Cape Town - Young South African players trying to break into professional tennis on the world circuit will be greatly encouraged by the enhanced offerings on the ATP Challenger Tour.
According to the Team SA website, there are presently about six South African rookies playing Challenger events around the world - although most depend on playing when tournaments come around on home soil or in neighbouring African countries.
News from London is that the ATP Challenger Tour will undergo wholesale changes from 2019 that will further professionalise the sport, unlock significant investment and growth in prize money at the lower levels of men's professional tennis.
The ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) - the governing body of the men's professional tennis circuits - has established the ATP World Tour, the ATP Challenger Tour and the ATP Champions Tour.
The changes will take place across the following key areas of the ATP Challenger Tour:
The singles main draw size at ATP Challenger Tour events will increase from 32 to 48, leading to an annual increase of approximately 2 400 available professional job opportunities with prize money and hotel accommodation included.
Tournaments will also feature a four-player qualifying event, with two qualifiers advancing into the main draw. In doubles, a 16-team draw will continue to feature.
Tournaments will take place across seven days from Monday to Sunday including qualifying, leading to optimised player flow with facilitated player scheduling due to no overlap from week to week between respective tournaments.
Starting in 2019, all ATP Challenger tournaments will provide hotel accommodation for all main draw players.
All main draw players will earn prize money. Based on the same number of events taking place currently, it is estimated that an additional $1-million (R13.6-million) will be generated through prize money.
From 2020, ATP ranking points will begin at the ATP Challenger Tour only, a change that will significantly reduce the number of ATP-ranked players.
The move is aimed at improving the player pathway up and down the tennis ecosystem, while positioning the ATP Challenger Tour as the first stage of professional tennis.