The ITF is creating a new age category to allow players aged 30-and-over to play in competitive, non-professional events – and battle for ranking points – around the world.
In 2021, tournaments on the ITF Seniors Tour will be able to host players in the 30-and-over and 90-and-over categories for the first time. The lowest age category on the circuit until now has been 35-and-over, with the new age category allowing players to begin playing tour events five years earlier.
The ITF Seniors Tour features more than 500 tournaments a year, played in over 70 nations across six continents. The events range from tournaments held at small clubs attended mainly by local players to the ITF World Championships, which see hundreds of players travel from all over the world. The Seniors Tour is characterised not only by the high level of competition, but also by a warm and welcoming atmosphere, which sustains friendships made through tennis over many years.
Tournament formats have been revised in recent years to better suit the lifestyles of younger players. Among other revisions, tournaments are now able to use shorter scoring formats (such as the 10-point match tie-break in the final set of singles and doubles), allowing players to compete in more than one singles match per day in younger age groups, and to condense competitions into fewer days than before, reducing players’ time away from home, work or family.
The Team and Individual World Championships are undoubtedly the highlight of the seniors calendar, and it was with great regret that the ITF was forced to cancel these events in 2020 due to Covid-19 pandemic.
Next year, the ITF Young Seniors World Championships, due to be held in Umag, Croatia, will feature a 30-and-over category in the individual championships for the first time.
Players at last year’s Young Seniors World Championships voiced their enthusiasm for seniors tennis. “These tournaments that the ITF put on are just a treat to be able to come out and play and compete and have fun. I just love it,” Dominic Moore, a Canadian player who is ranked in the world’s Top 100 in the 35-and-over age category, explained in an interview last year.
“[Seniors events] are amazing – the organisation, the places, all the people you can meet,” Karla Unzaga, a 42-year-old player from Mexico, added.
Matt Byford, Manager of Juniors and Seniors Tennis at the ITF, said: “While 30 may seem a little young to be thinking about seniors tennis, we are confident that this new age category will enable even more players to experience the fantastic atmosphere and camaraderie of the ITF Seniors Tour..
“The ITF Seniors Tour provides opportunities for players to compete in matches against opponents of a similar age, from players in their 30s all the way up to players in their 90s. It is also a wonderful way to keep fit and healthy, to visit new places, and to forge and sustain friendships through sport for decades. We are pleased to have a chance to welcome more players to the Tour next year.”