The International Tennis Federation (ITF) is the world governing body of tennis, one of the few truly global sports.
The objective of the ITF is:
- to further grow and develop the sport worldwide
- to develop the game at all levels at all ages for both able-bodied and disabled men and women
- to make, amend and uphold the rules of the game
- to promote the International Team Championships and competitions of the ITF
- to preserve the integrity and independence of tennis as a sport
- to perform all without discrimination on grounds of colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origin, age, sex or religion
The ITF has 207 member National Associations - more than most other international sporting federations. Member nations come from every continent, and each association is involved in organising tennis and promoting the interests of the game.
The ITF also has six Regional Associations based geographically, which work within their regions and continents to assist the development and co-ordination of tennis:
Asian Tennis Federation (ATF)
Confederacion SudAmericana de Tenis (COSAT)
Confederation of African Tennis (CAT)
COTECC (Central America & Caribbean)
Oceania Tennis Federation (OTF)
The need to establish an international tennis federation became obvious in 1911. By that time lawn tennis was beginning to develop rapidly worldwide and it seemed natural that National Tennis Associations already established should come together to form a liaison whereby the universal game would be uniformly structured.
Credit for this concept is given to Mr Duane Williams (who sadly died on board Titanic before seeing his idea come to fruition), Mr Charles Barde (Honorary Secretary of the Swiss Tennis Association) and Mr Henri Wallet (French Tennis Federation).
Twelve National Associations attended a General Conference in Paris on 1 March 1913 at which the International Lawn Tennis Federation was founded.
The inaugural members were:
- Australasia (Australia and New Zealand)
Spain (could not attend but sent their approval)
The first edicts of the meeting were:
- Official language would be French with English translation
Administration of the Federation was to be run from Paris
Joint secretaries:Mr H. A. Sabelli – Secretary of the British Lawn Tennis Association; Mr R. Gallay – French Tennis Federation
President: Dr. H. O. Behrens.
Great Britain had the right to stage ‘the World Championships on Grass – in perpetuity’
Seventeen months later the First World War broke out and upon resuming activities in 1919 only 10 countries were still members.
However the ILTF recovered from the interruption of war, and events proceeded as follows:
1922 The International Rules Board was appointed by the Advisory Committee (Committee of Management) to overcome the problem of recognising the ILTF had the exclusive right to alter and control the rules of the game.
16 March 1923 At the Annual General Meeting in Paris the official ILTF ‘Rules of Tennis’ were adopted with public effect from 1 January 1924. The United States of America became an affiliated member of the Federation. The title World Championship was also dropped at this meeting but a new category of Official Championship was created for events in Great Britain, France, USA and Australia – today’s Grand Slam® Events.
1924 The ILTF became the officially recognised organisation with authority to control lawn tennis throughout the world.
1933 The Committee of Management took over from the Advisory Committee as the elected governing head of the ILTF.
1934 A specially convened committee was set up to discuss the differences between professionals and amateurs, and the ability for amateurs to claim expenses over eight weeks of the year.
The regulations governing amateurism had been defined at the Annual General Meeting of the ILTF in 1920; they may be found by clicking on the PDF Link at the bottom of the page.
1939 The total number of affiliated countries had risen to 59.
During the Second World War, because of the devaluation of the French Franc and the imminent invasion of Switzerland, the funds of the ILTF were transferred to Great Britain. From that time onwards the ILTF has been run from London.
5th July 1946 The first post-war meeting was held in London at the Savoy hotel. Twenty-three nations were represented with various nations being expelled from the ILTF in the aftermath of the war.
Over the years the nations were reinstated but others came and went as global political issues rose and fell, such as East and West Germany, China and Taiwan, South Africa.
1948 saw the first report from the International Ball Committee set up to enquire into the standardisation of Lawn Tennis Balls throughout the world. It was the Committee’s recommendation that “the ILTF should endeavour to procure an apparatus designed and constructed which will enable balls to be readily and accurately tested at speeds at which the game is played”.
1951 saw the relaxation of the eight-week rule (permitting an amateur to claim expenses for up to eight-weeks of the year) to 210 days to allow amateurs to claim expenses for competing in tournaments. By 1958 the ILTF was concerned that this relaxation of the rules was “encouraging players to concentrate on the game of tennis to the exclusion of all gainful occupation”.
In 1963 on the 50th Anniversary of the ILTF, the Federation Cup competition was established as an international team championship for women to match the Davis Cup, the men's team competition that had been in existence since 1900, but not under the auspices of the ILTF.
30 March 1968 After ten years of division and struggle within the ILTF, at an emergency meeting in Paris, 47 countries agreed in principle to the issue of open tennis. A breakaway tennis circuit was organised called World Championship Tennis (WCT) running in opposition to the official ILTF circuit. The ILTF received sponsorship to organise Grand Prix tournaments allowing players to compete openly and legally for money.
1969 It was agreed that court measurements should be published with their metric equivalent.
1971 The ILTF decreed at the Annual General Meeting in Italy that no player contracted to play WCT could play in any event authorised by a National Tennis Association. This meant that John Newcombe could not defend his Wimbledon title that year.
Eventually in March 1972 the WCT and ILTF joined forces to promote a unified circuit for the benefit of all players.
In 1970 the first change in scoring came when an experiment was authorised to test the tie-break. It had been used in a United States Professional Championship in Philadelphia a few months before the experiment was given the go-ahead. Later, In 1974 the tie-break was sanctioned as a permitted alternative to the scoring system, then in 1988 at the Annual General Meeting the ITF adopted the tie-break system for Davis Cup matches from 1989 onwards.
In 1971 the Virginia Slims Tour was organised, providing a women-only circuit. This also caused confrontation between the Tour and the National Associations and the ILTF. However in 1973, after much discussion, peace was declared and the Virginia Slims Tour was ratified.
1972 As television coverage of tennis events grew, the use of yellow balls was allowed after a two year experimental period; white balls were the requirement up until this time.
1973 saw more disputes, this time between the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the ILTF because of the nine-month suspension imposed on Nikki Pilic the Yugoslavian over his non-appearance for his country in their Davis Cup match against New Zealand. The penalty was reduced to one-month following an emergency meeting but the ATP announced that their members would boycott Wimbledon to show their strength. Eighty players withdrew from the 1973 Wimbledon Championships.
The Grand Prix Committee was also formed in this year which became the Men’s International Professional Tennis Council (MIPTC) in 1975, providing a democratic governing body for men’s professional tennis. This organisation consisted of nine members with three elected to the Council from each of the main sections of the game, the ILTF, the players and the tournaments.
1975 The Women’s International Professional Tennis Council (WIPTC) was formed and operated under a joint secretariat shared between the ILTF and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and has representatives from the tournaments and the sponsors. The purpose of the Council was to promote, control and govern the organisation and development of the women’s professional circuit throughout the world.
1975 also saw the birth of the Code of Conduct, as a method for controlling bad behaviour in the men’s game.
1977 A sad moment in some people’s minds: 100 years after the start of the Wimbledon Championships the ILTF had a change of title, dropping the word “lawn” and becoming the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
The ITF also started to monitor new concepts in stringing after complaints about a double-strung racket began to emerge.
1978 The first ITF World Champions were announced, Chris Evert and Bjorn Borg. They were chosen by two separate panels of former players.
1979 Davis Cup Nations asked the ITF to assume responsibility for the Davis Cup Competition, to organise and run the event. The Davis Cup competition had been in existence since 1900 but was not controlled by the ILTF, but rather by a Committee of Davis Cup Nations. Meanwhile Brad Parks and David Saltz founded the National Foundation of Wheelchair Tennis and in 1980 a circuit of ten tournaments was set up in the US which included the first US Open Championships.
1981 NEC became the title sponsor of the Davis Cup, enabling prize money to be given. The 16-strong World Group was also established. NEC also became the sponsor of the Federation Cup, until 1994. The Wheelchair Tennis Players Association (WTPA) was formed to represent the players.
1987 The ITF moved from Wimbledon to Barons Court, West London just near the Queens Tennis Club.
1988 Tennis returned to the Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea as a full medal sport after an absence of 64 years, in the year of the ITF's 75th anniversary and after diligent work by ITF President Philippe Chatrier and General Secretary David Gray.
The ITF adopted the two-bounce rule in the official Rules of Tennis for wheelchair players, thereby sanctioning the sport.
1994 Federation Cup rebranded as the Fed Cup.
1995 Home and away format introduced for Fed Cup.
1998 The ITF moved to its current premises at the Bank of England Sports Ground in Roehampton.
1999 Celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Davis Cup competition.
2001 A record 142 nations entered the Davis Cup.
Wheelchair Tennis celebrated its 25th year of competitive tennis.
2002 BNP Paribas took over as title sponsor of the Davis Cup.
2003 The Fed Cup celebrates its 40th birthday.
Mr Francesco Ricci Bitti
Executive Vice President
Mr Juan Margets
Finance and Administration: Ms Gillian Burgess
Commercial: Mr Jan Menneken
Tennis Development: Mr Dave Miley
Science and Technical: Dr Stuart Miller
Head of Communications: Ms Barbara Travers
Head of Juniors and Seniors Tennis: Mr Luca Santilli
Head of Professional Circuits: Ms Jackie Nesbitt
Davis Cup / Operations: Ms Justine Albert
Human Resources & Administration: Ms Jane O'Sullivan
Information & Communications Technology: Mr Mat Pemble
Wheelchair Tennis: Mr Mark Bullock
The staff at the ITF is comprised of approximately 60 people in addition to the Executive Directors and Managers, who are based at the ITF headquarters in Roehampton, London.
Davis Cup (1)
Fed Cup (1)
Olympics/Paralympics Games (2)
Hopman Cup (1)
ITF Men's Circuit (534)
ITF Women's Circuit (462)