Tennis’ Policy On Transgender Athletes Under Review As Governing Bodies Vow To Work Together - UBITENNIS
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Tennis’ Policy On Transgender Athletes Under Review As Governing Bodies Vow To Work Together

Recently a top Olympic sport became the first first to ban transgender women from competing in women’s events. So what is Tennis’ policy on the matter and could they follow suit? UbiTennis has spoken with both the ITF and WTA about the topic.



Renee Richards was the first openly transgendered woman to play at a Grand Slam event more than 40 years ago (image via

The debate over the inclusion of transgendered athletes in women’s events is a hot topic at present after two governing bodies suspended their participation. 

Less than a week ago the Fédération Internationale de natation (FINA) voted in favour of banning transgender women from elite swimming events if they have experienced any part of male puberty. Their decision is based on the verdict of their ‘scientific panel’ which concludes that trans women retained a significant advantage over cisgender female swimmers even after reducing their testosterone levels through medication. Meanwhile, the International Rugby League (IRL) has also temporarily barred trans women from playing until further research is conducted to shape a clear policy for the organization. 

So what about tennis? The sport was one of the first in the world to feature a male-to-female competitor thanks to trailblazer Renee Richards. Richards, who played professionally as a man before transitioning, was barred from entering qualifying at the 1976 US Open after failing a chromosome test. She then entered into a high-profile legal battle which she won that let her participate in the tournament the following year in a move which made headlines worldwide and divided opinion. Although she was still banned from other top events where their rulebook once stated that only biologically-born females could play women’s events.

Today both the International Tennis Federation and WTA have their own policies dealing with the subject. During an email exchange between the ITF and UbiTennis, they confirmed a review is ongoing following guidelines recently issued by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC framework is a recommendation and has no legal power. It focuses on 10 principles: inclusion, prevention of harm, non-discrimination, fairness, no presumption of advantage, evidence-based approach, primacy of health and bodily autonomy, stakeholder-centered approach, right to privacy and periodic reviews.

“The ITF Sport Science & Medicine Commission (SSMC) began reviewing the current transgender policy following the publication of the IOC transgender framework,” an ITF spokesperson told UbiTennis. 

“The ITF SSMC includes leading international medical and scientific representatives from the world of tennis and will consider inclusion, as well as the other principles set out in the IOC transgender framework as part of its review.”

As the ITF and WTA are separate organizations they can issue their own rules. This is why there is a slight difference in one part of their eligibility criteria regarding trans women players. On the ITF circuit players can participate with a lower testosterone level than on the WTA Tour (5 nmol/L to 10 nmol/L). So it is theoretically possible that some players might be allowed to play ITF events and then be banned from the WTA Tour. 

However, both governing bodies state to UbiTennis that they will be working together on the issue in the future. When questioned about the difference in their policies regarding the level of testosterone, the ITF played down its significance. 

The ITF remains in close communication with WTA regarding our respective transgender policies of which the testosterone threshold is one element,” they said. 

“It is worth noting that the likelihood of a transgender women’s testosterone concentration being between 5 and 10 nmol/L is very low as gender re-affirming hormone therapy typically results in levels of less than 2 nmol/L. We will continue to work closely with the WTA as we continue to review our policy.”

Meanwhile, the WTA told UbiTennis that their approach to the subject of trans competitors is based on fairness for all. 

“WTA’s priority is and continues to be one of fostering an environment that is fair, safe, inclusive and evidence-based,” a spokesperson said.

It is unclear as to if the ITF and WTA will align their rules regarding the required level of testosterone prohibited for trans players but a review is ongoing. Neither governing body mentioned that banning transgendered women from participation was a possibility. 

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Maria Sakkari Appoints Witt As Coach For American Swing



Maria Sakkari - WTA Washington 2023 (foto Twitter @mubadalacitidc)

Maria Sakkari has enlisted the help of Jessica Pegula’s former long-time coach in a bid to regain her form on the Tour. 

Greek media has confirmed that the world No.9 has begun a partnership with David Witt, who has also previously coached Venus Williams. Witt had worked with Pegula since 2019 before the tennis star decided to end their collaboration earlier this year. During their time together he oversaw the American win two WTA 1000 events, reached the quarter-final of a grand Slam on six occasions and peaked at a ranking high of No.3. 

Sakkari’s appointment comes after she ended her six-year working relationship with Tom Hill. Highlights of their partnership include winning two Tour titles, reaching a Grand Slam semi-final twice and spending more than two years in the top 10. 

“Tom, thank you for all the emotions, the support on and off the court, and the belief you had in me since day one,” Sakkari wrote on Instagram last month. “We grew together, and you helped me realize that everything is possible.

“Not only did you make me a better tennis player, but you also made me a better person. Thank you for always wanting the best for me and for always having my back! Good luck on the next chapter in your career.”

Sakkari is looking to get back on track after what has been a disappointing start to 2024. She had won just two matches in her first four singles tournaments played and is yet to face an opponent ranked in the world’s top 20. However, she faired better at the United Cup, where she won three matches in the team event, including victories over Lelylah Fernandez and Angelique Kerber. 

It is understood that Sakkari will be working with Witt at both Indian Wells and Miami. If their partnership is successful, it could be extended further into the clay swing. The other members of her team will remain in the same roles. 

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Ugo Humbert saves three match points to beat Hubert Hurkacz in Dubai



Fifth-seed Ugo Humbert came back from one set down to beat Hubert Hurkacz 3-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-3. Humbert had beaten Hurkacz en route to his title in Marseille. 

Hurkacz converted his third break point in the fourth game to win the first set 6-3. Humbert saved three match points in the tie-break of the second set before converting his first set point to force the match to the decider. Humbert broke twice to seal the third set 6-3. 

“It was a great battle. I tried to battle for every point. In the tie-break I saved three match points, tried to do my best and thanks to those French fans for the amazing support”, said Humbert. 

Humbert set up a semifinal match against Danil Medvedev, who beats Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2 6-3. Humbert leads 2-1 in their head-to-head matches, but Medvedev won their most recent match in three sets at the China Open in their most recent head-to-head match in Beijing last year.

“It’s going to be a great challenge against Danil tomorrow. We had a few great fights. Hopefully I will recover well to be ready for this match”, said Humbert. 

Aleksander Bublik was leading Jiri Lehecka 6-4 4-1 when the Czech player was forced to retire due to an injury. Bublik set up a match against Andrey Rublev, who was leading Sebastian Korda 6-4 4-3  when the Czech player withdrew due to injury. 

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Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro



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One of Brazil’s most promising young tennis players has made the bold decision to abandon a dream of his to play college tennis in America to turn pro. 

17-year-old Jaoao Fonseca was committed to playing college tennis at the University of Virginia but says professional tennis has called him in a way he couldn’t refuse. The rising star has played just two Tour-level events so far in his career and is currently ranked 343rd in the world. 

At last week’s Rio Open, he became the second-youngest player after Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event since the category was introduced. In his home tournament, the Brazillian beat Arthur Fils and Cristian Garin before losing to Mariano Navone.

“It was an incredibly tough decision for me and my family as I have been dreaming about living a college life in Charlottesville, playing the sport that l love with a wonderful team and coach, but, in the last months, professional tennis called me in a way that I simply couldn’t say no,” Fonseca wrote in a statement published on Instagram
“Although I will not be attending school, I think it is an extremely valuable and viable path for young players in their way to professional careers,” he added.

Fonseca has already enjoyed success on the junior circuit. Last year he was runner-up in the doubles tournament at the Australian Open boy’s event. Then at the US Open, he won his first Grand Slam junior title in singles. He is also a former ITF Junior World No.1 and is currently ranked second in the standings. 

The youngster has already been hailed by compatriot Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is currently ranked 13th on the WTA Tour. Speaking to reporters at the San Diego Open, she has offered her support to Fonseca if he needs it. 

“João is a nice person. He has a great future, if he keeps working hard and keeps doing what he’s doing. I think he has a very aggressive mentality and tennis.” She said.

“We sometimes text each other, but not that much. But I’m always following.. not only him.. but the Brazilians. I’m proud of what he’s doing. He has a long way and he needs to understand that it’s a marathon, it’s not a 100 meter race.’
“Tennis has its ups and downs. I wish him all the best, for sure. I’ll be here whenever he wants. I’m happy with what he’s doing.” 

Fonseca played at the Chile Open this week but lost in the first round to Thiago Agustin Tirante.

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