The ITF manages the initial stages of the players’ global pathway to professional tennis. In 2017 this includes:
1. Junior Circuit for girls and boys aged 18U
2. Women’s Pro Circuit – five levels [15k, 25k, 60k, 80k and 100k].
3. Men’s Pro Circuit – two levels [15k and 25k].
In 2014 the ITF undertook a project to review the player pathway, with the aim of ensuring the optimal functioning of the circuits to enable talented young players to reach the higher levels of professional tennis. The first part of the project comprised a detailed review of professional tennis below Tour level with the ultimate goals of:
• raising prize money and player earnings;
• raising event standards;
• maintaining and improving the performance pathway for developing nations.
The second part of the project involved a review of the junior game, with the aim of making the pathway through the various levels of the junior game and on to the professional circuit clearer and more easily navigable by the best junior players. The review of the junior circuit is still ongoing, although some changes have already been approved.
A detailed overview of the key findings from the data analysis can be accessed here.
The review established that:
• In 2013 there were 8874 male professional players [3896 of whom earned no prize money].
In 2013 there were 4862 female professional players [2212 of whom earned no prize money].
• In 2013 average costs for playing professional tennis [includes flights, accommodation, food, restringing, laundry, clothing, equipment and airport transfers but not including coaching costs] were $38,800 for male players and $40,180 for female players [this obviously changes depending on region and/or ranking].
• In 2013 total men’s prize money was approximately $162m. An even distribution would provide every male player that earned prize money with $32,638. In that year the top 1% of male players (top 50) won 60% ($97,448,106), which reduced the even distribution average down to $13,195.
• In 2013 total women’s prize money was approximately $120m. An even distribution would provide every female player that earned prize money with $45,205. In that year the top 1% of female players [top 26] won 51% ($60,585,592) of total prize money, which reduced the even distribution average down to $22,564.
• The break even point on the earnings list (i.e. the point where average costs met actual earnings) was 336 for men and 253 for women in 2013.
• In nominal terms total prize money in the men’s and women’s game has risen since 2001. This is due in the main to a significant increase in the number of competitive opportunities (tournaments) around the world and introduction of certain new tournament categories (W-$15k, $100k and $125k, M-$35k).
• This increase has been countered (in terms of earnings per player) by an increase in the number of players competing for the total prize money pool.
• While numbers of players entering the professional game has risen since 2001, the numbers moving from juniors to top 100 has remained constant.
• The time taken from earning the first ranking point to entering the top 100 from 2000 to 2013 is slowly increasing [3.7 years to 4.8 years for men / 3.4 years to 4.1 years for women].
• The number of nations hosting professional tennis events has not changed significantly since 2001.
• There are significantly more professional events for players to compete in, but that growth of events is being driven by Europe.
A stakeholder survey to ascertain the views of players, national associations, coaches and event organisers was sent to over 60,000 individuals. Over 8,000 responses were received and analysed by Kingston University in London.
The player survey results can be accessed here.
The non-player survey results can be found here.
In March 2015 the ITF Board of Directors approved an extensive programme of prize money increases for the ITF Pro Circuit. The phased introduction of increases commencing in 2016 sought to minimise the impact of prize money rises on tournament numbers and player opportunities worldwide while better rewarding players at the Pro Circuit level.
In March 2017 the ITF Board of Directors approved the introduction in 2019 of an ITF Transition Tour, featuring a new category of interim tournament at entry-level that will better aid the transition from junior to professional tennis and ensure a continued opportunity for players from any nation to join the player pathway.
Transition Tour tournaments will be created through the repositioning of the existing $15,000 (Level I) tournaments on the ITF Pro Circuit that will no longer be held in 2019. Transition Tour tournaments will offer ITF Entry Points instead of ATP/WTA ranking points, with the two systems linked to ensure that the more successful players are able to use their ITF Entry Points to gain acceptance into ITF Pro Circuit tournaments and above.
This restructuring will result in the creation of a new ‘truly professional group’ of players numbering in the region of 750 men and 750 women. This group will compete at Level II Pro Circuit events and above with those events offering ATP and WTA ranking points. By reducing the number of professional players and introducing a set number of job opportunities each week, the professional game will financially reward more players and introduce a much clearer pathway into the professional game.