The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) has announced significant upgrades to the ATP Challenger Tour, set to deliver a record number of events, multi-million dollar prize money increases and an optimised tournament calendar from the beginning of next year.
The reforms follow an in-depth review and strategy development, conducted by ATP's new senior Challenger Tour team over the past eight months, according to a statement issued by ATP.
Among the key changes which will lead to category simplification, ATP will phase out the Challenger 90 and 110 categories, reducing the number of categories from six to four. Starting in 2023, the core categories will be -- Challenger 50, Challenger 75, Challenger 100 and Challenger 125.
In addition, ATP will introduce three new premium Challenger 175 events, during the second week of ATP Masters 1000 tournaments in Indian Wells, Rome and Madrid, with prize money of USD220,000.
The total prize money on the Challenger Tour will rise from USD13.2 million in 2022 to a record $21.1 million in 2023, an increase of 60 per cent. This includes notable increases at Challenger 100 tournaments (USD106,240 to USD130,000) and Challenger 75 tournaments (USD53,120 to USD80,000).
In addition, round-by-round prize money distributions will improve earnings in the earlier rounds of events. Together, these enhancements will help create a more sustainable player pathway for more players competing on the Challenger Tour, feels ATP.
Also, the 2023 Challenger Tour is set to deliver an all-time record of 195 events, up from 183 in 2022, creating more opportunities for players. Improvements to the calendar will also see it more closely align with the ATP Tour and deliver a better balance of tournaments in terms of both surface types and regions.
In addition, a projected 170 per cent increase in the number of Challenger 100 and 125 events will enhance player flow and mobility, giving players more opportunities to ascend the ATP Rankings.
ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said, "The Challenger Tour is the launch pad of men's professional tennis. Today's announcement is a critical step forward for the entire ecosystem. The new plan increases earnings potential for players and improves the balance of tournament categories, surfaces and regions. It also puts a renewed focus on raising tournament standards. This is also just the beginning. Our team is committed to delivering further enhancements in the coming months and years."
Richard Glover, vice-president, ATP Challenger Tour, said, "The health of the ATP Challenger Tour is critical for the future of our sport, and our in-depth review revealed significant opportunities to strengthen this pathway. Whilst we are taking a long-term approach to growing the Challenger Tour, these changes will provide an immediate boost from 2023 onwards. We look forward to executing these reforms next season and building on this progress in the near future. There is more to come, so watch this space."