What is the ITF Transition Tour? Part 3

The final part of the ITF statement I wish to deal with is:

It is anticipated that this will increase the number of nations hosting tournaments in 2019, providing opportunities for more players.

As I said in the previous blog, I’m deeply sceptical about the claims of reduced hosting costs and how much this will increase the chances of additional tournaments being hosted. However I have to preface this blog with a warning that the data I incorporate will only be for the period for Jan – Mar 2019 only. It’s possible things may improve, but I believe there is sufficient evidence so far to have a degree of pessimism about the schedule moving forwards.

If we look at the 2018 numbers it looks as follows:

Jan – 2018, 31 tournaments, total number of 2,788 qualifying spots available

Feb – 2018, 29 tournaments, total number of 1,648 qualifying spots available

Mar – 2018, 53 tournaments, total number of 3,536

Worth noting the huge discrepancy between Jan and Feb 18 numbers is because some tournaments could choose to host as many as 128 players in a qualifying draw, whilst others could keep it at 32.

Jan – 2019, 27 tournaments, total number of 648 qualifying spots available

Feb – 2019, 25 tournanents, total number of 600 qualifying spots available

Mar – 2019, 43 tournaments, total number of 1,032 qualifying spots available.

Just for clarification, the new system caps qualifying at 24 players.

Now, let’s compare and contrast. Between Jan and Mar 2018 there were a total of 109 tournaments, from Jan to Mar 2019 there are 95 tournaments.

This means there has been a reduction of 14 tournaments for the same quarter, year on year.

That’s pretty awful, but let’s look at by far the biggest issue, the number of player opportunities that have been taken away as a result.

From Jan to Mar 2018 there were a total of 7,972 qualifying spots, this has dropped to a total of… 2,280.

In short, in the same 3 month period, there are 5,692 fewer qualifying spots available to players.

That’s just in a single 3 month period. Worth reiterating that.

At this point it’s worth going back to the ITF statement from Feb 2018 and to be clear on their claims.

It is anticipated that this will increase the number of nations hosting tournaments in 2019, providing opportunities for more players.

I’d be intrigued to see the ITF defend that statement when faced with the facts.

It’s worth me explaining why this is such an issue. They’re not just taking away spots from nobodies who fancy a chance at playing in a local tournament, we are talking about players who are well established and inside the ITF’s ideal criteria of 750 professionals. As the below screenshot from a tweet by John Millman shows, his friend is not even close at this stage to making qualifying draws at some $15k events despite an ATP ranking of 670. Yet just last year that ranking would easily have got him directly into the main draws of the $15k events and possibly seeded.

Screenshot_20190130-171606.png

What is actually causing the above to happen?

Part of the issue causing this now stems from the fact the CH tour also provides less opportunities (I’ll touch on that another day), so players are forced downwards and have to play $25k events, which in turn pushes others down towards the $15k events. When this is combined with the reality that there are fewer tournaments at the $25k and $15k levels, plus smaller qualifying draws…well it just means some people are going to be forced out of tennis due to lack of opportunities, rather than talent and that’d be the biggest shame of them all.

But the biggest issue is once where players could play $15k events and earn ATP points they are no longer able to do so. Thus the $25k events have never been more important and the value of even a single ATP has gone up immeasurably at this stage.

I might write a blog on it at some point to try and really simplify it, but suffice to say if you’re ranked around 600 in the world (again, well inside the ITF’s desire goal of 750) it is extremely difficult to work out where you should be playing. Chances are you’ll now be forced to play the $15k circuit to build up ITF ranking points…this is turn will lead to huge increases in costs just to be able to travel and play as the prize pools are small and if you have relatively few ITF points at this stage you’re now effectively climbing a new rankings ladder.

If it sounds confusing, that’s because it truly is.

Ultimately, a sport many people associate with the elite due to costs has managed to almost make that perception a reality.

This issue won’t stop the Roger Federer’s of the world, but how about the Nikoloz Basilashvili types? Nikoloz at the age of 19 was still on the Futures tour. Does someone like him still make it under the new system? Possibly not. Think about that for a second. He’s the world number 20 now, but under this system he may not have the time and resources to climb up first the ITF rankings and then the ATP rankings.

If you think that is hyperbole, read the thoughts of coaches and others who are opposed to this system and I suspect they may well agree.

Whilst some may argue it’s early days, I think it’s clear the ITF are falling miles short of the claims they made. Remember this isn’t some minor trial they are engaged in, this is a permanent change that was signed off after extensive research. That’s the most worrying aspect.

The questions will continue. Who put together the research? Who decided on the new proposals? Who ultimately signed off on them? Which stakeholders were consulted? Were players spoken to? As this is fundamentally one of the biggest changes to the sport in a very long time, why has there been such a lack of transparency and openness?

Then again this is the same leadership that consigned the Davis Cup to the bin so should we really be shocked?

I’m finished with the ITF’s statetment and these mini blogs for now. There’s more elements I can cover, but I’m going to take a break from writing whilst I watch what goes on. I hope anyone who has read the previous two plus this one has gotten something from it.

As a final sidenote, it was only yesterday that I became away that Dave Miley was a presidential candidate for the upcoming ITF elections. He has written a beautiful post on this issue, covering more than I have and in a much more succinct manner. It’s clear he has his finger on the pulse and understands the devastating consequences for the game under this new system.

If any player reads this blog, I urge them to read Dave’s, share it around, talk amongst yourselves and make your voices known. He particularly deserves your support because the man he is up against is the very man who has engineered not only this farce, but the demise of the Davis Cup, one David Haggerty.

When all is said and done it’s your careers and your childhood dreams that are being threatened and it’s time you stood up for yourselves.

Because if you don’t, no one else will.

 

Dave’s post: https://m.facebook.com/davemileytennis/posts/1229040220596418

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