On Friday morning the International Tennis Federation (ITF) conducted a conference call with numerous media outlets, including Ubitennis, to justify the implementation of the hotly debated transition Tour.
In a bid to provide better standards of earning for players on the tour, from this year the number of ranked players have been cut dramatically. WTA points are only awarded to women playing in events that have $25,000 in prize money or more. In men’s tennis, $25,000 ITF Pro Circuit events offer both ATP ranking points (later rounds) and ITF Entry Points (all rounds); while the qualifying rounds of ATP Challenger tournaments also offer both ATP ranking points (all events) and ITF Entry Points (events up to $125,000 in prize money). Players can use their ITF ranking to enter into professional tournaments.
Jackie Nesbitt has the massive challenge of trying to win over critics of the tour. Nesbitt is the executive director of the ITF Circuits. She correctly points out that the changes have been made following extensive research with the help of independent analysts. Between 2001-2013 a survey was conducted on 55,000 players, coaches, administrators and organisers.
“For all the reasons we’ve set out explaining why we looked to do reforms in the first place, it would be not at all optimal to go back,” Said Nesbitt.
“I don’t want to get to a situation where we have huge amounts of prize money but we’re delivering so poorly for players. To have so few even managing to break even, we have to be able to do better than that.”
“I don’t see any convincing argument in favour of a return to the old system. The new system has to deliver better for players, if there are changes that need to be made they will become fairly obvious fairly quickly.”
It is unfair to criticise Nesbitt for her commitment to the transformation and the effort she has invested in it. However, to say the new system ‘delivers better’ is something that is very subjective. Especially when there are cases of players being told they have to stay at specific hotels if they want to play in a tournament. Based on my own experience, I have heard and read concerns from players, coaches, tennis federation chiefs and parents. To say the transition Tour is a true blessing is anything but accurate.
The facts and figures make good reasoning. But the question remains, why so many people are against the tour? More than 12,000 people have signed an online petition to change the rules. Evgenia Linetskaya is a former top 50 player from Russia who now works as a tennis coach. In a video she has described the changes as ‘ridiculous’ and ‘unfair.’
“Right now what the ITF has done is that they don’t give a chance for the players to show themselves because the tournaments they take part in don’t give any (WATP/WTA) points any more.” She said.
“All those juniors that are out of the top 100, all those who have been out with injury and all of those who didn’t play in the junior circuit due to education or a low budget are all out of the system. Any nobody cares.”
From the ITF standpoint, they believe that a lot of the uproar has been caused by misinformation. Insisting that they have taken into the account the perspective of players and have done their revamp with the help of ‘data evidence.’
‘The petition is what it is,’ Nesbitt commented. ‘It’s not unwelcome because while a lot of our changes will be directed by data evidence, it can’t be based as a cold structure on data evidence alone. We have to listen to the players. They have a voice in all of this. ‘If they’re not happy we have to take due care and attention but, you know, we want to make sure that the feedback we’re getting is based on properly informed opinion.”
One has to question how much misinformation have occurred. It is plausible that tennis coaches with 20 or 30 years experience in the industry have gotten confused? In theory, yes, but in reality no.
Recently the ITF announced that Germany’s Peter Heller was the new world No.1 on the transition tour. The tweet was later deleted after many poked fun at the irony. 26-year-old Heller has ATP rank on 590th and is yet to play a main draw match on the ATP Tour. Although he is certainly not a poster boy for the new structure with his father sending a letter to the ITF blasting the changes.
“All the hope and all the dreams were destroyed in the moment the new system was introduced. No single issue has gotten better with the reform, nearly everything is worse than before. Since 2019 main draw players even have to pay an entry fee to compete in the main draw of a tournament, that’s really a shame. Not more prize money, no reduced costs, no better conditions at the tournaments, nothing but broken dreams and thousands of players worldwide unable to compete. If it was the intention of the reform to help those players save costs by preventing them to compete, at least one goal is reached. But let me get serious again, the situation is too severe to make sick jokes.”
The governing body of tennis has acknowledged to an extend that there are issues with the transition tour. However, they have no intention of getting rid of it. An unsurprising revelation given all the hours of work they have invested in the redevelopment. It is only hoped that the ITF will listen to the players and their concerns.
Tennis is changing, but at the moment is isn’t for the better.
Life on the transition tour in quotes
“The number of places for players to participate in these tournaments is limited, so players with no ranking or bad ranking have no chance to participate in the tournaments. I’ve heard from a lot of players flying around the world, going to tournaments and couldn’t get in in reason of the limited qualification size.” – Dirk Hordorff (VP of Tennis Germany)
“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.” Ana Vrljić (Croatia)
“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. 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.” Sesil Karatantcheva (Belarus)
“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.” Mark Petchey (former player, Great Britain)
‘We all agree that ITF is not fulfilling their mandate of overseeing and promoting tennis worldwide.” Sergiy Stakhovsky (Ukraine)
“My ranking won’t even guarantee me a place in the qualifiers. Last year, I won a USD 25000 tournament and I was hoping I would at least start playing the qualifier rounds of the Challengers this season but for that I will have to improve my ITF ranking. But for that I need to play 25k events,” – Adil Kalyanpur (India)
Dominic Thiem rallies from one set down against Roberto Bautista Agut to reach the final at Thiem’s 7 in Kitzbuhel
Dominic Thiem came back from losing the first set to beat Roberto Bautista Agut 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 6-2 en route to reaching the final at the Thiem’s 7 tournament. Thiem earned two breaks in the third and fifth games to race out to a 4-1 lead. Bautista Agut got both breaks back in the sixth and eighth games to draw level to 4-4 forcing the match to the tie-break. The Spanish player won the tie-break 7-5 to take the opening set.
Thiem slowly found his rhythm again in the second set and earned two break points in the fourth game but he was not able to convert them. The home star dropped only two points on his serve until the end of the second set and converted two of the three break points to clinch the second set 6-2.
Thiem earned a break in the fourth game to open up a 4-1 lead and held on his next service games. The tournament organizer sealed the third set 6-2 with his double break with a blistering return on the match point in the eighth game securing his spot in the final. Thiem will face either Andrey Rublev or Matteo Berrettini in the final.
Former Roland Garros champions and five top 20 players to highlight a great edition of the Ladies Open in Palermo
The Ladies Open WTA International in Palermo will be the first tournament to be held next August since last February.
The Italian tournament will feature a great line-up which includes two confirmed past Roland Garros champions Svetlana Kuznetsova and Jelena Ostapenko and five top 20 players. There is a good chance that 2018 French Open and 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep could be added in the field.
“We are glad about Simona Halep’s great interest in Palermo Ladies Open. We will be waiting for her at the Country Club for an historic edition of the Palermo tournament. We have been in contact with Halep’s manager for some time. We have been talking for days about her potential participation in Palermo. She is one of the best players in the world and her presence would contribute to make an already high-level tournament extrahordinary. We will leave our doors open to her for as long as possible, as well as for other top ten players that will want to resume their season in Palermo”, said tournament’s CEO Oliviero Palma.
The other stars who have signed up to the Ladies Open are 2019 Roland Garros champion Marketa Vondrousova, two Grand Slam semifinalists Elise Mertens (2018 Australian Open) and Anastasija Sevastova (2018 US Open), Aryna Sabalenka (winner at the Wuhan Open in 2018 and 2019, WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai in 2019 and Doha in 2020) and Elina Rybakina (winner in Hobart and finalist in St. Petersburg and Dubai in 2020), Dayana Yastremska (winner of three tournaments in Hong Kong in 2018, Thailand and Strasbourg in 2019).
Lorenzo Sonego and Liudmila Samsonova lift the titles in Perugia
Lorenzo Sonego and Liudmila Samsonova won the Zzz Quill Tennis Tour in Perugia. Sonego followed up his Italian title won the previous week in Todi with a 3-6 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 win over Croatia’s Viktor Galovic (world number 269 and number 7 seed) in the final of the Perugia tournament.
“Galovic started very well. It was difficult to adjust to his game and improve during the match. I maintained the right attitude and I managed to win the title. I enjoyed two fantastic weeks in Todi and Perugia. This confirmed my good work in training in the past two weeks. I gave my best and I am confident for the rest of the season”, said Sonego.
World number 117 Liudmila Samsonova won the women’s title came back from one set down to beat world number 307 Stefania Rubini 4-6 6-4 7-6 (8-6) in the women’s final after saving two match points.
“I won a very tough final with a lot of ups and downs. I am happy that I played many matches. It was one of my goals on the eve of the tournament. I showed that I am able to keep the level of my tennis high, when I play focused”, said Samsonova.
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