The ITF Transition Tour: A Radical Overhaul That Some Players Hate - UBITENNIS
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The ITF Transition Tour: A Radical Overhaul That Some Players Hate

After one month in use, the controversial changes has attracted backlash from many players on the tour.

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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.

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.

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EXCLUSIVE: ITF Insists Davis Cup ‘Financial Covered’ But Uncertainty And Doubt Remain

The governing body says all is well despite not addressing UbiTennis’ questions surrounding speculation that millions have been lost over the past 12 months.

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The International Tennis Federation has defended their decision to cancel the Davis Cup Finals five months before it was set to get underway amid growing speculation surrounding its financial viability.

 

The finale of the men’s team event, as well as the Fed Cup, have been postponed until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought tennis to a standstill since March. It was set to be held at the Caja Magica in Madrid, which is located in the country where investment company Kosmos originated from. Founded by footballer Gerard Pique, Kosmos is the financial driving force behind the Davis Cup revamp after pledging to commit to a 25-year deal worth in the region of $3 billion.

“This is a tough decision to have to make, but delivering an international team event on this scale while guaranteeing the health and safety of all involved ultimately poses too great a risk,” ITF President David Haggerty said in a statement. “It is a complex undertaking and we have made the decision now to provide certainty for players, national associations and fans.”

There is however some confusion over the move and why it was decided so early before the event was set to start. Especially when the same city is set to hold a premier mixed ATP and WTA tournament in September.

UbiTennis has been in contact with the ITF concerning their decision with questions surrounding their motives to cancel the event. French newspaper L’Equipe had previously reported that Kosmos lost millions of euros last year staging the Finals and cancelling this year’s event would actually save them in the region of  €18M. Furthermore, it has emerged that the national tennis federations were not consulted about the cancellation prior to it being formally announced.

During an email exchange with the governing body, the ITF did not comment when asked by  UbiTennis’ about the financial figures that have been reported in the media.

“The ITF and Kosmos Tennis undertook extensive scenario planning, exploring feasible options to host the event safely. We strongly believe this is the right decision for the players and captains, the National Associations, the event organisers and the competition as a whole. National associations and team captains were informed as soon as we were able to confirm the decision.” The ITF told UbiTennis.

When pressed further as to if the loss of money last year contributed to their decision in 2020, there was no direct reply. Instead the ITF stressed that the event ‘is financially covered’ for 2021. Insisting that the driving force behind their decision was being unable to generate a ‘unique atmosphere’ and ‘make commercial sense.’

“Postponing the Davis Cup Finals was an extremely difficult decision. Delivering an international team event on this scale while guaranteeing the health and safety of all involved was ultimately not feasible at this time given the risks, restrictions, logistical challenges and continuing uncertainty caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic,” the ITF stressed.

“We looked at alternative scenarios, including playing behind closed doors, and selling only a limited number of tickets – but ultimately, they did not (a) fully enable the unique atmosphere that makes Davis Cup great and (b) make good commercial sense. The important thing to note is that the event is financially covered and all stakeholders are already working towards the 2021 edition.“

Whilst there is limited financial information, there are some figures that are known. As a result of the cancellation, Kosmos will not be paying €9M to the tennis federations and €18M to the players. This is according to a member of the German Tennis Federation who says those numbers ‘are not a secret.’

Furthermore, there is also uncertainty over what is going to happen to Kosmos’ agreed payment to the ITF, who launched a ‘job protection scheme’ back in April due to the worldwide pandemic. At the time ITF president David Haggerty took a 30 percent reduction in pay and members of his senior leadership team took a 20 percent drop.

“There will of course be a financial impact of the 2020 event being postponed until next year, but we are now focused on delivering a world-class event in 2021,” the ITF replied when questioned about Kosmos’ payment to them.

Hordorff speaks out

In the wake of there being no Davis Cup Finals, UbiTennis contacted the vice-president of the German Tennis Federation (DTB)  to get his perspective on the current situation. Dirk Hordorff has worked in the tennis industry for many years coaching the likes of Janko Tipsarevic, Vasek Pospisil and former world No.5 Rainer Schuettler. For him, he fears that the latest developments could threaten many in the sport financially. Germany was one of the country’s to vote against the Davis Cup changes, which received a 71% backing in the 2018 ITF AGM meeting.

“The cancellation of the Davis Cup in July 2020 at a time where the 1000 ATP/WTA event in Madrid is scheduled for September is only understandable if Kosmos believes that 2020 (Davis Cup Finals) will also produce massive losses as 2019 and they want to try to avoid this,”  he said.

“This will bring the ITF and many nations financially in trouble. The German Federation as many other federations like LTA or Tennis Australia were aware of this and voted at the AGM against this project.

Hordoff later added that the ITF was challenged by Davis Cup captains about their decision to scrap the 2020 finals and the speculation that the move was done to help Kosmos save millions. Although those discussions only took place after the event was officially axed.

 “The ITF called DC captains after they cancelled the event. They denied this reason and stated this as a rumour. But in my opinion and with my knowledge I can clearly say that Kosmos refused to play DC 2020. And unfortunately this will not be the last bad news in this matter.” He concluded.

This year is only the 12th time in history and the first since 1945 that a tennis season will conclude without the winners of the Davis Cup being decided.

 

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Davis Cup

Is Covid-19 Just An Excuse To Axe The 2020 Davis Cup Finals?

The decision to cancel the team event five months before it was set to start may be more complex than what officials are letting on.

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On Friday the International Tennis Federation issued a statement to confirm that their two premier tennis team events will not be taking place this year.

 

The Davis Cup and Fed Cup tournaments have been delayed until 2021 due to the global uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For the Davis Cup, it is only the 12th time in history a season has ended without a champion being decided since its birth in 1900 and the first since 1945. The teams that have qualified for the week-long finals this year will instead have to wait until November 2021 to battle it out for the title.

“This is a tough decision to have to make, but delivering an international team event on this scale while guaranteeing the health and safety of all involved ultimately poses too great a risk,” ITF President David Haggerty said in a statement. “It is a complex undertaking and we have made the decision now to provide certainty for players, national associations and fans.”

There are however some questions over why the ITF has made this announcement five months before the start of the tournament. Especially when both the ATP and WTA Tours are set to restart in August. Furthermore Madrid, where this year’s finals were scheduled to take place, will still host their premier combined event at the Caja Magica in September.

“It’s the inconsistencies that I find tedious. Two months before the Davis Cup was meant to be playing we are playing at the same venue in Madrid for the masters. In regards to the crowds there seemed to be a fair bit of social distancing at this event last year,” John Millman wrote on Twitter.

It appears that there could be a more substantial financial reason to postpone the Kosmos-backed event. Investment company Kosmos was founded by Gerard Pique and has pledged millions into the Davis Cup in a deal to help revamp it. French newspaper L’Equipe have quoted sources reporting that the event lost an astonishing 50 million euros in 2019, which was the first year where the new format took place. Furthermore, it has been reported that the decision to scrap November’s event will help save 18 million euros.

Furthermore, one senior figure at Tennis Canada has suggested that Pique had tried to do everything he could to prevent the tournament from taking place. Louis Borfiga, who serves as his country’s Vice President of High Performance, said he believes there has been no meetings with the federations prior to Friday’s announcement.

“While everyone is doing everything possible to try to replay, I have the impression that Piqué did everything to prevent the Davis Cup from taking place this year,” he said in a separate interview with L’Equipe.
“ They (Kosmos leaders) put forward health reasons, I hope they are the right ones. They are going to have the right role. There is nothing we can say about health.”
“When I read the official press release, I am surprised by one thing. It is Piqué who speaks first, and the president of the ITF (David Haggerty) after. That too is shocking.” He added.

Borfiga is not alone in this view. Back in March tennis player Nicola Mahut criticised Pique for not being more optimistic about holding the finals this year. The Spaniard had previously said he was ‘pessimistic’ about having the event without fans.

“The message he sent through his statements is: ” If Madrid is complicated and we cannot do it, well it will be cancelled and he will save some money.” Mahut commented.

According to Diario AS, the Madrid economy will lose in the region of 50 million euros due to the finals not being held. Furthermore, it is estimated that 600 jobs would have been created to support the running of the tournament from start to finish.

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Davis Cup

Gerard Pique’s Pessimistic Davis Cup Outlook Blasted By French Tennis Star

The football player has been urged to ‘put more energy’ in finding a solution for the event to take place in 2020.

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Kosmos founder Gerard Pique has come under fire over his plans for the Davis Cup Finals later this year after recently casting doubt on the event taking place due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

 

Pique, whose company helped finance the transformation of the 120-year-old team competition, recently admitted that he was doubtful that the event could go ahead if crowds weren’t allowed to attend. Last year was the first time the new format of the competition took place with 18 teams featuring in a week-long round-robin tournament which was won by host nation Spain.

“I’m a bit pessimistic, to have the Davis Cup with no fans is difficult,” Pique told Movistar.
“There is a lot of uncertainty. We are listening to what the sport’s ministry and the government are telling us about whether we’ll have the ability to have fans.”

All professional tennis tournaments have been suspended since March due to the Pandemic. Officials are hoping to be able to get the sport going again in August ahead of the US Open that is scheduled to take place. Although some have doubts about the chances of the Tour’s starting by then, including world No.43 John Millman.

Amid the ongoing uncertainty, French tennis star Nicolas Mahut has criticized Pique’s bleak outlook for this year’s Davis Cup finale. The 38-year-old has represented his country in 13 ties, including the 2018 final as well as the semifinals in two other years.

“We don’t have a lot of information. But as a player, you can just trust the official statements. And when I hear Pique, I’m extremely disappointed,” Mahut told L’Equipe.

Mahut has called on Pique to explore more options such as potentially relocating the event to another country if it would make it safer for the event to go ahead. Implying that he was his duty to do so after setting ‘to destroy the formula’ of the event. Critics of the revamp have accused Pique of ruining the traditional competition.

“I would like him to put as much energy into saving the Davis Cup that he has set up. That is to say, to find solutions for it to take place in Madrid or elsewhere, as he has set to destroy the formula that had been in place for over a hundred years,” he said,
“The message he sent through his statements, is: ” If Madrid is complicated and we cannot do it, well it cancels and I save some money. ” And it bothers me a lot compared to what has happened for more than a year. We don’t play with this competition. Maybe that suits it.”

Kosmos has signed a $3 billion 25-year deal with the ITF to acquire the rights for the Davis Cup Finals.

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