“Golden match” in French Futures


The 6-0, 6-0 win by 18-year-old Dan Added over 34-year-old French countryman Freddy Prioton in qualifying at a Futures event in Poitiers this week stood out.

Added won all 48 points played – a “golden match“. It’s hard to do. At the very least, your opponent can shank one out. Or double-fault. Added did neither.

Added is ranked No. 853 and  was ranked No. 22 in the ITF juniors a year ago.

Prioton’s only previous pro experience was the qualifying of the same event in 2016 (he also lost 6-0, 6-0).

Tennis-Actu reported his French ranking was a 30, equivalent to a 3.0 in the U.S.

ITF awards junior player grants


The ITF announced 15 players have received grants to help their transition to the pros. Of the 15, 11 will receive $25,000. Four more will get $12,500 to ensure that all ITF regions are covered.

The boys (country, age, best ranking): Nicolas Mejia (COL, 18, 7), Uisung Park (KOR, 17, 3), Jurij Rodionov (AUT, 18, 7), Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN, 18, 4), Chun Hsin Tseng (TPE, 16, 2).

The girls: Violet Apisah (PNG, 18, 26), Emiliana Arango (COL, 17, 8), Kaja Juvan (SLO, 17, 5), Sada Nahimana (BDI, 16, 39), Maria Gabriela Rivera Corado (GUA, 16, 35), Wang Xinyu (CHN, 16, 3). 

The ITF says total development funding in 2018 tops $10 million, shared with the Grand Slams.

ITF dilutes Olympic tennis field


The International Tennis Federation appears willing to risk watering down the field at the Tokyo Olympics to increase participation in its regional sports competitions

The 2016 formula for the singles draws had six “ITF places” each. But 11 of the 12 selected were ranked in the top 115.

Those 12 spots now will be called “Continental Qualification” places. 

The 2018 Asian Games and 2019 African Games champions, and 2019 Pan-American finalists, will get eight of the spots. They only need to be in the top 300.

“This initiative forms part of our commitment under the ITF2024 strategy to secure mutually beneficial partnerships,” ITF president David Haggerty said.

Nastase’s Fed Cup appeal reduces sanctions


Tennis legend and former Romanian Fed Cup captain Ilie Nastase appealed the sanctions heaped on him by the International Tennis Federation in the wake of last April’s behaviour during a tie against Great Britain to an independent tribunal.

And he ended up with a lighter sentence, but also a lighter wallet.

The list of Nastase’s transgressions was long that weekend. It included a racially insensitive comment about Serena Williams’s (then unborn) baby. Not stopping there, Nastase also made inappropriate, sexually suggestive comments to Great Britain Fed Cup captain Anne Keothavong.

Added to that, the 71-year-old also made abusive and threatening comments to a British journalist. And then, there was the inappropriate behaviour on court during the actual matches. The arbitrator considered those the most serious.

All of his targets (including the journalist) were women with the exception of tie supervisor Andreas Egli.

The original suspension handed down by the ITF banned Nastase from “acting in an official capacity” at any ITF-related events for three years, through Dec. 31, 2020. Nastase also was denied access or accreditation to any ITF events through Dec. 31, 2018. He also was assessed a $10,000 fine.

After hearing the case, an independent tribunal called Sport Resolutions fattened the fine by another $10,000. But it reduced the length of the suspensions by eight months each.

Now, those dates are April 23, 2020, and April 23, 2018.

Timely decision during Fed Cup week

NastaseThe timing of the release of the decision on an appeal filed last Aug. 11 is … interesting.

This week, the Romanian Fed Cup team is hosting Canada in its World Group II first-round tie. The tie, which is taking place Cluj-Napoca, Romania is the Fed Cup team’s first tie since that dramatic weekend last April.

As a result, all of the participants, mainly the Romanian players, will have to react to Wednesday’s decision. It’s a week when they should be focusing on winning and advancing to a World Group I playoff tie.

The hearing took place in London on Dec. 13, with Nastase accompanied by four lawyers (three of them women). 

He had two witnesses, one of them his lifelong friend Ion Tiriac. For the ITF, Andreas Egli, the ITF supervisor for the tie, also was heard.

Denials and “mitigating circumstances”

If you read the complete decision, the language Nastase used towards Egli, and the implied threat that he wouldn’t get out of the country, are pretty shocking.

And, as outlined in that decision, Nastase continued to deny he said certain things. Or, he claimed he said them in a different language than he did. And then when that was challenged, the Romanian said he couldn’t remember what he said.

It sounds like it was quite a hearing.

The suspension did not prevent Nastase from attending any ATP, WTA or even Grand Slam events, which don’t fall under the ITF’s jurisdiction. And while some annual invitations were rescinded, he did attend his great friend Tiriac’s tournament in Madrid.

Nastase even was involved in the trophy ceremony when fellow Romanian Simona Halep won the title last May. Which was awkward, although seemingly not for his countrywoman. He also showed up at the ATP Tour event in Bastad, Sweden.

The French Open declined to send him an invitation to his favorite tournament. Wimbledon also took a pass.

He’s really, really sorry

In his concluding remarks to the panel, Nastase expressed “what the Tribunal considered to be genuine remorse for his conduct and said in substance that leaving his beloved sport on such a note would be very difficult personally and would constitute a black mark on his career that he wishes were not there.”

The Tribunal believed the words were genuine and sincere. But it, but could not “excuse behaviour that is not acceptable according to the applicable standards and especially unworthy of someone who has been the number one tennis player in the world, among other accomplishments.”

Tiriac testified that Nastase “is not a racist person, as evidenced by his actions over his long career.” 

It’s hard to fathom that Nastase would make an appearance in Cluj-Napoca this weekend. But you never know.

Florin Segarceanu is currently the Fed Cup captain.

ATP, WTA and ITF restructure tennis


The ITF announced the details of a new “Transition Tour” for 2019 Thursday.

But that’s not the only major change that is in the works.

Tennis.Life has learned the details of what the ATP Tour is doing, in conjunction with the ITF. The overarching goal is to create a structurally sound transition for players from the juniors through to the top level of the pros.

(The WTA Tour has not released any information of its own, outlining how it will affect the female players).

The ATP is making major changes at the Challenger Tour level, after completing an 18-month review of the rankings. The goal is to increase the opportunities for players to progress at the lower levels. Also, they plan to upgrade services to players in the “true” professional ranks. The Tour also feels it will result in “improved integrity in the sport.”

(What that means, in English, is that they expect fewer players to spend their careers at the ITF level, subsisting on accepting bribes to throw and influence matches).

Targeted prize money at the upper levels

The Tour believes that the current system “encourages players to play down for points and upwards for money.” It says the new structure will reward playing up, and “reduce a stagnation in the rankings.”

The goal, from the ITF’s point of view, is to have a better link from the juniors to the pros. Another objective is to target the prize money so that more players can make a living from the game.

The ITF first announced the Transition Tour plans nearly a year ago, in March, 2017. It has taken this long to coordinate with the pro tours, it seems.

Here are the major changes at the Challenger level:

*The number of Challenger Tour events will be increased

*Challengers will have 24-player qualifying draws as of 2019. There will be only rounds of qualifying and six spots in the main draws.

*The “special exempt” spots will be eliminated. The qualifying at Challengers will take place on Mondays and Tuesday, not over the weekend as it currently stands.

*All Challengers will now offer hospitality (i.e. pay for accommodations) for both singles and doubles players.

The current ITF Futures events and the lowest-level ITF Women’s Pro Circuit tournaments (for the women) will become the “ITF Transition Tour”. And that tour will have its own ranking system.

As a result, the ATP and WTA Tour rankings should top out at 500-750 players.  Currently, there are 1,976 players with ATP Tour rankings. More than 550 of them have just one or two points. And there are 1,275 women with WTA rankings.

Hundreds and hundreds of these players have never played at the WTA or ATP Tour levels. And, putting aside the dream, they likely never will.

The Challenger qualifying events will be the link between the “ITF Transition Tour” and the Challenger level. There will be a certain number of spots allocated in those 24-man draws for players based on their new ITF Entry Point ranking. (The exact number has not been finalized).

Points towards that ranking will be awarded at the ITF events and also in the Challenger qualifying rounds.

Guaranteed spots for women and juniors

On the women’s side, there will be five spots reserved in the main draw of $25,000 ITF Pro Circuit events for the five players with highest “ITF Entry Point” rankings.

On the juniors side, there will also be more opportunities on the Transition Tour. Five spots in the ITF main draws will be earmarked for juniors ranked in the ITF top 100.

The number of ATP points available at the $25,000 ITF level will be reduced. Instead, players will earn ITF Entry points, as well as some ATP Tour points in the later rounds. (The women will continue to earn WTA Tour rankings points in 2019) .

By 2020, the second year of the program, the plan is to make those $25,000 men’s events part of the “Transition Tour” tier, and offer ITF points only. 

The overall theory behind this is that under the new system, men’s professional tennis will no longer begin at the ITF level. It will start on the Challenger Tour.  And the conditions on that Tour will be upgraded to reflect that fact.

The women’s side is a little more complicated. While the WTA Tour does run some $125,000 tournaments, the ITF Pro Circuit runs its own events with prize money up to $100,000. Those are events that, with similar purses, fall under the ATP Challenger Tour umbrella on the men’s side.

During the 2018 season, players will have “shadow” ITF and ATP Tour rankings. Those will give them an idea of their ranking will look like in 2019 when the new system kicks in.

More local circuits

The new “ITF Transition Tour” will operate with a more localized structure. That saves the tournament organizers, and the players, money. It rather sounds like the old Satellite Series events of decades ago.

It already happens on an informal basis. There are areas of the world – Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, Hammamet, Tunisia and Antalya, Turkey are just a few – where there are Futures events nearly every week. 

However, the ITF press release also states that the requirement on the Men’s Futures tour to host three consecutive tournaments will no longer exist. So that seems contradictory to the stated intention to “localize” the structure.

No benefit to playing down

The way the rules currently stand, anyone outside the top 10 on the WTA Tour or the top 150 on the ATP Tour can play down at the very lowest ITF level. Those lower-level tournaments will no longer offer ATP or WTA Tour points. So it is expected to weed out higher-ranked players looking for points on the ITF circuit to get their ranking back up.

(Immediate question on that, for players who miss time with injuries or take a break of some kind. If a player doesn’t have the ranking to get into an ATP or WTA Tour event, or even a Challenger, they will find their path to return slowed down considerably. First, they would have to earn ITF Entry points only, even if their level was superior to those toiling at that level. They would play all those matches, but still not be able to make a dent in their ATP ranking. Then they would have to use those to get into Challenger qualifying. It sounds like a lengthened slog for viable players).

(Also – it would be easier to just restrict the ranking at which players can drop down – i.e., no one better than a top-300 ranking, for example. But perhaps there are legalities involved there as players could make a case for restraint of trade).

All these new ranking systems will merge and cooperate by the end of 2018.

End of 2018 for ranking conversions

Any ATP or WTA ranking points earned at $15,000 men’s events, the early rounds of the $25,000 events and in the Challenger qualifying draws will be converted into “ITF Entry points”. And with those points off the computers, those players’ ATP and WTA Tour rankings will drop right off.

And so, in 2019, it will all look a lot different. 

Will it solve all the perceived current issues? Well, it looks like it will eliminate a lot of players who spend too much time in the Futures;  it will be even more difficult to eke out any sort of a living there. So a lot more players will give up the dream.

It all sounds very logical on paper. We’ll see how it plays out in real life.

Osuigwe among ITF 2017 world champions


Florida’s Whitney Osuigwe, the 15-year-old who won the French Open junior girls’ title and has posted up an impressive number of wins this season, is the ITF junior world champion for 2017 on the girls’ side.

Osuigwe had just cracked the top 100 in the ITF junior girls’ rankings when the 2017 season began. She ends it at No. 1 and is still alive in singles and doubles at this week’s Orange Bowl in Florida.

She won both the 18s girls singles and doubles titles last week at the Eddie Herr tournament. That’s a home event for her as it’s held at the IMG Academy where she trains.

Countrywoman Catherine Bellis won the award in 2014 and Taylor Townsend in 2012. Before that, you have to go all the way back to Zina Garrison and Gretchen Rush in 1981 and 1982.

On the boys’ side, Axel Geller becomes first junior from Argentina to be named ITF world champion in 22 years. (Mariano Zabaleta and Federico Browne won the award back-to-back in 1994 and 1995).

He reached the singles final at both the French and US Opens, and took the doubles title in Paris.

Recent winners have included Taylor Fritz (2015), Andrey Rublev (2014) and Alexander Zverev (2013). Good crop.

All-Spain on the pro side 

The all-Spanish double honor as ITF World Champions for 2017 is the first since Americans Davenport and Sampras both won in 1998.

On the pro side, ATP No. 1 Rafael Nadal and WTA No. 2 Garbiñe Muguruza have been named world champions for 2017.

Muguruza is just 40 points out of the No. 1 spot in the WTA Tour rankings, just behind Simona Halep. But unlike Halep, Muguruza is a Slam champion, having won Wimbledon this year. The ITF awards weight the Slams (which it has jurisdiction over) more than other tournaments.

According to the ITF, it’s the first time both winners have come from the same country since Lindsay Davenport and Pete Sampras were named ITF world champions in 1998.

It’s the third time Nadal has been so honored. Time flies: he’s the oldest-ever to be honored, at age 31.

“Becoming ITF World Champion in such a competitive year is amazing for me and is even more special because Rafa has also been awarded on the men’s side. He is a great role model for all of us, so it is a great moment for tennis in Spain,” Muguruza said in a statement.

“I knew that putting in the hard work would pay off eventually and it made winning Wimbledon and achieving the No. 1 ranking so special. I’m motivated to take everything I’ve learned this year and apply it to my work next season.”

Final accolade for Hingis

The doubles champions are Marcelo Melo (Brazil) and Lukasz Kubot (Poland) on the men’s side, and Yung-Jan Chan (Taipei) and Martina Hingis (Switzerland) on the women’s side.


Melo and Kubot won the ATP Tour Finals last month, one of six titles that included Wimbledon, in their first season together.

Hingis, who retired at the end of the season, gets one more accolade.

She and Chan made nine finals – and won all of them. 

David Wagner, 43, was named the first-ever ITF Quad Wheelchair World Champion, a long overdue accolade after he finished No. 1 in the year-end rankings for the eighth time.  Gustavo Fernandez, 23 is the ITF Wheelchair champion on the men’s side and Yui Kamiji – also 23 – was honored on the women’s side. 

Kamiji won three of the four major titles in 2017, all but Wimbledon. 

The awards will be handed out at the French Open next June.

Regional managers, ITF meet in London


The International Tennis Federation met with the presidents, general secretaries and managers of its regional associations last week, at the ITF headquarters in Roehampton.

Among the issues covered were development programs for 2018, as well as the planned 2019 ITF transition tour.

 “This was an important opportunity to freely discuss key strategic and operational matters in order that the ITF and our Regional Associations can find new ways to develop and grow the game together,” ITF president David Haggerty said in a statement.

From the group photo, that’s quite the diverse group.

Sabatini, Nalbandian named role models


The next Youth Olympics will take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina Oct. 6-18, 2018.

And Argentine tennis legends Gabriela Sabatini and David Nalbandian will represent the sport as “athlete role models”.

The tennis event, for players 18-and-under, will be played on clay at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club (love the contradiction of that club name).

There are singles, doubles and mixed events.

At the last Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China, 37 countries took part in the tennis event. Jelena Ostapenko, Daria Kasatkina, Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev were among the medalists.

Fed Cup final a sellout in Minsk


Some of the biggest names in tennis will be missing for the Fed Cup final between the U.S. and Belarus this weekend in Minsk.

But the International Tennis Federation announced Monday that the Chizhovska Arena (capacity 8,807) is a sellout.

Great news.

This is the first year Belarus even made the World Group. It’s only the country’s sixth home tie – ever.

The ITF says the organizers are contemplating the installation of a giant screen outside the stadium for additional fans to be part of the atmosphere. 

Average high temperatures in Minsk Nov. 11 hover around 39F. Brrrr.

Bencic comeback going gangbusters


Belinda Bencic’s late-season comeback continues, even if the WTA season is over.

In Poitiers, France last week, the 20-year-old from Switzerland reached the semis in singles and won the doubles with Yanina Wickmayer.

She is 16-4 in singles with two doubles titles in four tournaments since returning from left wrist surgery and a five-month absence.

Ranked No. 7 in Feb. 2016, Bencic was down to No. 318 when her comeback began after the US Open. 

She’s already at No. 163. And not done. Bencic is entered in $125Ks in Hua Hin and Taipei, and a $100K event in Dubai in mid-December.