The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) recently announced a groundbreaking collaboration to accelerate the professional development pathway for tennis players in the American Collegiate system.
The long-term strategy is to promote the rise of young talent in the professional game and build on opportunities offered to the world’s top-ranked International Tennis Federation (ITF) Junior players through the Accelerator Programme, which came into play at the start of the 2023 season.
“We’re thrilled to be opening new doors to the American College system, which has been a bedrock of talent in our game for decades,” said ATP Chairman, Andrea Gaudenzi.
“Today’s aspiring players are the future lifeblood of our sport, and we must do everything we can to provide them opportunities to reach their potential,” said Gaudenzi.
As the global governing body of men’s professional tennis, the ATP’s mission is to serve tennis.
Entertaining a billion global fans while showcasing the world’s greatest players at the most prestigious tournaments, the ATP inspires the next generation of fans and players.
“Tennis has always been a sport that rewards hard work, and we must create an environment that allows young, aspiring players to reach their potential,” said Gaudenzi.
“It is our responsibility to open the door to opportunity and allow them to thrive in the sport. The Accelerator Programme is creating a pathway for the next generation of champions and we look forward to seeing it come into play from 2023.”
The Accelerator Programme will see playing opportunities at the ATP Challenger Tour-level reserved for the world’s top junior players, creating an accelerated pathway into professional tennis.
The new initiative supplements the 2023 Challenger Tour changes announced in September of last year, which signal ATP’s long-term strategy for the circuit through significant prize money increases, a balanced calendar and an increase in total and premium playing opportunities.
The move comes as the ITF continues to develop more opportunities for players to progress through its pathway via the ITF World Tennis Tour on to the top level of the game.
“It is important that tennis works together to create new opportunities for young players,” David Haggerty, ITF President, stated last month.
“By collaborating, we can create a brighter future for the sport and ensure that future generations have opportunities to progress to the top of the game. We are excited to be part of the effort to make this happen,” said Haggerty, a former letterman in men’s tennis at George Washington University.
“College tennis is the connective tissue in the global tennis eco-system, an aspirational goal for junior tennis players around the world and a proven educational environment and competitive high performance arena in preparation for success in life, including as a career as a top professional tennis player,” said Timothy Russell, ITA Chief Executive Officer.
As the governing body and coaches association of college tennis, both an advocate and an authority for the sport and its members, the ITA is comprised of 1,260 colleges and universities, 20,000 student-athletes, 1,700 varsity programs, 3,000 coaches, and 1,350 college tennis officials.
Russell and the ITA Board of Directors oversee men’s and women’s varsity tennis for National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I, Division II and Division III, National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and Junior/Community College.
Charged with empowering college tennis coaches, at all levels, the ITA supports the delivery of vibrant tennis programs that are vital to its membership college communities and transformational to their student-athletes.
“I think college tennis is a great step to becoming a professional,” said Ben Shelton, currently ranked #89 (singles) in the world according to the ATP.
“You learn about playing for something bigger than yourself. I think it’s great that the top college tennis players will now have an opportunity when their season ends to jump into the pro game,” said the former NCAA Champion with the University of Florida.
“To give players that are Top 10, Top 20 in the nation, opportunities to make big jumps quickly is really cool,” said Shelton.
College player eligibility for the 2023 Accelerator Programme will be based off the season-end singles ITA Collegiate Tennis Ranking sponsored by Tennis-Point, which is currently scheduled to be published on June 1, 2023.
“As an innovative leader in the world of American intercollegiate athletics, the ITA is honored to partner with the ATP in providing this new coordinated and motivational pathway to talented and dedicated college players,” said Russell.