Tennis star Kartal explains how the schedule overhaul has seen her climb the rankings
A new era began in British tennis at the start of 2022 as a revamped tournament calendar changed the landscape for our homegrown stars.
The decision to launch an expanded LTA performance competition calendar has seen the number of ITF tournaments in this country grow from eight women’s events in 2019 to 16 for both men and women in 2022 and the decision has proved a huge hit for a multitude of Britons. players.
As of mid-May, UK players have already won over 50 titles, with 38 unique local champions in tournaments around the world and many of them coming to ITF events held in this country.
Alastair Gray, Anton Matusevich, Joshua Paris, Eden Silva and Henry Patten are among the British players who have won ITF titles this year and for Sonay Kartal the increase in the planned tournament has provided a platform for a huge rise in the rankings WTA.
Kartal, 20, finished 2021 ranked 865th in the world but embarked on the UK grass-court season this summer in the top 300 in the world, with her four ITF W25 wins propelling her to the upper echelons of the game at a rapid pace.
Her stunning form was enough to see her awarded a Wimbledon wildcard for the first time in her career and she is grateful to the LTA for hosting additional home tournaments which helped launch her career.
“Playing games is so important and these new tournaments in this country have been a huge boost for all British players,” begins Kartal from Sussex, who was included in Britain’s Billie Jean King Cup squad for the game against the Czech Republic in April.
“If it wasn’t for these new ITF events in the UK I wouldn’t be where I am in the rankings now, it’s as simple as that.
“At the start of the year I wasn’t getting into the main draw of a W25 event, but winning some of those events in the UK has changed everything for me, both in terms of my ranking and my mentality.
“The standard in these ITF events is so high. The majority of the matches I’ve played have been against top 300 ranked opponents and players come from all over the world to play in these events because the standard is high and they everyone wants to be part of it.”
Funding a tennis career when you’re not playing at the top of the game is difficult for a young player, but Kartal believes the platform provided by the LTA performance competition calendar will have a lasting impact for British tennis.
“You look at America and they have so many tournaments every week, which creates great competition and strength in depth with their players,” she continued. “Hopefully now we will start to see something similar in this country now.
“For British tennis it’s something we all needed and all of us who play in these events are very grateful to the LTA for putting them in place and it will be a huge benefit to our game going forward. ”
Kartal’s ambitions have transformed since her success in the first half of 2022 and she sees this season on grass as a chance to build on the momentum she has built up.
“At the start of the year, my ambition was to try and break into the top 500,” she added. “I did it fast, then the next goal was 300, which I hit in May.
“Then I got called up to the Billie Jean King Cup team and it was an amazing experience in Prague. We were up against some top players but we came so close to winning the draw and we didn’t We only lost in the deciding doubles, but it was such a great opportunity for me.
“I never thought I would get into the team so quickly, but the team spirit was fantastic that week and it encouraged me to think that I could aim for even more in the next few months, even if I know the rest of my career. Will be difficult.
“When you’re ranked in the 800s you can take a big leap by having a good run at a tournament, but it’s harder to do that now that I’m in the top 300.
“My next goal is to try and qualify for the US Open and with a good grass season, that’s realistic.”
The goal of the LTA Performance Competition Calendar is to provide more opportunities for players to compete more regularly at a higher level and gradually gain rankings early in their careers. The increased schedule means there will be over 40 weeks of international ranking points or prize winning opportunities in Britain this year.
The resounding success of the initiative has been a game-changer for so many UK players, with the success enjoyed by so many players experiencing nurturing optimism for a bright future.
For the latest action on the UK summer grass season, check out the ALT website