MIAMI — As job cuts go, a 44.9 percent decrease in a workforce of 3,337 qualifies as draconian. But that’s the percentage of ATP and WTA professionals who might no longer have ranking status if the International Tennis Federation (ITF) succeeds in its efforts to see the number of pros in each division reduced to 750.
The 3,337 players ranked by the tours are just the tip of the pro tennis iceberg. According to the three-year Player Pathway review conducted by the ITF, there are over 14,000 professional tennis players. Half of those players never earn a dime in tournament they play. They’re what U.S. Davis Cup captain Jim Courier describes as “dreamers.”
But all parties agree that a basic problem exists: There are far too many players and far too little prize money below the top level to support the ones who need it most — talented young players who might not have the resources to finance a transition to the pro tour.
There’s a related problem too. The explosive growth of small ($15,000 and up) events that attract players who have ATP status has been a breeding ground for match-fixing. The blowback from gambling scandals involving obscure players in far-flung minor tournaments has already tarnished the image of the game.
“We want a good clean sport where…