In 1984, following approaches by the Women's Tennis Association, the ITF agreed to take the responsibility for the development of an apprenticeship circuit for women on a worldwide basis. Efforts by the European Tennis Association and the United States Tennis Association prior to this time had achieved a total of $340,000 in low level prize money events during 1983 offering some 26 tournaments in Europe and 14 in the USA. Only 3 other events of $10,000 existed elsewhere and these were in Australia.
It was clear that in order to encourage the establishment of events at this apprenticeship level, there was a need for a comprehensive initiative by the ITF. Firstly, National Associations had to be encouraged to allocate resources to the women's game and before this could be done effectively, standard Regulations and organisational guidelines needed to be devised which could be used by all tournaments.
Several sets of rules were already in effect but these differed and were hard to understand by anyone not previously well-versed in women's tennis. Also, the benefits of staging such events had to be conveyed as widely as possible, particularly with regard to providing young players with the opportunity to play events through which to achieve an initial computer ranking.
The first priority was to draw up one set of Regulations and Code of Conduct for applicability to all nations, and although simple in concept, this proved to be a difficult and awkward task in practice. Throughout 1985, continuing discussions took place with the ETA and the USTA in cooperation with the WTA and finally, in early 1986, the first edition of the ITF Regulations for Approved Women's Events with Prize Money between $5,000 and $50,000 was published and circulated to all member nations of the ITF.
A contribution from the Championships at Wimbledon of £100,000 which led the way to establishing the Grand Slam Trust Fund was to prove the vital stimulus; a cash incentive to assist with increasing competitive opportunities worldwide was the key to establishing a truly comprehensive approach to tennis development.
In 1986, the French and US Open Championships joined Wimbledon in creating the Grand Slam Trust Fund by contributing to this on-going project. The Australian Open pledged its support once the tournament was on a firm financial footing in its spectacular new facility in Melbourne.
By the end of 1986, some 12 weeks of tennis in South America had been launched, primarily through the Grand Slam Trust Fund initiative, offering $60,000 in prize money. More importantly, this circuit provided opportunity for the wealth of talented junior players, nurtured by the successful COSAT Junior Circuit, with a means to progress into the professional game.
For the first time it became possible for these home-grown players to earn computer points in their own region before embarking on the more competitive circuits in Europe and the USA. Asia responded with a 14 week circuit offering $115,000 in prize money while the growth in Europe and the US continued to show expansion.
The million dollar threshold was broken by the end of 1986 when a total of 108 events worldwide offered $1,075,000 by way of tournaments and circuits with $25,000 or less in prize money and the Circuit has continued to grow ever since.
The WTA singles ranking list for the end of 2012, released on 31 December, showed that all but two players have, at some point during their career, competed on the ITF Pro Circuit!