By Editorial Team
In March 2017, the ITF announced reforms to entry-level professional tennis including the introduction in 2019 of a transition tour.
According to itftennis.com, “The aims of the reforms are to provide a clearer and more effective pathway from the Junior Circuit to the Pro Circuit and to ensure that prize money at ITF Pro Circuit tournaments is better targeted to potentially enable more players to make a living from the professional game.” However, it is the opinion of most that this “pathway” is made by weeding out (or cutting) the bottom percentile players from participating in WTA/ATP Tour events.
The ITF mentioned that the new tournament structure will enable the ATP/WTA players to make a real living from prize money on tour. The pro tour would be able to fully support approximately 750 active players as they compete in events that span over only 7 days enabling them to play more tournaments on a weekly basis with little or no overlap.
Direct entries are based on ATP/WTA rankings and ITF Pro rankings with the allowance for wild cards and also the direct entry of the highest ranked Top 100 juniors. This allows for more junior participation into professional tennis.
Starting in 2019, all $15k events will be considered the Transition Tour and $25k to $100k+ events are ATP/WTA Tour events that count toward a player’s pro tour ranking.
Those lower ranked junior players going into the 2019 season with no WTA/WTA/ITF Pro ranking will be in for a bumpy ride as they will have to make it through the Transition Tour prior to working toward a ATP/WTA Tour ranking. This season was filled with anxiety as junior players in particular worked frantically to accumulate enough points to at least meet the new pro tennis requirements to play $25k tournaments.
It is estimated that the new cutoff will be a top 750 ranking to at least ensure direct entry into either main draw or qualifying rounds. In addition, a pro tour ranking will be given to players who compete in at least 3 ITF Pro events and earn 3 points during play.
A computer algorithm tracks player points and uses the best ranking (ITF Pro or ATP/WTA ranking) to automatically determine who gets direct acceptance into the draws.
The only real strategy for young aspiring professionals looking to enter tennis super stardom is to win at the $15k tournament level. Its a simple strategy that obviously only a few select can achieve, but it is the only way to ensure advancement to the next level. Players on the border line of 750 ranking will battle against unranked players to earn the right to advance into the $25k and above events.
There are petitions spreading across the tour (with 2,000 signatures as of July 2018) , but to no avail as the Transition Tour will be rolling out regardless of the push-back.
The new Transition Tour will be competitive and boil down to wins/loses rather than favor with local tournament directors. Rather, rankings and points will end up ruling the day. Prospective pro tour players should not overthink the process here. If so, they could miss critical opportunities to compete and earn points for advancement. The only way to ensure success is preparation, training, good coaching and a willingness to play multiple $15k tournaments over an entire 12 month season.
For more info check out the ITF videos below further explaining the Transition Tour and its application to ATP/WTA Tour level events.
Transition Tour for Male Players:
Transition Tour for Female Players:
Gauff wins first WTA title in Linz
By Editorial Team
Cori “CoCo” Gauff made a huge turnaround at the Linz Open this week after losing in the final qualifying round to now reach the main draw finals.
Putting the “luck” in lucky-loser, CoCo was able to inherit Maria Sakkari’s draw and defeat the number one seeded, KiKi Bertens in straight sets 7-6, 6-4.
Coco was the favorite going into today’s final against Jelena Ostapenko, but it was not easy as Jelena had been playing inspired tennis over the last couple weeks after defeating Karolina Pliskova 7-5 in the third set at the R64 China Open last month.
CoCo had to grind out the win in three long sets to capture the final round against Jelena 6-3, 1-6, 6-2.
This was the first encounter for these two on tour, but CoCo had the slight advantage as the more steady player. Jalena is known for up and down roller coaster play from match to match making the former French Open champion the underdog in this final.
Jalena must now recover in Linz as she must face CoCo’s doubles partner, Caty McNally, next in the first round of the Luxembourg Open early next week. Its assumed that this doubles team (Linz Open semifinalists) will definitely be sharing notes on Jalena’s game over the next couple of days.
The key to CoCo’s success were mixed balls with flat power and slices, a high first serve percentage and being calm under pressure. With this win today, Coco became the youngest American WTA Tour title winner since Jennifer Capriati in Puerto Rico (1990).
Coco is sure to break more records while on her path to winning her first grand slam, but for now she can celebrate a huge Tour title win before she prepares for the holiday season.
When asked about her recent success in Linz, CoCo’s response was accurate and simply put,
How Naomi Got Her Groove Back
By Editorial Team
Naomi Osaka seems to have found her rhythm late in the season after letting go of her most recent coach, Jermaine Jenkins. After several rumors, now it appears that her Dad, Leonard Francois, has the right formula for success after winning two major WTA events in a row – Japan Open and China Open.
Naomi did it in dramatic fashion as she defeated the 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu and world number 1 Ashly Barty both in tough 3 set matches.
Many feared that coaching changes and off-court distractions may have ruined what appeared to be a great season for Naomi after winning the Australian Open in January. The sports community questioned the decision to part ways with Sascha Bajin after back to back wins in an abrupt fashion after leaving Australia with the championship trophy.
The general media was not informed of any scandal or rationale for the change. Jermaine was thought to have been a good substitute after being the right-hand man for Serena over the last several years on tour. But not all was peachy for Naomi as she was not able to fulfill her true potential under the direction of Jermain.
Rolling into the Asian swing, Naomi appeared to have been mailing it in and preparing for her next coaching transition heading into the 2020 season – choosing her Dad as a bridge.
It was evident that maybe Naomi needed time to unwind from the structure of a tradition coaching team. Unforced errors and patience were added to her stellar shot making ability especially down the stretch late in the third set.
Regrouping after being a set down and making adjustments when needed against the Tour’s top ranked players are definite signs that Naomi has her sights set on regaining her position as world number one.
The way forward should be filled with opportunity for Naomi. With a new home in Los Angeles, CA and some time off after the WTA Finals should enable her to totally regroup for the 2020 season.
Osaka and Keys in QF at Japan Women’s Open
By Editorial Team
Naomi Osaka is on pace for a much needed title after an early R16 loss in the US Open. Her quest for the first title of the year began with a win over Viktoriya Tomova 7-5, 6-3 today. With a inconsistent ground game, Naomi is looking to iron out weaknesses with new coach Wim Fissette who is a proven WTA professional with Azarenka, Kerber and Clijsters as former students of his. Recent news broke five days ago on Twitter announcing the split with Jermaine Jenkins after a slew of poor results in major grand slam events this season.
Sloane Stephens is also riding the coaching change wave after accepting Kamau Murray back into her team. The two have earned multiple titles in 2017/2018 so it can only be upside from here as she now faces Camila Giorgi in the R16 of the Japan Women’s Open. This will be a tough test for Sloane as the aggressive Italian has been on a roll with her most recent final run (losing to Magda Linette in 3 sets) at the New York Open that lead into the US Open late last month.
Update: Sloane fell 6-0, 6-3 to Camila in the R16 match which did not live up to the hype. Sloane will look to recover quickly as she prepares for the WTA Finals later this year.
Madison Keys is a favorite to win here in Osaka Japan, but she has to get past the high ranking vet, Angelique Kerber. Madison has a 8:2 win/loss record against Kerber and is healthy enough to get her third win against such a quality opponent. Madison most recently defeated Kerber in the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati last month 6-4 in the third set.
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