Niki Poonacha, ITF Player Panel member, was interviewed by Indian Davis Cupper Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan to discuss about the resumption of the ITF Tour and on the support from ITF to AITA to organise local prize money tourneys

When is the ITF Tour resuming?

ITF has decided to resume both the Men’s and the Women’s tours on August 17, 2020. There are 4 tourneys listed for that week – 3 in Europe and 1 in Tunis. We had one tourney in Thailand but due to the quarantine rule that it had, it had to be ruled out. Hopefully it can be figured out soon. 

Read: Press Release by the ITF Tour

When can tennis resume in Asia?

It is tough. As I said, Thailand had listed a few tourneys but there is a rule of 14-day quarantine and Thailand Tennis federation is looking to solve that. I think China is closed till the end of the year. There are a few other smaller countries but they are not comfortable with allowing international travellers. 

So it appears like our only hope is Thailand for now. 

ATP is starting its tourneys in August. They are providing a benefit to the players where in case a player tests positive, the player + coach gets covered with insurance. Anything similar in the offing for the ITF tour?

It was brought up but ITF doesn’t have any insurance policy yet because there are way more tourneys and way more players in ITF. So as of now, there isn’t any insurance policy. 

How does the ranking system work given that a few of the players can’t play, especially those based in Asia?

ITF is following the similar methodology as ATP. I did bring up the issue of players from India – we won’t get any special consideration but the ranking system will go the same way as ATP. 

Any points that you earned in 2019 will stay for 104 weeks instead of the usual 52 weeks. For the points earned in 2019, it will be for 52 weeks. 

Have you started playing yourself?

No, I haven’t even been outside my house for the past 2 weeks. 

What about tourneys in India?

ITF and AITA are in conversation to enquire on the possibility of conducting tourneys. When the COVID situation gets better in India, I am hoping for some ITF tournaments as well. 

ITF is hoping to support the National Tennis Federations in organising National Prize Money events

The ITF has mentioned to us that it will coordinate with the national tennis federations to organise local prize money events, to get the players to play enough matches and earn some prize money. ITF is willing to do that even though it has limited funds. 

ITF didn’t specifically mention India but in general to all the countries impacted by the pandemic in an adverse manner. 

Audience question: Is AITA helping Indian players in transitioning to the Pro tour?

Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan: Right now, it is about getting the players back on the court – which is the first priority. AITA has sent out a mail to the players about the potential for a national training camp but we can’t commit to a particular timeline as the situation is changing quite a bit. 

Once we get back on the court, then we can get into the long discussion on how AITA can help Indian Tennis. 

Any update on when the ITF Juniors circuit will resume?

ITF, ATP and WTA are looking at starting the Pro tours to start with. The Juniors will have parents traveling with them usually. So they want to experiment with the pro tour before announcing any plans for the juniors. 

What about the draw size of doubles on the ATP and the ITF Tours?

Jeevan: On the ATP side, as of now, it is 16-draw. If it’s an indoors event, then the doubles draw can come down to 12. Both the singles and the doubles rankings will count. There was a discussion around cutting down the draw size to 8 but a lot of players spoke up, so the ATP has taken a good decision to keep it at 16 as much as possible. 

Niki: The draw size remains the same as of now. There was no major update on that. 

Isn’t it unfair for the players who can’t compete, that the others who can play, can accumulate points and surpass our rankings?

Yes, India is under a tough state. However, if you take Europe, the situation is almost back to normal. Players are able to get back to training in the US as well. 

It is unfair for the Asian players but it’s impossible to come up with a fair decision for the whole world. At least you get to keep the points that one earns from 2019. 

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