great Britain, Kazakhstan, Netherlands
Group F: US, Italy, Canada
Overseeing the competition is investment firm Kosmos, whose 25-year $3 billion investment was pivotal is changing the Davis Cup. The company was founded by Barcelona F.C. footballer Gerard Pique. Who has generated both admiration and hate from the tennis community in recent months. Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt recently told reporters, ‘Now we’re getting run by a Spanish football player, which is like me come out and asking to change things for the Champions League.’
“I have been a fan of tennis since I was a kid. I saw the Davis Cup as an opportunity for a competition that can be great in the future.” Pique said in Spanish during the draw ceremony.
“I think we (Kosmos) are a great partner for the ITF to organise this competition and we truly believe that in the future, starting from this year, it will get better and better.”
Whilst there is enthusiasm, winning over die hard fans is proving to be a harder than expected. ITF chief Haggerty was questioned about the critics during the presentation, but refused to let it overshadow proceedings.
“I would encourage those people who are concerned about it to come to Madrid and see for yourselves.” He said.
The Davis Cup finals will take place between 18-24 November. All ties will consist of two singles matches and one in the doubles. All matches will be best-of-three sets.
Davis Cup Finals schedule
|Day||Round||Number of teams|
|18–21 Nov (Monday–Thursday)||Round Robin||18 (6 groups of 3 teams)|
|22 Nov (Friday)||Quarterfinals||8 (6 group winners + 2 best second place)|
|23 Nov (Saturday)||Semifinals||4 (automatically qualified for 2020 Davis Cup Finals)|
|24 Nov (Sunday)||Final||2|
Fed Cup Draws: Great Britain Get Second Home Tie In Two Months, Czechs Look To Bounce Back
Great Britain will have another home tie as they face Kazakhstan in April’s World Group II Play-Offs
After waiting 26 years for a home tie, Great Britain will have a second tie in two months as they face Kazakhstan in April’s World Group II Play-Offs.
After hosting some Zone Group I Europe/Africa action in Bath and successfully qualifying for the World Group II Play-Offs, Great Britain have been handed another home tie.
The Brits will face Kazakhstan in April with the winners getting promoted to the second tier of women’s team tennis, a historic occasion for both nation.
This tie along with the other World Group II and World Group play-off ties will take place on Easter weekend between the 20th and 21st of April.
After finding out the news GB Fed Cup captain Anne Keothavong said she is ready for a raucous atmosphere in April, “We saw the fantastic atmosphere home fans create and the role they play in lifting our players beyond their limits.”
There is strong rumour that the tie could be played at the Copper Box Arena in London although that will be confirmed next week.
Meanwhile the pick of the other ties sees a strong Russia team host Italy while either the Netherlands or Japan face relegation to Zone Group I.
Czechs Look To Bounce Back.
In the World Group Play-Offs draw the Czech Republic were handed an easy home tie to Canada as they face unchartered territory in April.
The defending champions will play their first play-off tie since losing 3-2 to Romania in an exhilarating tie in Ostrava which was their first defeat on home soil for ten years.
While the other 2018 Fed Cup finalists USA will host Switzerland and Latvia host Germany in a historic tie for the hosts as they look to make the World Group for the first time in their history.
Here is the full World Group and World Group II Play-Offs draw with the ties taking place on the 20th/21st of April:
*Home teams are first
World Group Play-Offs
Czech Republic v Canada
USA v Switzerland
Latvia v Germany
Belgium v Spain
World Group II Play-Offs
Russia v Italy
Japan v Netherlands
Great Britain v Kazakhstan
Slovakia v Brazil
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