In a move to provide the world's many excellent young players with an avenue to the international circuit, Circuits were introduced in 1976 with the points gained included on the computer rankings. There were only three Circuits in place, one in Europe and the other two situated in North America. These three Circuits offered a total of US$45,000 in prize money.
These early Circuits consisted of a minimum of 5 tournament weeks with the tournament prize money being no less than $3,000.
In order to qualify for points, a player must have played in the "Masters" type tournament weeks and missed no more than one of the other tournament weeks on the Circuit.
The first Circuit began play in the USA on 23rd February 1976 and was entitled the "Watch Circuit". Participating players who became of international note included; Tim Gullikson who would go on to be a Wimbledon singles quarter finalist in 1979 and a Wimbledon doubles runner up with his brother Tom in 1983.
The next Circuit to be held was again in the USA on 3rd May 1976 and was entitled the "Southern Circuit". This Circuit had a high amount of participating players and future stars included, Brian Teacher who went on to win the Australian Open singles title in 1980 by defeating Kim Warwick in the final; Steve Denton who become Australian Open singles runner up to Johan Kriek in both 1981 and 1982 and John Austin who with his sister Tracy won the 1980 Wimbledon Mixed Doubles title by defeating Mark Edmonson and Dianne Fromholtz in the final.
One point of trivia worth noting is that Scott Carnahan also participated - later on that year in Los Angeles his service speed was scientifically timed at 137mph and remained the world record until 1985!
The first European Circuit was played in France on 27th August 1976. The overall singles circuit winner was Peter McNamara who would go on to form one of the best doubles partnerships with compatriot Paul McNamee. Together they won the 1979 Australian Open and the 1980 and 1982 Wimbledon Titles. Mc Namara also attained a career high singles ranking of 7 in March 1983.
Also participating at the 1976 French Satellite Circuit was Chris Lewis who would become Wimbledon singles runner up to John McEnroe in 1983.
In 1990, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) assumed responsibility for the development of an apprentice level Circuit. This was known as a Satellite Circuit and had to be comprised of four tournaments, the final tournament of which was a Satellite Masters tournament. The prize money on offer per tournament had to be no less than US$6,250.
Before the ITF assumed responsibility for the Satellite Circuits there had been 31 Circuits offering a total prize money of US$975,000. By the end of 1997 there were 109 Satellite Circuits being played around the world offering US$3,150,000. In seven years the ITF achieved a 351% growth in the number of Circuits and 323% growth in prize money.
2006 was the last year where Satellite Circuits formed part of the ITF Professional Circuit.
In 1998, one week Futures Tournaments were launched, and had to be scheduled in a minimum of three consecutive weeks of $10,000 each or two consecutive weeks of $15,000 each in prize money. The Futures Tournaments effectively replaced 65% of the Satellite Circuits and players were given more opportunity to earn ranking points.
In 1998 there were 212 Futures Tournaments offering a total of $2,635,000 in prize money. The first Futures Tournament took place in India and the honour of being the first singles winner went to Vadim Kutsenko who defeated his compatriot Dmitri Tomashevich in the final.
By the end of 2002 there were 300 Futures Tournaments being played around the globe with a total of $3,675,000 in prize money available. In five years the ITF has achieved a 141% growth in the number of Futures Tournaments and a 139% growth in prize money.
In 2003, there were 333 Futures played worldwide, an increase of 11% on the previous year.
In 2004, a total of 356 Futures were played with a total of $4,150,000 in prize money. The majoirty of these were played on Clay (188) or Hard (162) with only 4 Futures played on Artificial surface, and 2 on Grass. Of these tournaments, 319 were played outdoors.
The ITF Pro Circuit has continued to grow since.
ATP rankings released at the end of 2012 on 31 December revealed that every player, bar one, listed with an ATP Singles Entry Ranking has competed on the ITF Pro Circuit (Satellite Circuits and/or Futures Tournaments) at some point during their career!