Thousands of Players, Hundreds of Events and Little Reward

By Anonymous

Thousands of Players, Hundreds of Events and Little Reward

The plan is to funnel the top 750 men and 750 women into the Challenger Tour, where total prize money at each tournament would equal $25,000 or more. Those would be the true professionals.

The remainder would play on the new Transition Tour, which would be restructured to favor promising young players through a new ranking system and to make it less costly. The I.T.F. would continue to assess and possibly tweak the system to establish a major league and a minor league with a clear link between them.

The balancing act for the I.T.F. is to continue to promote the sport globally so that there are still avenues to the top in places like Africa, Southeast Asia and South America.

“It is not up to me to determine who makes it and who doesn’t,” Dent said. “But we want a distinct majors and minors with a clear pathway to the top, a realistic transition from the juniors to the ATP and WTA tours. There is a large group that are semiprofessional, and I don’t expect them to stay on the transition tour.”

At 27, Urrutia is starting to play some of his best tennis, but he is ranked No. 598 in singles. Although he would survive the I.T.F.’s cutoff in the new system, he is still a long way from playing in the highly lucrative major tournaments like this month’s United States Open, which begins this month and which will award $50,000 to first-round losers. That is more than Urrutia has earned in his career ($25,967).

Urrutia is typical of many players on the lower levels of the men’s tour who are desperately seeking a breakthrough. Laid back and refreshingly self-aware off the court, he is also realistic. After a recent victory in Prague, a fellow player congratulated him on taking a match against a frustrated opponent who made many critical errors.

“I didn’t take it,” he said while sitting in a lawn chair in bare feet at the TK Spoje club and casually retaping the handle of one of his rackets. “The other guy gave it to me.”

But Urrutia did earn two ATP ranking points — Roger Federer received 2,000 for winning Wimbledon — and 400 euros (about $470) in prize money; Federer earned $2.87 million for winning Wimbledon. That meant Urrutia almost broke even that week.

The son of a former tennis professional from Chile and a German mother, Urrutia grew up in Berlin and was headed for a life of coaching tennis and playing for his club, TC 1899 Blau-Weis Berlin. Clubs play in a competitive league with promotion and relegation, and they pay their players. A recent derby against rival Red White Berlin in July drew more than 1,000 spectators.

Urrutia has also been selected as a hitting partner for Federer, Novak Djokovic, Dominika Cibulkova and Ana Ivanovic at various tournaments. About a year ago, he was playing so well in club matches, beating players in the top 200, that he decided to give himself a year and a half to make a go of it full time. But it is a difficult lifestyle.

He has played in Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey and Thailand, but he tries to enter tournaments near his home in Germany to keep travel costs at a minimum. He recently took along a family friend, Alfredo Quinteros, as a volunteer coach. The two drove to Prague in the family van and shared an Airbnb apartment.