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.
Davis Cup: Croatia Replaces Captain Just Days Before The Finals
Zeljko Krajan is fired by the Croatian Federation because of contrasts with players. His replacement will be Franko Skugor. Ivo Karlovic was selected to replace Cilic but declined to play a Challenger in Houston
The Croatian Tennis Federation has issued a press release informing that Zeljko Krajan is no longer the Davis Cup captain for the Croatian team. Less than a week before the BNP Paribas Davis Cup Finals at the Caja Magica in Madrid, Krajan’s departure is described as a mutual decision by the official press release, but according to Croatian press agency Hina the former captain categorically denied this version of the events and confirmed he unwillingly had to acknowledge his dismissal. Krajan did not deny there had been disputes between himself and the Federation, but he thought everything had been settled: “I was ready for the press conference on Monday and the departure to Madrid on Tuesday” he said.
During the press conference in Zagreb on Monday, instead, the Croatian Tennis Federation named 32-year-old Franko Skugor as the new captain of the Croatian team who will lead the squad in Madrid next week: “These are not the ideal conditions for the team, given the situation, but it has been decided I will lead the team” said Skugor to the press. The President of the Tennis Federation Nikolina Babic explained their decision to replace the captain and confirmed the players agreed with this course of action: “Krajan had lost credibility among the players. We spoke to him and realized it would be better if he didn’t come to Madrid”.
This ends a tumultuous week for Croatian tennis: first there was Marin Cilic’s withdrawal from the team, then the controversial nomination of 40-year-old Ivo Karlovic as his replacement, despite his commitment to play the Houston Challenger next week to boost his chances for a Top 100 year-end ranking (he is currently n. 106) and a direct entry into the 2020 Australian Open singles main draw.
Some media outlets in Zagreb claiming to have access to inside sources are suggesting there are also financial issues behind the events of this last week: it is believed that some players did not like the idea of late-comer Ivo Karlovic receiving an equal share of the Davis Cup prize money. Furthermore, it is highlighted how the decision to remove Krajan from his post came after a meeting that included also the players, some of whom did not have a good relationship with Krajan: Borna Coric refused to play in Davis Cup in 2017 after being excluded from the Final in 2016 and Mate Pavic was kept out of the team on many occasions despite being one of the best doubles players in the world.
In order to replace Marin Cilic, the new Croatian captain nominated both Borna Gojo (ATP n. 279) and Nino Serdarusic (ATP n. 283) as singles players.
Captain Benneteau ‘Proud’ After France Seal First Fed Cup For 16 Years
Kristina Mladenovic won both the matches she was involved with to seal the Fed Cup title for France.
France’s Fed Cup captain Julien Benneteau expressed his pride after France edged out Australia 3-2 in the Fed Cup final.
The visitors claimed their first Fed Cup title for 16 years in Perth after Kristina Mladenovic won both of the matches she was involved with.
It all started after Mladenovic produced one of the greatest wins of her career by edging out world number one Ash Barty 2-6 6-4 7-6(1) in the first match of the day.
Both players had convincing wins on day one and it was the Australian who started the strongest, claiming the first set 6-2.
However Mladenovic struck back in the second set with a crucial break at 5-4 as she closed out the set to force a decider.
There was a lot of momentum shifts in the deciding set but eventually the world number 40 dominated the tiebreak to seal a shock win and a 2-1 lead for France.
Australia hit back in the second rubber of the day as Ajla Tomljanovic produced a solid performance to defeat Pauline Parmentier 6-4 7-5.
After a convincing loss in day one, Tomljanovic produced stunning shot-making to redeem herself and score her first Fed Cup win as an Australian.
The deciding rubber was a highly-anticipated doubles match between Ash Barty and Sam Stosur taking on Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic.
All four players had a combined total of 13 doubles grand slam titles as Australia had a good start to the match but lacked clinical edge after that.
The French team took advantage as they won the last two games of the opening set and the first two games of the second set.
This allowed them to control the tempo and when Stosur hit a volley long, the celebrations could start as they sealed a 6-4 6-3 win.
After the match, Captain Julien Benneteau expressed his pride at his French side, “I’m the proudest man on the planet right now,” Benneteau claimed.
“I’m so proud of my girls and the team, they deserve it because they fought for a long time for this title. It’s a dream for me. I tried to imagine that at the beginning of the year when I knew that I could have the best team with me on the court. Eight months later, here we are.”
The win means it’s France’s third Fed Cup triumph overall and their first since 2003, with Kristina Mladenovic winning all three of the matches she was involved with.
As for Australia, it was emotional scenes as Barty didn’t seem to have enough in the tank to edge the Aussies over the finish line.
This final also means its the last traditional final as the format will now to change a one-week 12 team contest which will take place next April in Budapest.
Ash Barty And Kristina Mladenovic Power To Victory On Day One At Fed Cup Final
Ash Barty and Kristina Mladenovic produced one-sided victories to keep the score level after day one of the Fed Cup Final.
Ash Barty and Kristina Mladenovic produced dominant displays to keep Australia and France level at the end of day one of the Fed Cup Final.
In front of a sold-out RAC Arena in Perth, Australia were bidding for their first Fed Cup title since 1974 as they took on a reunited French team.
However their bid got off to the worst possible start as a nervy Ajla Tomljanovic was stunned by Kristina Mladenovic in 72 minutes.
Hitting 16 winners, the world number 40 pummelled her way past Tomljanovic to hand the visitors the early advantage.
Though the Australian debutant showed moments of brilliance, they were in patches as Mladenovic produced a stunning performance for the French team.
After the match, the doubles grand slam champion admitted she played the perfect match, “I really did almost a perfect match, I was really in the zone,” Mladenovic said in her on-court interview.
“I love these kind of events — the more the pressure it is, the bigger the pressure it is, the more special is the event. I came out there and I just wanted to win, basically.”
As France held the early lead, the pressure was on world number one Ash Barty to deliver and deliver she did in an equally impressive performance.
A 6-0 6-0 thrashing of Caroline Garcia was exactly what Australia ordered as Barty was ruthless in her dismantling of the French number two.
Eight aces helped Barty power past the world number 45 and the 40 degree temperatures as a mix of variety as well as power was evidence why every rubber the hosts of win this year has involved Barty.
After the 56 minute win the world number one explained how she executed her game-plan, “I think just overall today I executed very well. I made Caro pretty uncomfortable,” Barty said.
“I felt like in the first three or four of my service games I was in control of a lot of the points, and Caro is a player who like court position, she likes to be up in the court. So that was a key factor for me today. And that’s probably the best I’ve returned in a long long time.”
It is now 15 wins in a row for Barty in Fed Cup as she takes on Kristina Mladenovic in a crucial third rubber tomorrow.
Then Caroline Garcia is scheduled to take on Ajla Tomljanovic although both teams could be set to make changes depending on the scenario.
Should the two nations split the singles again then the deciding doubles will see Ash Barty and Sam Stosur take on Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic.
Play begins from 3am GMT time tomorrow, in what will be the last day of a traditional Fed Cup Final before the re-formatted version begins next year.
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