ITF announce 'radical' professional tennis reforms
ITF president David Haggerty said it is vital that the professional tennis has a structure that is "fit for purpose".
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has approved plans to drastically reduce the number of professional tennis players as part of radical reforms.
As many as 14,000 players compete professionally at present, almost half of whom fail to earn any prize money from the sport.
The ITF on Thursday announced proposals to bring that number down to 750 men and as many women after conducting a three-year Player Pathway review of professional and junior tennis.
It also revealed that the implementation of a new ITF Transition Tour has been approved for 2019, adding a new category of interim tournaments at entry-level aimed at aiding the transition from junior to professional tennis.
Those tournaments will replace the current ITF Pro Circuit events, with ITF entry points at stake rather than ATP or WTA ranking points, as lower-level players strive to work their way up to securing places in ITF Pro Circuit tournaments.
ITF president David Haggerty said: "The ITF's Player Pathway study is the most comprehensive review of professional tennis ever undertaken and has highlighted the considerable challenges at the base of our game.
"Over 14,000 players competed at professional level last year which is simply too many. Radical changes are needed to address the issues of transition between the junior and professional game, playing affordability, and tournament cost.
"We have already taken an important step forward by increasing prize money levels at ITF Pro Circuit tournaments. The next step is to ensure the structure of professional tennis is fit for purpose through a targeted job opportunities approach that will create a smaller group of true professional players.
"At the same time it is imperative that we do not reduce the chance for players of any nation or background to start their journey towards the top 100.
"We believe that the introduction of a new entry level to the professional pathway will allow players to take the first steps towards becoming a future champion within a more targeted and affordable circuit structure. These changes will also ensure that players and their support team members can understand and measure their progress."