ITF Says New Transition Tour 'Delivers Better' For Players, But Are They Telling The Truth? - UBITENNIS
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ITF Says New Transition Tour ‘Delivers Better’ For Players, But Are They Telling The Truth?

The ITF has laid out their justification for the new tour, but there remains huge concerns for some.

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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)

 

ATP

Intriguing Team-Ups Lure Eyes Doubles’ Way. Will They Stay For The Problems, Too?

Will the recent surge in high-profile double partnerships have any impact on the long term future of the discipline?

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Cincinnati Open, Western and Southern Open, Andy Murray, Feliciano Lopez
Photo Credit: ATP Tour Twitter

In one of his press conferences at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, Andy Murray said he would not be playing the US Open. His announcement came a day or so after his initial declaration that he would be playing only the two doubles events in the final Major of the season. A few things came out of Murray’s remarks. The first and the obvious was that the former world no. 1 was ready to give it his all (yet again) to play singles. The second, the understated aspect, was that doubles while seeming easy vis-à-vis singles required just as much focus, if not more. Then, there was a third.

 

In tennis’ continuity though, the relevance of the doubles game is not a recent epiphany. However, the last few tournaments of the 2019 season that featured some eclectic partnerships – Stefanos Tsitispas and Nick Kyrgios, Andy Murray and Feliciano Lopez, the Pliskova twins, Andy and Jamie Murray, and so on – has made doubles slightly more prominent than singles.

Singles has become monotonous with the same set of players making it to the final rounds. On the other hand, doubles has brought in more verve to the existing status quo of the Tour, with each player’s individuality adding to the dynamics of the team. After his first outing as Kyrgios’ doubles partner at the Citi Open in Washington in July, Tsitsipas pointed this out.

“It’s the joy of being with a person who thinks differently and reacts differently. I would characterise him (Kyrgios) as someone who likes to amuse. I’m very serious and concentrated when I play, but he just has the style of speaking all the time. It’s good sometimes to have a change,” the Greek had said.

These changes – as seen with Murray’s recent decision – may not extend for a longer period. The culmination of these short-term team-ups does – and should – not mean the end of the road of doubles piquing attention, per se. At the same time, these transitory partnerships also reroute the discussion back to the financial side of the doubles game.

In a recent interview with Forbes, Jamie Murray – a doubles specialist – shared how conducive it had become for players to take up doubles as the sole means of a tennis career these days, as compared to in the past.

“Because the money is always increasing in tennis, it is a much more viable option to go down the doubles route a lot earlier than previous generations. Before, people would play singles and then when their ranking dropped, they played an extra few years of doubles. Now it is a genuine option to start off much younger and have a career in doubles,” the 33-year-old said.

Despite Murray’s upbeat attitude, these increases have not exactly trickled towards doubles, especially at the Slams including the upcoming edition of the US Open. For 2019, the USTA showed-off yet another hike in the prize-money coffer. The men’s and women’s singles champions will be awarded $3.8 million. In comparison, the men’s and women’s doubles teams winning the respective title will get $740,000. This sum gets further diluted for the mixed-doubles’ titlists who will get $160,000 as a team.

This is the third and final takeaway that emerged from Murray’s US Open call. For several of these singles players, intermittent doubles play is an option. For those who play only doubles, that is the only option they have. The doubles game requires similar effort – travel, expenses and fitness – the costs continue to outweigh the benefits. These momentary team formations are a gauge revealing the disparity of tennis’ two sides, visible yet obliviated beyond tokenism.

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ATP

Svetlana Kuznetsova upsets Ashleigh Barty in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career

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Russian wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova edged top seed this year’s Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty 6-2 6-4 in the semifinal of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career.

 

Two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova, who is now ranked world number 153, scored her third win against top 10 players this week  after beating former US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova.

Barty missed her chance to regain world number 1 spot from Naomi Osaka, who was forced to retire from her quarter final.

Barty earned the first break of the match in the second game of the opening set, when Kuznetsova netted a backhand. Kuznetsova broke back in the third game with a smash winner and earned another break at 2-2 when Barty netted a backhand. Kuznetsova hit a return winner to build up a 5-2 lead. Barty asked a medical time-out to treat he right leg. Kuznetsova held serve at 15 to close out the opening set after 30 minutes.

Kuznetsova went up a break in the first game of the second set. Barty won just three points on return in the second set. Kuznetsova closed out the second set with three winners in the 10th game.

“I am really happy. I am not really an analyzing person, but on my intuition, I am doing so much better, not repeating so many of my mistakes, just playing smarter and wiser now. It’s been so many different things when I was off, so I just enjoyed time off. Honestly, I was not missing at all the travelling and all the stress when you play tournaments, but now I have missed it and I feel good. I feel joy staying here and being here. It definitely helped me to have some time off to see other things outside tennis”, said Kuznetsova.

 

Kuznetsova set up a final against Madison Keys, who beat Sofia Kenin in straight sets. The Russian 34-year-old veteran player has qualified for her first final since last year, when she beat Donna Vekic in Washington.

 

“Madison is extremely tough. When she is on fire, it is really hard to play against her. It’s going to be a difficult match-up”, said Kuznetsova.  

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ATP

David Goffin reaches his first Masters 1000 in Cincinnati

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David Goffin beat Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-4 on an overcast afternoon to reach the first Masters 1000 final of his career and his 13th title match at ATP Tour level at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. Goffin has dropped just one set en route to the final.

 

Goffin is returning to his best form this summer under the guidance of former Swedish player Thomas Johansson. He reached the final in Halle and his first quarter final at Wimbledon. He received a walkover after Yoshihito Nishioka was forced to withdraw from the match due to food poisoning.

The Belgian player started the match with two consecutive holds before breaking at love to open up a 4-1 lead with a backhand winner down the line.

Goffin held his next service games to seal the opening set 6-3. Gasquet earned an early break to open  2-0 lead, but Goffin won five of the next six games with two breaks. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up served out the win at love in the 10th game after 1 hour and 16 minutes, as Gasquet sent his backhand long.

Goffin reached the semifinal in Cincinnati last year, but he was forced to retire due to an arm injury.

“I am very happy. It’s a tournament I like and I have played the best tennis in the past few years. I am really happy to reach my first Masters 1000 final here. It’s a great moment for me.”

 

 

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