New Tennis Series Seeks to Improve Pathway to the Pros


In a move expected to significantly increase opportunities for developing American tennis players, Oracle, the computer technology company, intends to create and fund a large circuit of lower-tier professional tournaments in the United States.

The circuit, which will be called the Oracle Pro Series and begin in full next year, will comprise approximately 25 new women’s tournaments and 25 new men’s tournaments.

Most will be staged as combined events, many of them on college campuses. Prize money is expected to range from $25,000 to $108,000 per tournament. All of the tournaments will provide ATP or WTA ranking points, which are critical to players attempting to make the leap to the main tours.

There have been major concerns and conflicts in the last year over how to organize tennis’ minor leagues. The International Tennis Federation introduced a revamped tour this year that was intended to streamline the system, reduce the total pool of lower-tier professional players and make it more straightforward for the best juniors to make the transition to the professional game.

Oracle created a Challenger Series about two years ago, four combined men’s and women’s tournaments that give the top two American finishers in the series a wild card into the BNP Paribas Open.

Courier’s company also operates a circuit of senior professional events known as the Invesco Series QQQ, which includes former stars like Pete Sampras and Andy Roddick. Courier said some of the senior events would be staged in conjunction with the new Oracle tournaments, in an effort to add star power. Entry for spectators will be free.

“It’s a chance to promote the sport,” Courier said. “There are some very good tennis players who are not yet known names.

“But these are the kinds of tournaments that people like Coco Gauff and Caty McNally have been playing very recently, and that everyone comes through at some point in their career,” Courier added, referring to the American teenagers who recently won matches at the U.S. Open.

Noah Rubin, an American player ranked No. 195, has explored the challenges of succeeding in professional tennis in his series, “Behind the Racquet” on Instagram. He said he thought the new Oracle circuit could be beneficial.

“In a country as large as the U.S.A., you always wonder why there aren’t more tournaments, and this seems to be a push in the right direction,” he said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “But I always have a little bit of the cynic’s view. If you want to be putting that much money into tennis, I feel you should be using it in other ways as well.

Rubin said the game might be better served by improving conditions, promotion and prize money at existing events.

“Quality over quantity,” he said. “There is a benefit to having quantity as well, I understand that, but at the same time I’m playing a lot of these tournaments, and it doesn’t feel we are getting the respect we deserve.”



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