Thursday, June 18, 2020

ITF Announces Return of Pro Tour Events in August; New ITF Player Panel Has No Americans; Oracle Dropping Sponsorship of Pro Events

In all the news that came out yesterday, I didn't have an opportunity to provide an update on the International Tennis Federation's plans. In a release yesterday, the ITF announced that its men's and women's World Tennis Tour tournaments would return in August, without fans, although no locations or dates are out as of today. "The ITF is currently finalising a provisional calendar of ITF World Tennis Tour events from 3 August to 27 September, which will be available on the ITF website."

There were eight ITF women's events previously scheduled in the US during that time frame, from $15K to $100K, and six ITF men's events, all either at the $25K or $15k level (five ATP Challengers were also on the US schedule but there is not a revised scheduled for Challengers as of now).

The ITF went on to say that there has been no decision on competitive resumption for its other groups: "The ITF is mindful that players competing on the junior tennis, senior tennis, wheelchair tennis and beach tennis tours want to resume international competition as soon as possible, and further updates will be provided regarding these tours in due course."

With the US Open Junior Championships officially canceled yesterday, I have my doubts about the viability of the two Grade 1s in North America prior to the Open, but I am hopeful the Grade B1 Pan American Closed might be possible in October.

The ITF announced the election results for its new Player Panels today, and there were no American men or women voted in. Over 1000 players voted for their panel representatives, which "will provide a forum for players to provide their input and have their say on how the tour is run."  Although geographic representation is mentioned as a significant factor, TCU alum Nick Chappell was the only North American candidate and he was not elected because two other players in the 350-500 range had already been added to the panels.  The only North American player on the women's panel is former Penn State star Petra Januskova of Canada. Whether the panel actually has any power to effect policy remains to be seen, but it's disappointing that more American men in particular didn't run for election. A link to the results are included in the article announcing the winners.

I attended the Oracle Pro Series Challenger in Ann Arbor in January
I had heard some time ago that Oracle was taking steps to divest itself of its pro tennis sponsorship, but I was hoping to have some kind of official announcement to link to before I reported it. Oracle still hasn't provided that, but Cracked Racquets broke the story today, reporting the discontinuation of the Oracle Challenger Series and the Oracle Pro Series, both of which were bright spots on the American tennis landscape. The Challenger Series was a huge dollar commitment, with the joint events offering $150,000 purses, and Oracle had expanded their number of ATP Challenger events on college campuses the past two years. They also were underwriting many $25,000 Pro Series tournaments on college campuses, with a commitment to upgrading player experiences at those events; Oracle's decision to discontinue those will be felt at many colleges this fall, especially given the financial crunch caused by the pandemic.

As I wrote back in January in my Tennis Recruiting Network's annual Intriguing Questions column, the death of Oracle CEO Mark Hurd cast a shadow over the company's continued sponsorship of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, but that number is so much smaller than what Oracle had pledged to Pro events, it is probably safe for at least a couple of more years.


Barb from Atl said...

The writing is on the wall for the majority of junior tennis players. Less college scholarships available and only the best perhaps 50 or so professionals will make a living playing pro tennis once all the fallout of sponsors finishes. Not much incentive for serious tennis families to keep spending tens of thousands per year to chase disappearing scholarships and a diminishing chance of making a living as a pro.

Brent said...

I would argue that if any family was pursuing high-level junior tennis with a college scholarship or a chance to turn pro as their primary drivers, that was a terrible decision from the get-go. I would agree that recent events have made the chances of that investment earning a return materially worse. But it was a very low likelihood in the first place. Hope families are pursuing junior tennis for other reasons and by the off-chance there is a financial benefit down the line, it is icing on the cake.

SeminoleG said...

@ Brent I'm assuming you are talking about the Guys. For the Ladies with ~135 DIV 1 programs a relatively competitive Jr will benefit. Getting a good portion of education paid for or "Priority" admission to many non-athletic scholarship schools as well as lower DIV programs is also a valid goal. In the end kids gotta play something, and if you stay and play local Tennis is as good as any other sport.

Jon King said...

It might not be realistic, but where we are in South Florida many of the parents and kids think they will be college or even pro players. It is a big part of the tennis economy of academies, coaches, equipment, apparel.

The less the dream looks of being even remotely realistic, the less kids and families will take tennis seriously, and the less they will spend on tennis and maybe even follow pro tennis less.

Brent said...

SeminoleG - yes, definitely a different equation for girls versus guys and worth noting. And yes, if you ascribe a value to 'tennis got me into this school that I wouldn't have otherwise been accepted into' that can change the equation. I am just saying that if you pursue junior tennis as an investment choice, even for girls, it is very difficult to make the math work (once you consider time value of money) - even if you knew with 100% probability that your investment now would lead to a college scholarship. Now, if you want to make assumptions that you can do it without private coaching, etc., the bar is lowered for what it takes to 'earn a return' due to lower investment but you've made it more challenging to develop into earning the scholarship obviously. My point stands - even with the larger opportunity for scholarship support with girls, you would never pursue junior tennis with your primary focus being as an investment. Hopefully, parents are considering other value blocks anyway in deciding to pursue tennis.

SeminoleG said...

@Brent - Somewhat agree, BUT you gotta do something with the kids. Soccer, Dance, Cheer, Baseball, softball, lacrosse all have a cost and unless you give your kids over to XBOX or Playstation.

Tennislink has the DATA you can go back to 2009, and with 135+ ScholarshipsPrograms and Priority admissions Tennis is the smartest and surefire way that WILL result in a scholarship. We have a friend who played 10 Tournaments jr to Sr year and got 50%. The ability to set your own scheduled vice traveling with a team and flexibility make it 100% guarantee for the Girls. There are more scholarships than players.

I did many yers as a ROTC and Navy Academy Recruiter and the numbers don't lie. We had all the data on who got into 4 year schools and how it was paid for. Sad that so many Americans miss out, because they just don't see the benefit unless they can be the CHAMP!

Female Tennis and Soccer is filled with AVERAGE players receiving some form of AID or Priority admission.