July 10, 2020

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ITF World Tennis Tour Player Panel elected

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After some online campaigning and a two-week voting period, the first player panels for both the men’s and women’s ITF Tours have been elected.

Here are the players who – even if only in a consulting capacity – will try to effect change during a challenging time on the ITF circuits.

The criteria for the panel was set out like this: a limit of two players per region, and a limit on the number of players in the highest ranking band on each tour’s panel (a maximum of two players with ATP rankings of No. 351-500 in either singles or doubles for the men’s tennis panel; a maximum of three players with WTA rankings No. 151-300 in either singles or doubles for the women’s tennis panel).

For the women, the top vote-getters were Switzerland’s Conny Perrin, followed by Great Britain’s Tara Moore. The two are the representatives from the European region (and, as it happens, were once engaged).

From North/Central America, Petra Januskova of Canada was elected. From South America, Yuliana Lizarazo of Colombia. The Asia/Oceania representatives are Olivia Tjandramulia of Australia and Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan.

The final member of the panel, representing Africa, is Ines Ibbou of Algeria. Ibbou made a fair bit of news recently with her video, an open letter to Dominic Thiem that related the tough struggle she has had to make it as a professional player.

Russia’s Alla Kudryavtseva, who has the most experience at the WTA Tour level among those running, had a great platform but was edged out because of the two-player limit from Europe.

Six of seven men elected

On the men’s side, only six of the seven possible regional representatives were elected, with one spot (the North/Central America representative) pending because among the candidates who stood, they were unable to meet the criteria.

From Europe will be Aldin Setkic of Bosnia – by far the biggest vote-getter of any candidate – and Francesco Vilardo of Italy. Niki Kaliyanda Poonacha of Indonesia and Ti Chen of Chinese Taipei will represent Asia/Oceania. Juan Pablo Paz of Argentina and Jose Bendeck of Colombia represent South America.

The voting turnout (via e-mail) was … pretty good. Although with 490 total ballots cast for the women and 576 for the men (out of perhaps 1,500 players on each Tour) – given how angry so many of the ITF-level players were about the disastrous revamp a year ago and their feeling of having been completely abandoned as tennis shut down in March – it could have been better.

Canadian Petra Januskova, a longtime ITF competitor, is completing her masters degree at Durham University in the U.K. this year. (Stephanie Myles/Opencourt.ca)

Setkic had a lot of “celebrity endorsements”, so to speak, with players like Marin Cilic, Dusan Lajovic and Miomir Kecmanovic (among others) expressing their public support.

Consulting capacity only

Whether this initiative by the ITF is more than just lip service to the thousands of players who compete under its umbrella is to be determined.

Mary Pierce is the chair of the women’s panel, while Mark Woodforde chairs the men’s panel. Both are “athlete representatives” to the ITF’s board of directors.

A coach will also be appointed to each panel, which will meet at least twice a year (initially, via video conference).

The players can vote on recommendations to be made to the ITF World Tennis Tour Committee. Which then “advises and makes recommendations” to the ITF’s Board of directors.

So the panels have no actual decision-making power. But they will surely have plenty of issues to discuss with the higher-ups, and at least now they have a small chance of being heard.

Setkic is taking part in Janko Tipsarevic’s tournament in Belgrade.

Will fight for fair pricing, better conditions

Setkic’s platform included the following priorities:

*more players to be able to compete without financial problems on the pro tour.
*better player participation in the pro tour decisions.
*more fair distribution of money.
*making sure that we are not the victims of hotel resorts, bad organisation and nobody takes interest of our health and wellbeing.

Januskova, a longtime ITF player from the Ottawa area, listed several areas of focus.

Here’s the obligatory quote from ITF president David Haggerty.

“We are thrilled that so many players on the ITF World Tennis Tour were involved with the player panel election process. As part of our ITF2024 strategy, the ITF is committed to improving our communication with athletes at all levels across the world. We look forward to working with the elected members of the player panels to ensure that players’ opinions are at the forefront when making decisions about the World Tennis Tour.”