UTR Pro Tennis Tour stars compete in Melbourne

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Nike Melbourne 2023 collection

The UTR Pro Tennis Tour (PTT) is well-represented at the 2023 Australian Open in Melbourne. Eight players with ties to the developmental tour (created by Universal Tennis) were in the qualifying event, with one rising women’s star earning her place in the main draw. Many more, along with the tournament favorites like Iga Swiatek, are awaiting their start on Monday.

Katie Volynets
Katie Volynets

Qualifying action wrapped up on Thursday with 16 women earning their place in the main draw. For those wondering what level Grand Slam qualifiers are at, the average UTR Rating of the women’s qualifiers was 11.90.

The qualifiers include veterans Coco Vandeweghe, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, and Lesia Tsurenko, as well as five teenagers including Brenda Fruhvirtova. The 15-year-old Fruhvirtova is making her Grand Slam debut.

Katie Volynets worked her way through three qualifying matches to secure her place in her sixth Grand Slam main draw. The 21-year-old California native competed on the PTT in 2021 and has steadily climbed the ranks since then, nearly cracking the Top 100 in 2022.

A couple of PTT players are already in the main draw thanks to wildcards, including Australia’s Kimberly Birrell and the United States’ Taylor Townsend. Last year, Townsend competed in a $25K PTT in Bradenton, Fla. to launch her comeback to professional tennis.

“The people who have put the PTT together have thought of the struggles of people who are playing on the ITF circuit are facing,” Townsend told Universal Tennis. “You can use the PTT to offset those struggles, with matchplay and the ability to get guaranteed prize money over a few weeks in a row.”

Townsend had taken a break from the tour to welcome her son Adyn in March 2021. The 26-year-old has since won two ITF singles titles and reached the US Open doubles final. She kicked off 2023 with a doubles title in Adelaide alongside Asia Muhammad, another PTT competitor. Muhammad fell in the last stage of qualifying but will team with Townsend for the doubles event.

The PTT was launched in January 2021 with a three-year investment of $20 million (USD) to provide players with $25K events that guarantee four competitive matches per week. Demonstrating the global growth in demand for the round-robin format, the tour has expanded from an initial set of 15 countries in 2021 to 25 in 2023. Full hospitality is provided at a number of events including in Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates.

The initial 2023 PTT schedule features 90 events through June, up from 63 events in the first half of 2022. Players ranked in the 200–2,000 range (based on UTR Rating) can compete and use the events as a stepping stone to the Grand Slam level.

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