LONDON/TEMPE – The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) is pleased to share the news regarding its new partnership with the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) to bring professional opportunities to the highest ITA-ranked women players in college tennis. With this partnership, the pathway from college tennis to the professional tour continues to grow stronger as the ITA, ITF, and WTA work to develop the next generation of players on tour.
The ITF/WTA College AcceleratorProgramme will begin soon, with participants chosen retrospectively from the May 31, 2023 ITA Collegiate Tennis Singles Rankings, allowing the top five ranked singles players as well as the NCAA Singles Champion and Finalist to take advantage of this program.
These inaugural recipients include Fiona Crawley (North Carolina), Mary Stoiana (Texas A&M), Lea Ma (Georgia), Diana Shnaider (NC State), Maddy Sieg (USC), Fangran Tian (UCLA), and Layne Sleeth (Oklahoma) who will all now receive main draw wild cards into ITF 60K, 40K, and 25K tournaments over the next ten months.
In total, the ITF/WTA College Accelerator Programme will award five ITF main draw wild cards (one W60, two W40s, two W25s) to any qualifying student-athlete who is not returning to college. Meanwhile, for any returning student-athletes, this programme will award three ITF main draw wild cards (one W60, two W40s) to qualifying student-athletes.
“This is an absolutely wonderful development for the tennis ecosystem, confirming that college tennis is, in fact, a genuine pathway to the professional tours,” said ITA Chief Executive Officer, Timothy Russell. “We appreciate the vision, leadership, and hard work on the part of our friends at the ITF and WTA in bringing this important program to life.”
“We are obviously excited about the College Accelerator Programme that is established by the WTA and ITF,” stated North Carolina Women’s Tennis Head Coach, Brian Kalbas. “College players have recently exhibited outstanding success on the WTA circuit. This initiative will enable the top college players the opportunity to get wild cards into pro events and allow them a pathway to success earlier in their pro careers. More and more top juniors are seeking the benefits of college as a pathway to pro career success. This will allow them to have more opportunities at the start of their careers of being a top professional tennis player.”
“What a fantastic day for women’s college tennis,” proclaimed the ITA Division I Women’s Operating Committee Chair, Claire Pollard. “I’m thrilled about the announcement of the College Accelerator Programme, which is sure to open up exciting opportunities for college players looking to go pro. A big thank you to the WTA, ITF, and CEO Tim Russell and COO Dave Mullins from the ITA for their tremendous efforts. Today, it’s safe to say that college tennis student-athletes are the real winners.”
With this partnership, the top ranked men’s and women’s players in college tennis each have professional development pathways in place now, as the ATP Accelerator Programme was announced for men’s players this past January.
About the WTA: Founded by Billie Jean King in 1973 on the principle of equal opportunity, the WTA is the global leader in women’s professional sports. The WTA is one of the world’s most recognizable and high-profile sports organizations, consisting of more than 1650 players representing approximately 85 nations, all competing to earn WTA rankings points and prestigious tournament titles. The WTA Tour comprises of over 50 events and four Grand Slams, spanning six continents and nearly 30 countries and regions with a global audience of over 700 million. The Tour culminates with the WTA Finals, honoring the season’s top singles and doubles players based on the final standings of the Race to WTA Finals leaderboard. Further information on the WTA can be found at wtatennis.com.
About the ITF: The International Tennis Federation (ITF) is the governing body of world tennis, wheelchair tennis, and beach tennis. It was founded in 1913 as the International Lawn Tennis Federation by twelve national tennis associations. As of 2016, there are 211 national and six regional associations that make up the ITF’s membership. The ITF organizes the Grand Slam events, annual team competitions for men (Davis Cup), women (Billie Jean King Cup), and mixed teams (Hopman Cup), as well as tennis and wheelchair tennis events at the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games on behalf of the International Olympic Committee. The ITF sanctions the Grand Slam tennis tournaments as well as circuits that span age ranges (junior, professional men and women, and seniors) as well as disciplines (wheelchair tennis; beach tennis). In addition to these circuits, the ITF also maintains rankings for juniors, seniors, wheelchair and beach tennis. Further information can be found at itftennis.com.
About the ITA: The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) is the governing body and coaches association of college tennis, both an advocate and an authority for the sport and its members. Comprised of 1,260 colleges and universities, 20,000 student-athletes, 1,700 varsity programs, 3,000 coaches, and 1,350 college tennis officials, the ITA empowers college tennis coaches at all levels to deliver vibrant tennis programs that are vital to their college communities and transformational to their student-athletes. Follow the Spring 2023 college tennis season on the ITA website and ITA social channels on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube.