A solution may be at hand to the recent catastrophic changes in lower-level tennis tournaments, which have left thousands of players unable to compete.
At the start of the year, the International Tennis Federation cancelled all the rankings points earned last year at Futures events – the two-man-and-a-dog, entry-level tournaments frequented by lesser players – and created a new system called the World Tennis Tour instead.
The effect has been to create a massive bottleneck. On the men’s side, the WTT has deprived anyone with an ITF ranking over 1,300 of any matches at all. Marcus Willis, the Wimbledon darling of 2016, told Telegraph Sport that “I haven’t been able to get into any tournaments. No-one has said one positive thing about the changes. There are two different rankings systems and it’s a mess.”
Willis’s views are widely shared. “Who can play under these new rules?” said Toni Nadal, Rafa’s uncle and long-time coach. “Only the young rich people.” Meanwhile, Stan Wawrinka’s coach Magnus Norman wrote “I find it very hard to work around the fact that we are cutting jobs in tennis.”
All of which explains why the men’s tour have discussed the issue at their board meetings in Indian Wells this week and come up with the idea of a new category of tournament, bridging the gap between the $25,000 events that represent the highest level of the WTT and the $54,000 Challengers on the bottom rung of the ATP tour.