New ITF president could aid Guam tennis

Significant changes to the governing body could mean big things for Guam tennis.

Torgun Smith, president of the Guam National Tennis Federation, recently returned from Santiago, Chile, where the International Tennis Federation held its Annual General Membership meeting and elected David Haggerty of the U.S. as its new president.

“We’re putting somebody in there who has the connections and contacts to hopefully get these factions together and help with development around the world,” Smith said. “He said he’s going to double the development budget by 2018. That’s good for Guam because we’re a developing nation and we get some — not a lot — of support from ITF from development funds.”

Development is key for Guam, which has demonstrated a clear interest in the sport by hosting pro tournaments and competing international, but lacks funding to establish a dedicated training center, travel to international events or even have a year-round national team coach.

Ninete wins award

Smith became GNTF president in 2014, replacing longtime head Rick Ninete. Ninete’s service to Guam was recognized at the ITF event when he was one of 10 to receive Awards for Services to the Game. Ninete’s name was brought up for discussion by

the board, called upon for a vote and recognized by the ITF member nations.

When the meetings concluded, the ITF gave the award to Smith so he could present it to Ninete when he returned home. The GNTF will hold an event to do so, according to a release, but the date has not been determined.

When he took over for Ninete last year, Smith hoped to take a more active role in the international growth of local tennis, and he tried to do that in Chile by supporting Haggerty’s presidential bid.

Smith first met Haggerty at the AGM in 2011, prior to Haggerty becoming president of the United States Tennis Association. Haggerty also has held significant roles at Head and Prince.

That experience could help Haggerty unite the ITF, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP, the men’s pro tour), the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA, the women’s pro tour) and the Grand Slams. Most of the money in tennis is controlled by the Grand Slams, Smith said. The ITF’s major events, the Davis Cup and Fed Cup, are small in comparison.

“When Dave called me a few months back,” Smith said, “I started telling him what I’d like to do. He said, ‘Wait a minute, Torgun. Before you go any further, the ITF total revenue is $57 million a year.’”

The annual revenue for FIFA, the international governing body for soccer, is reportedly more than $1 billion.

“The ITF doesn’t have much to offer but hopefully he’s going to change that,” Smith said.

Haggerty replaces Francesco Ricci Bitti, who retired at the meeting after four terms as president. Aside from Haggerty’s election, eight of the 13 seats on the ITF board changed, which demonstrates to Smith a significant call for improvement.

Aside from the pledge to aid in development, Haggerty also said he hopes to change the overall structure of the ITF governance. Currently only 150 of the 210 member nations have a vote.

Guam, a Class C country, does not. Votes also are not equal. A vote from France counts for 12 and a vote from Kosovo, which became a Class B country at the 2015 AGM, counts for one.

That may become less important for Guam since Smith asked the board to consider Guam for advancement to Class B. It’s a two-year process, and member countries will now have until the 2016 AGM to consider Guam’s tennis merits.

In addition to receiving a vote, Class B nations are eligible to field Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams. Currently Guam participates in a combined Davis Cup team with 15 other nations in the Oceania Pacific region. If it becomes Class B at next year’s vote, Guam could have it’s own Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams in 2017.

“Everybody at ITF was kind of like, ‘Great, it’s about time,’” Smith said. “I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t approve us.”

Smith said the addition of a Davis Cup team or Fed Cup team could give talented young players incentive to continue crafting their games after high school and build a base of interest in the 18-29 group.

Until then, Smith is counting on Haggerty to follow through on his promise of support.

“Maybe we can get some funding for our facilities,” Smith said. “Maybe we can get some travel benefits for our kids to go on tours. Maybe we can get some more coaches. … He’s got a good perch and hopefully as the president he can build (the ITF’s) revenues.”

Source: Wieman, G. (2015, October 1). New ITF president could aid Guam tennis.