No Love… ITF World Tennis Tour format criticised by athletes

Writing for The Daily Telegraph, tennis correspondent Simon Briggs has reported on player discontent and disillusion at the International Tennis Federation – ITF’s new professional ranking and tournament qualifying system.

Briggs reports that lower ranking players believe that their professional progress has been thwarted, by the introduction of the ITF’s new ‘World Tennis Tour’ ranking system.

Players have complained of vital ATP/WTA tournament qualifying points being wiped-out by the system, which has not attributed past athlete performance at a number of formerly syndicated events.

Furthermore, the system has been deemed as counterproductive by players, who state that tournament participation has dropped at $25K ITF tour levels – leading to suffocating economic realities amongst lower-ranking tennis athletes.

Challenging the ITF’s new ranking system, Canadian player Maria Patrascu set-up the ‘Change the ITF Rules’ petition which has secured 15,000 player signatures.

The introduction of the ‘World Tennis Tour’ system in 2019, was agreed by tennis four leading governing bodies the – ATP, WTA, ITF, and the Grand Slam Board, in a move to strengthen the sport’s professional frameworks against corruption and match-fixing.

In their review of competition and athlete ranking structures, the governing bodies have been assisted by the research and recommendations of tennis’ ‘Independent Review Panel -IRP’, who last December published its two-year report on tennis integrity.

Seeking to eliminate, ‘the corruption that has taken root at the lower levels of tennis’, the IRP has recommended twelve measures to reduce sports corruption and match manipulations.

IRP measures aimed at ‘removing opportunities and incentives for breaches of integrity’, saw tennis discontinue the supply of official Sportradar live scoring data on ITF sanctioned World Tennis Tour $15K events.

In the report, players interviewed by Briggs complain that they were not properly informed of the system changes, and that tennis governance acted in a tone-deaf manner driven by stats, rather than consulting tennis stakeholders.

Speaking at a Miami briefing, ITF Circuit Director Kris Dent acknowledged criticism of the new system, but maintained that ‘the reforms will shake-out at the end of the year’.

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