The tournaments and ranking system run by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) can seem intimidating at first glance, but once broken down, it is quite intuitive.
On the highest end of professional tennis, the ITF runs the Grand Slam events – Australian Open, French Open (Roland Garros), Wimbledon and the United States Open. Those two-week tournaments command the most attention and offer lasting fame and multi-million-dollar paychecks to its winners. But throughout the year, the ITF administers hundreds of much smaller events as part of the World Tennis Tour, the lowest rungs of professional tennis. Players compete in these events to earn modest ranking points for the ATP (men’s) or WTA (women’s) tours. The World Tennis Tour events, which used to be known as Futures, are designated by their total prize money, 15K or 25K. This week’s Greenview Development & Majestic Realty Men’s Pro Tennis Open is a 25K event.
Like all professional tournaments, there is a cutoff ranking for players to be placed in the “main draw,” the bracket determining who plays whom as the tournament progresses from the first round to the final. The Greenview Development & Majestic Realty Men’s Pro Tennis event has a 32-player draw, a player winning five matches wins the title. Players who don’t usually have the ranking points to be slotted straight into the main draw must earn their spot through a qualifying draw, a mini-bracket in which a few players to win their way into the main bracket. Players with even lower rankings can sign on as an alternate to snatch any open spots in the qualifying draw. At events like this one in Austin, expect to see many college players testing themselves at the pro level. Qualifiers have a “Q” placed by their names in the draw sheets; tournament organizers can also give a few players “wild cards” into the main or qualifying draw. ITF restrictions ensure that commoners like you and me can’t enter.
Back to the ITF ranking system. A player reaching the second round this week earns 1 ranking point and gets additional points by making his way through the draw. Winning the 25K Greenview Development & Majestic Realty Men’s Pro Tennis Open would earn a player 20 points (10 points in a 15K). Players earning enough ranking points in smaller tournaments could move up to the next level, called the Challenger Tour. The larger the tournament, the more ranking points, exposure, prize money and, of course, challenging competition.
There are two different ranking systems. ITF’s combined ranking, tallied through a player’s six best singles results and 25% of their 6 best doubles results, is important for lower-level players trying to work their way up. Points from any given tournament expire after 52 weeks. More important than ITF ranking is a player’s ATP or WTA ranking, which are less forgiving than ITF’s. For the WTA, it is a combined score of a player’s 16 best singles results in a 52-week period or their 11 best doubles results. For ATP, which pertains to Austin’s event, it is the combined points from 19 tournaments as of 2021.
By Ignacio Perez