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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Looking at ITF World Tennis Tour's First Quarter in 2021; Mayot Out of Australian Open Qualifying with Injury; Update on Minnesota Men's Tennis

Planning has been difficult throughout the pandemic, and there was no logical reason to expect that once the calendar reads 2021, that would magically change.

But I don't think I was prepared to look at the ITF World Tennis Tour's calendars for men and women and see little but $15,000 tournaments, most of which are being played in Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey.

The women's calendar actually features two $60,000 tournaments in January, with a tournament in Rome Georgia; it's the only one, as of now, in the United States for men or women in the first quarter of 2021. That same week, there is a $60K in France, but those are the only two tournaments above $25K in January, February or March.

The weekly $15,000 tournaments in Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey are joined by two $15Ks in Spain next month, as well as a $25,000 tournament in Germany. Although I anticipate more tournaments will be added, as of now, the only tournaments showing on the women's calendar in March are three $15Ks in France.

The schedule for men in January is similar, with Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey and Spain the primary locations for the $15,000 tournaments, with France hosting one $15,000 plus hospitality event. Of course, any tournament for men over $25,000 is in a separate ATP Challenger schedule, and there are currently eight in February, although none currently in the United States. The February 2021 ITF WTT men's calendar has more geographic diversity than January, with Slovakia, Russia, Kazakhstan and Portugal in the mix, and in March, two $25,000 tournaments are scheduled for Switzerland, and four $15Ks are scheduled for Portugal.

I have no information to offer on the status of the USTA Pro Circuit, which has been decimated by the pandemic shutdown. As I mentioned in last night's post, UTR has picked up the slack here in the United States, but the lack of ATP and WTA points available has been dramatically reduced, and that's a void that UTR money events cannot fill. In January of 2020, three men's $25,000 tournaments were held in the US, as well as the Ann Arbor Challenger, while the women had two $25,000 events. I am hopeful that the USTA can figure out a way to get some of these tournaments back in the first quarter, but it doesn't look like that will happen until February at the earliest.

In a somewhat surprising development, the ITF World Tennis Tour junior calendar is more robust than that of the men's and women's, and includes two new events in the United States next month: a Grade 5 in Connecticut and a Grade 5 in New Jersey

Also in January is the Grade A in Colombia, a Grade 1 in Ukraine, a Grade 3 in Turkey and two Grade 2s in Tunisia, with the rest of the more than 30 events at the Grade 4 and Grade 5 levels. After January, there are no events listed for the United States, with the status of the Grade 1 in Carson and the Grade B1 Easter Bowl in Palm Springs currently in limbo. 

But South America has a full schedule of Grade 1s in February, with tournaments in Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay and Brazil, with another Grade A, in Brazil, kicking off March.

As with the recent postponement of the Grade 1 in the Czech Republic next month, which came after the entry deadline, there is obviously a tentative feel to all these calendars, and additional cancellations are likely.

I also need to mention news that I totally missed reporting three months ago: the 2021 Les Petits As, the premier 14-and-under event usually held at the end of January in Tarbes France, has been rescheduled for September 2-12, 2021

L'Equipe is reporting that 2020 ITF World Junior champion Harold Mayot will not be using the Australian Open qualifying wild card he received as the 2020 boys champion in Melbourne. The 18-year-old from France, who retired this month from his first round matches in Tunisia $15Ks, announced that a wrist injury is to blame. Mayot said he does not expect to return competition until mid-March.

The University of Minnesota cut men's tennis this past fall, with the program scheduled to dissolve after this academic year. Local boosters say they have raised enough money to endow the program for four or five years, eliminating the university's financial commitment, which is said to be $700,000 per year. Although the Board of Regents vote was close, with the cuts (gymnastics and track and field also were eliminated) approved 7-5, there doesn't appear to be a clear path to reverse their decision despite this development. But according to this article, revisiting the decision may be possible, although when and how is not specified.