As Tennis Cambodia braces up to the challenge of hosting the second tier of men’s pro-circuit in the next few years, the Association of Tennis Professionals has announced significant efforts to enhance the ATP Challenger Tour with increased prize money.
The Challenger network is spread over 150 tournaments across the world and serves as a springboard for players to compete on the more lucrative ATP World Tour.
The lowest category tournaments have been marked for a prize money boost by 2017 with the current level of $40,000 plus hospitality, which includes hotel accommodation for main draw players, raised to $50,000 with all the fringe benefits retained.
But with immediate effect, the ATP will be offering all current minimum prize money tournaments a subsidy to move up to $50,000 plus hospitality this year.
The new ATP initiative means the Challengers will be heading for a 100 per cent increase in prize money inside 10 years, since the minimum level in 2007 was $25,000 which went up to $35,000 and then $ 40,000 in 2014.
“Men’s professional tennis is enjoying one of the most successful periods in its history; however, it is essential that we see growth across all levels of the game,” said Chris Kermode, executive chairman and president of the ATP
“Almost every player earns their stripes on the Challenger Tour before they make it on the ATP World Tour and every bit of extra prize money helps as they look to forge a career in men’s professional tennis. The ATP is committed to making that career path as viable as possible,” he said.
The enhancements at Challenger level come after an extensive strategic review by the ATP’s internal Challenger Tour Management Committee, formed at the start of 2014 and led by Alison Lee, ATP executive vice-president of the International Group region.
“The success and growth of the ATP Challenger Tour is critical to the overall health of our sport and we need to ensure that the lower levels of the professional game do not get left behind,” Lee said.
“Prize money is just one part of the equation. We are also pleased with a number of other enhancements set to take place this year, related to calendar flow, medical services, player development, officiating and marketing, all of which will improve the services we are able to provide players at this level,” the head of the Challenger Tour Management Committee said.
The ATP will also provide additional umpires, physiotherapists and player relations staff across a number of tournaments, as well as continuing its focus on ensuring that more tournaments are staged in regional swings which complement ATP World Tour tournaments, enabling players to reduce costs and travel time.
The ATP is also working closely with world governing body ITF relating to planned enhancements at Futures tournaments to ensure a seamless pathway for players from Futures to Challenger level. It should be recalled that a senior marketing executive of the ATP visited Cambodia middle of last year during an extensive trip of the Southeast Asian region to explore the possibility of creating a Challenger network in the region.
Since 2011, Tennis Cambodia has been hosting the ITF Futures events, the last package of three were staged in Phnom Penh between November 16 and December 6 last year.
Tennis Cambodia is working out a master plan to step up to the Challenger level in the next couple of seasons.
In 2014 the total prize money on the ATP Challenger Tour touched $9.2 million. Asia accounted for 21 per cent of the total tournaments held during the year, with Europe topping the list at 47 per cent.