New Player Pathway Debuts As 2019 Season Begins
As the calendar flips to 2019, it signals a new era for players fighting to make their mark in professional tennis. The landscape is set for a significant transformation, with wholesale changes being implemented.
Not only are players poised to benefit from a more defined pathway from the bottom up, but also increased prize money across all levels. The new structure is designed to encourage a more efficient and streamlined progression from one stage to the next, with a larger number of players earning a greater amount of prize money.
Those competing at both the ATP 500 and ATP Masters 1000 levels will see a significantly greater prize money distribution in qualifying and the early rounds. This allocates more of the overall pot to the lower-ranked players, with an average increase of more than 80 per cent to those competing in qualifying at that level.
The financial benefits extend to the ATP Challenger Tour as well, improving the viability of fostering a professional career at the lower levels. In addition to overhauled prize money, players will incur less expenses with all Challengers providing hospitality to all main-draw players. As part of the enhancements, the ATP will provide travel grants for singles players ranked between No. 150-300 and for doubles players ranked between No. 75-150.
The revamped ATP Challenger Tour serves as a critical stage in the progression to the upper echelons of the sport. The changes also establish a clear progression path for all players by providing adequate stepping at each stage of a player’s development. After competing in the ITF Juniors circuit, players will test their abilities on the newly formed ITF World Tennis Tour (formerly known as Futures). And as their success increases, they will begin their professional careers in ATP Challenger Tour qualifying, Challenger main draw, ATP Tour and Grand Slam qualifying and ultimately the main draw of ATP Tour and Grand Slam events.
The new structure is designed to increase mobility for players who are winning matches, as well as reducing player stagnation in the ATP Rankings. The ranking points and prize money on offer will incentivise players to compete upwards through the system by entering tournaments reflective of their ranking.
"The opportunity to progress from the juniors through the correct pathway into the professional game is critical, and the changes implemented at the ATP Challenger Tour will bring significant enhancements to the overall professionalisation of the sport at that level," said ATP Chief Player Officer Ross Hutchins.
With all tournaments at the level now featuring 48-player draws (increased from 32), there will be approximately 2,400 additional available professional job opportunities with prize money and hotel accommodation included at the first rung of professional tennis throughout the season. Tournaments will span seven days with qualifying held on Mondays, greatly assisting player scheduling. No longer will a player miss the chance to play qualifying in the coming week of a neighbouring Challenger event because he has made a deep run at a Challenger in the current week.
In total, the number of players in the ATP Rankings has decreased from 2,042 to 679 as the new ranking structure debuts this week. The remaining players will fall under the ITF World Tennis Ranking and compete at ITF events. The best at this level will eventually use their ITF ranking to play up and enter Challenger tournaments.
At lower-level Challengers, there will be four spots in the qualifying draw. Three will be reserved for players based on their ITF World Tennis Ranking plus one wild card. At the higher-level Challengers, there will be two spots reserved for players based on their ATP Ranking and two wild cards. In both instances, two players will advance from qualifying to the main draw.
Hutchins added, “These new changes to the ATP Challenger Tour and ATP Rankings have been carefully considered over a long period and I’m confident they will lead to a clearer, fairer pathway for players. We will of course continue to carefully measure job opportunities and rankings mobility under the new structure, along with ensuring the pathway into and up and down the rankings continues to serve the sport in an optimal way.”
In 2019, reduced ATP Rankings points will be offered at $25,000+H ITF events. No ATP Rankings points will be awarded at any ITF events from 2020 onwards.
The ATP is also working to increase the number of Challengers and the number of physiotherapists at events. Additional ATP staff will attend the tournaments, helping to educate younger players about life on the Tour.
In a move to enhance the status of the Challenger Tour, the ATP also has a goal to stream all matches from all events. This will increase exposure of players and tournaments at the level, shining a brighter light on those striving to establish a successful professional career.
Challenger Category & Prize Money Breakdown
|Category||Prize Money USD||Prize Money Euro|
|ATP Challenger 125||$162,480||€ 137,560|
|ATP Challenger 110||$135,400
|ATP Challenger 100||$108,320||€ 92,040|
|ATP Challenger 90||$81,240||€ 69,280|
|ATP Challenger 80||$54,160||€ 46,600|