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Junior tennis refers to tennis games where the participants are aged 18 and under. Eligibility to compete is not based on age, but year of birth: as a result, some players must move out of juniors soon after their 18th birthday, while others can play juniors until they are nearly 19. Some players who qualify as "junior tennis" players also play in main adult tours, though forms signed by their parent or guardian are required for this.
The ITF junior tour
The International Tennis Federation conducts a junior tour, which allows juniors to establish a world junior ranking and give them a chance to get an ATP or WTA ranking. Most juniors who enter the international circuit have to do so by progressing through ITF tournaments, Satellites, Futures and Challenger tournaments before entering the main circuit, the latter three of which are also participated in by adults. However, some juniors, such as Australian Lleyton Hewitt and Frenchman Gaël Monfils, have catapulted directly from the junior tour to the ATP tour by dominating the junior scene or by taking advantage of opportunities given to them to participate in professional tournaments.
Tournaments are divided into 8 different grades. The following list presents them in descending order of importance towards the junior ranking.
- Grade A (including four Grand Slams)
- Grade B (Regional Championships)
- Grade C (International Team Competitions)
- Grades 1-5
In 2004, the ITF implemented a new rankings scheme to encourage greater participation in doubles, by combining two rankings (singles and doubles) into one combined tally. Junior tournaments do not offer prize money. Juniors may earn income through tennis by participating on the Futures, Satellites or Challenger tours. Tournaments are broken up into different tiers offering different amounts of ranking points, culminating with Grade A and the junior Grand Slams - the most prestigious junior events.
Grand Slam and Grade A tournaments
The grand slam tournaments are the same for juniors as they are for the professional seniors, the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open. In addition, there are five other prestigious junior tournaments, given Grade A status by the ITF. They are, in calendar order, the Abierto Juvenil Mexicano, Gerdau Cup, Trofeo Bonfiglio, Osaka Mayor's Cup, and the Orange Bowl.
International team tournaments
The ITF has developed international junior tournaments; the boys tournament is named the "Junior Davis Cup by BNP Paribas", and the tournament for girls is named the "Junior Fed Cup".