The e-mail that arrived from the Futures tournament in Gatineau, Quebec Thursday announced that the event will not be held in February, 2019.
It happens. These events generally are money losers. And where one disappears, another typically pops up.
But there was more to the email.
The tournament also stated that in 2019, all Futures-level tournaments held in Canada would be cancelled.
The reason behind it, according to the tournament organizers, is the sweeping changes planned at the Futures level for 2019.
“Change is coming because the eventual removal of points from the Futures level is problematic,” Tennis Canada CEO Michael Downey said in an e-mail. “That said, we are working on new plans to support Canada’s pro and junior players. It’s a big project that we have been working on for months and it will evolve over time as we gain more real-life learning against a revised circuit structure.”
The game’s feed-up circuits, from the low-level Futures through the Challengers, will be completely revamped in 2019.
This is without a doubt not the first announcement along the same lines to come.
(Tennis.Life was also told by a reader in Israel that his country, which hosted 14 Futures events in 2018, also will cancel the entire slate in 2019. There’s a chance some could survive – financed by players’ parents. The national federation is planning a pair of Challengers instead, but that won’t come close to making up for it).
Seven tournaments are no more
The news affects a total of seven tournaments in Canada, all at the $25,000 level.
They are held throughout the season across the country beginning in Quebec during the winter. After that, the tour moves out west in June and July, and then in Ontario in September.
All are opportunities for young players and aspiring and fledgling professionals to earn experience, ranking points and a little bit of prize money.
Seven Futures in a season is not an enormous amount, compared to other countries.
For example, in the U.S. in 2018, there have been 35 such tournaments from January through December. Fourteen of them were at the $15,000 level. The other 21 offered $25,000 in prize money.
Humbert the 2018 champion
As it stands, the final champion of the Gatineau Futures will forever be Ugo Humbert of France (pictured above in the featured pic).
Then 19, Humbert was ranked No. 331 when he began play at the tournament. The victory was worth about 20 spots in the rankings. And Humbert played several more Futures tournaments later in the season.
By July, Humbert had reached two Challenger-level finals. The first came at a $75,000 tournament back in Gatineau. And then, he reached the final again at a $100,000 event the following week in Granby, Quebec.
A month later, the lefthander played the qualifying at the US Open and won three matches to reach the main draw. He won his first round, and then lost in four sets to Stan Wawrinka in the second round.
Humbert broke into the top 100 for the first time last week, at age 20.
You could make a strong argument that without the success at the Futures level in 2018, Humbert never would have made it.
There were five Canadians in the singles main draw in Gatineau in 2018. There also were 15 in the singles qualifying and five in the doubles.
The previous year, in 2017, the champion was 17-year-old Denis Shapovalov.
There were nine Canadians in the main draw. That included 16-year-old Félix Auger-Aliassime and Filip Peliwo, the former outstanding junior who currently is in the top 200.
Slowing the progress for promising players
The changes at the Futures level have been explained as a plan to reduce the number of people who call themselves professional tennis players.
And the plan by 2020 is to have players at that level compete for “ITF Transition” points only, not ATP points.
As it is, in 2019, the tournaments at the $15,000 level will offer no ATP points at all. At the $25,000 level, events will award one point for reaching the final, and three for winning.
At the $25,000+H level (prize money plus complementary hospitality), one ATP Tour point will be awarded to semifinalists, three to the finalist and five to the champion.
By 2020, even those points will disappear, replaced by “ITF Transition Points.”
On the women’s side, the 2019 “Transition Tour” will still offer WTA ranking points at the $25,000 level and above.
So the only ITF Women’s Circuit event in Canada that will be significantly affected will be the first one of the season, a $15,000 event in Victoria, B.C. in June.
No official word yet on the future of that event.
The path longer, options fewer
So, for a player like Humbert in 2020, the play at the Futures level would be of no benefit to him in terms of rising up in the ATP rankings. He would eventually find a spot in the Challengers, assuming the cream rises to the top.
But the path he would have to take would take significantly more time.
We acknowledge, of course, that the majority of players at the Futures level don’t have Humbert’s talent, or his career arc. Still, the system penalizes those who do.
In the meantime, the young Canadian players, the juniors looking for experience, the college players and many others will no longer have a place to play in Canada.
They’ll have to travel elsewhere – to the U.S., to other countries – to compete. That’s assuming they can afford it, which is a big “if”.
It’s a tough blow for Canadian tennis.