The 8 Different Types of Tennis Tournaments

Tennis tournaments are considered as the basis for the world rankings in the professional sector. Tennis players usually aim to win as many matches and tournaments as possible in order to move up the world rankings.

You’ve probably watched a big Grand Slam tournament on TV before. They have millions of viewers and fans from all over the world cheering for the players. On the other hand, there are also tournaments you have never heard of. How does that happen?

In general, tennis tournaments are divided into different categories. Depending on their size and popularity, participants have the chance to earn a certain number of world ranking points. For a better understanding, we’ll take a look at the tournament classes and how they differ from each other.


Men’s Tennis Tournaments

In principle, men’s tournaments at international level are organised by two associations. One is the “International Tennis Federation” (ITF) and the other the “Association of Tennis Professionals” (ATP). They ensure that all rules are observed on site.

The ATP is responsible for the majority of tennis tournaments worldwide. There are a total of eight different tournament categories in the men’s singles, which we have ranked according to their value.

ITF Future Tour

The beginning is the same for every professional tennis player. To be able to participate in major tennis tournaments at all, they must have a certain number of world ranking points in their account. However, it is impossible to have points if you have not yet played in tournaments. So how do you solve this problem?

In this case the Future Tour, organised by the ITF, comes into play. Futures are smaller tournaments that are designed to help players get their first world ranking points.

A tournament victory is rewarded with up to 20 points and a prize money of $15,000 – $20,000. Tennis players who have been successful in several Future tournaments and therefore have enough points can move up to the next class.

Exception: There are some tennis tournaments where the organizer awards wildcards. These are invitations to players who would not actually be eligible to participate. This is another way to get directly into the main draw of a larger tennis tournament.

ATP Challenger Tour

In contrast to the Futures, Challenger tournaments are managed by the ATP. Thus they serve as a transition from the ITF Tour to the ATP Tour. The big advantage of these tournaments is that a hotel room with meals is provided free of charge for each player.

In addition, up to 125 ranking points can be earned here. In the best case, the winner can look forward to an additional prize money of $200,000.

ATP Tour 250

If a player has also collected a sufficient number of points on the Challenger Tour, he is able to start in an ATP Tour 250 tournament. As the name suggests, the winner will receive 250 world ranking points credited to his account. The prize money is also worth at least $400,000.

If you are defeated in a previous round, you will still not go away empty-handed. For example, the semi-finalist receives 90 points and the quarter-finalist 45 points.

In general, the competition in these tournaments is much higher, so some players have to qualify first. There the best players are then determined after one or two matches. Depending on the tournament, the organizer determins either 28, 32 or 48 entries in the main draw.

ATP Tour 500

The winner of an ATP Tour 500 tournament receives twice as many points as in a 250 event. The world ranking points of the other rounds are adjusted in the same way.

Furthermore, players will receive 10 world ranking points for each match won in the qualification round. The main draw consists of 32 or 48 players. Financially speaking, there is a prize money of about $500,000.

Currently, the ATP Tour 500 consists of 13 tournaments on several continents. This number may vary depending on the year, as the ATP may add new tournaments or remove existing tournaments from the series.

ATP World Tour Masters 1000

Even more exclusive are the tournaments of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000, with only nine Masters tournaments being played per season. Four of them are held in North America, four in Europe and one in Asia.

In these tournaments up to 96 players compete against each other at the beginning. In a period of 7-10 days the winner is determined. At the end, the winner will receive 1000 ranking points along with more than $1,000,000 in prize money.

ATP Finals

The ATP Finals, formerly the Tennis Masters Cup, are held at the end of each men’s season. In general, they are the most important event on the ATP Tour. This tournament is always held in November in London.

At this last tournament the eight best tennis players of the season meet. In the first step the players are divided into two groups. After that, the two best players from each group will be chosen from among the four players. These then advance to the semi-finals, where they meet the two winners of the other group.

Finally, the winner can look forward to 1500 ranking points plus a bonus of $1,500,000.

Grand Slam

The most famous tennis tournaments are probably the Grand Slams. At these tournaments, the ITF is again responsible for their organisation. Basically, we distinguish between four Grand Slam tournaments in tennis:

  • Australian Open
  • French Open (Roland Garros)
  • Wimbledon
  • US Open

These Grand Slams surpass the other tournaments in almost every aspect. They are by far the most prestigious and largest tournaments in the world of tennis. The main draw alone contains 128 players. Players who do not make it directly to the main draw have to go through three qualification rounds.

Grand Slams last a total of two weeks, which also sets a record for the longest tennis tournament. In this case, the prize money for the winner is $3,500,000. He also moves up the world rankings by 2000 points.

Davis Cup

The Davis Cup is considered the most important team competition in tennis. The International Tennis Federation is also involved here. Basically, 16 national teams compete against each other in this competition to win the cup in the end.

The nations play five rubbers per match. More precisely, that means four singles and two doubles. The team that first wins three rubbers will then advance one round.

The Davis Cup has the special feature that it is played over a very long period of time, namely several months. Finally, the final takes place at the end of November. Another exception is that no world ranking points are distributed at this tournament.

Women’s Tennis Tournaments

In general, the way to the top of the world in women’s tennis is similar to that in men’s tennis. There are also eight categories in which all tennis tournaments can be divided.

The big difference to the men’s tournaments is that in this case it is not the ATP but the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) that is responsible for the organisation and control of the tournaments. Besides the WTA, the ITF also plays a major role in some tournament formats.

ITF Women’s World Tour

If a female tennis player decides to pursue a professional career, the most common way is to play the first tournaments on the Women’s World Tour. This series of tournaments is organised by the ITF. In principle, the series is the counterpart to the Future Tour in the men’s singles.

The Women’s World Tour thus gives the player the chance to build up the points account for the world ranking step by step. In general, up to 150 points are possible in high-class tournaments. On top of this, there is also prize money, which can amount to $100,000. However, the level of play is already quite high.

WTA Challenger Series

One step above the ITF Women’s World Tour is the WTA Challenger Series. It is also called “WTA 125K” because the prize money of the tournaments is $125,000.

Depending on the tournament, the main draw is made up of 32 or 48 players. In addition, a two round qualification is played before the tournament starts. WTA Challenger tournaments usually last for 7 days. The tennis player who is victorious in the final moves up the ranking by 160 points.

WTA Premier

More points than in the Challenger Series are awarded at the WTA Premier Tournaments. In the best case there are 470 world ranking points accessible. In total the WTA holds twelve Premier Tournaments per year. On average, the winner receives prize money of $250,000.

WTA Premier 5

At the Premier 5 tournaments, the WTA’s point system makes a big leap. More precisely, the winner receives 900 points. On top of that comes a bonus of at least $500,000. However, only five tournaments of this kind are currently being held. Hence the name “Premier 5”.

WTA Premier Mandatory

The WTA rates its Premier Mandatory tournaments even higher. At this event a whole 1000 ranking points are possible. In addition, the winner receives a prize money of $1,500,000. The WTA Premier Mandatory Tournaments are limited to only four per season.

WTA Finals

By far the most important tournament in women’s tennis is the WTA Finals, also known as the WTA Tour Championships. At the end of each tennis season, the WTA invites the eight best players of the year to Shenzhen, where the tournament is held.

Unlike the other WTA tournaments, the players initially compete in a round-robin system. This means that two groups of four players each are formed. Each player then plays three matches against the other competitors.

Finally, the two best players in the group will reach the semi-finals. The finalists and then the winner will be determined. In addition to the prize money of more than $4,000,000, she can collect up to 1500 points.

Grand Slam

At the Grand Slam tournaments there are again many parallels to men’s tennis. On the one hand, both the ladies and the men start the tournament at the same time. This applies to all four Grand Slam tournaments: Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open.

The second common feature is that the ITF fills the main draw with 128 players. Accordingly, there are three rounds of qualifying for lower ranked players.

Another special feature is that both women and men receive the same number of points and the same prize money for victory. Specifically, this means 2000 points and $3,500,000.

Fed Cup

The biggest tennis competition for national teams in women’s tennis is the Fed Cup. The current name is an abbreviation of the former “Federation Cup”. As with the Grand Slams, the ITF organises this complete tournament.

In general, the Fed Cup can be seen as a counterpart to the Davis Cup for men. In total, teams from 16 different nations compete against each other.

At the beginning in the Fed Cup there is a qualification where the number of teams is reduced to eight. In the preliminary round, these teams then fight for a place in the semi-finals and then for the final. The time span from qualification to the final is about three months.

Just as in the men’s singles, the ITF does not award any world ranking points for Fed Cup participations and wins.