The International Tennis Federation (ITF) today backed controversial rules drawn up for this year's Grand Prix circuit, raising the prospect that the world's major tournaments could go ahead without the headline starts of the game.

After a five-hour meeting delegates from 22 countries in the ITF reaffirmed their support for the men's Professional Tennis Council (MPTC) which insists contracts for this year's circuit carry a clause directing the players to compete in six designated tournaments, including three with low prize money.

Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Vitas Gerulaitis, John McEnroe and Guillermo Vilas have refused to sign contracts containing the clause that puts a question mark over their participation in Grand Prix tourneys including Wimbledon and the U.S. and French opens.

A joint ITF-MPTC committee today extended the signing deadline on contracts until March 5 and, in Philadelphia, where he won the U.S. Pro Indoor title, Connors called today for compromise.

"There has to be a compromise," he said. "Who are they to say that I can't make a living? I'm sure the people in New York want to see the great players perform in the U.S. Open and would not stand to have the stars kept out of it. I don't think the U.S. Tennis Association will stand for it either."