The ATP and Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) have announced a groundbreaking collaboration to accelerate the professional development path for players in the American College system.
The collaboration will see ATP Challenger Tour playing opportunities allocated to the highest-ranked ITA College players for the first time. This forms part of a long-term strategy to promote the rise of young talent in the professional game and builds on opportunities offered to the world’s top-ranked ITF Junior players through the Accelerator Programme, which came into play at the start of the 2023 season.
Players ranked in the Top 20 of the ITA final singles rankings at the beginning of June who have finished their education will be granted up to eight Accelerator Spots at Challenger 50 and 75 tournaments, with opportunities split between Main Draw (Top 10) and Qualifying (11-20). Players who reach the Quarter-Final or better of the individual NCAA Division I Tennis Championship will also qualify for the Accelerator Programme if not already eligible via their ITA ranking. These opportunities will be available from 1 July each season, beginning in 2023, for a period of twelve months.
In addition, players who remain in education and qualify for the programme will receive six opportunities over six months (July–December), enabling them to benefit from the programme during their College off-season and parts of their individual fall seas
Providing further opportunity, eligible College players who achieve direct acceptance into Qualifying of ATP Challenger events via their ATP Ranking will be eligible for promotion into the Main Draw.
A good (current) example of a current professional tennis player who found his way to the top through college tennis is Ben Shelton. The former NCAA champion and current number 44 in the ATP ranking played the stars of heaven in the past two weeks during the Australian Open, where he reached the quarterfinals. Ben Shelton: ”College tennis is a great step to turn pro. You learn to play for something bigger than yourself. I think it’s great that the best college tennis players now have the opportunity to jump into the pro circuit at the end of their season. To give players who are in the Top 10, Top 20 in the country the opportunity to make big jumps quickly is really fantastic.” Our own Tanner Strump has been the coach of Ben Shelton during his time with Florida Gators.
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