For many years, the governing body of women tennis has been mulling over this conundrum: how best to grow and maintain the popularity of the sport in emerging markets while not adversely affecting the players who are often overextended by an already demanding schedule. After extensive research, the WTA believes it has found the perfect balance, which it trusts, will serve to better the game.
In September, a new schematic, the “roadmap”, was announced outlining the reforms that will be in effect next year. Two key revisions stand out and are worth emphasizing. Firstly, to minimize injury more down time will be allotted without unduly penalizing the athletes. Towards that end, players will be permitted 7 to 9 weeks of vacation time. Secondly, the players will see their monetary compensation increase through a revenue sharing program. Here are other salient points to the “roadmap”:
1) The prior system of labeling tournaments as “tier” has been abrogated. These competitions will now be called “ Premier” events for tiers I and II while tiers III and IV, “International” events. Moreover, the former have been scaled down from 26 to 20 with the goal of securing more top player participation. Besides the majors, Miami, Indian Wells, Madrid and Beijing will be obligatory tournaments.
2) A new method will be implemented for calculating player ranking whereby the best 16 tournament results will be taken into consideration.
3) While the top eight players will continue to be rewarded with a spot at the Sony Ericsson Championships at year’s end, the efforts of the rest of the top twenty will be acknowledged through their participating at the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions.
4) On court coaching will be allowed at all events. Players will be able to confab with their coaches once per set, either during the change over or after the set. Also, coaching will be legal during bathroom breaks or injury timeouts.
Thus far, the new guidelines have gotten mixed reviews. World number 3 Dinara Safina has expressed concerns over the possibility that top players will be restricted as to which tournaments they can enter while the same rules may not apply to lesser ranked ones. Venus Williams, the current number 6, has welcomed the modifications as a good thing for the sport. However, reigning French Open Champion Ana Ivanovic has voiced her reservations over on court coaching, fearing that it will alter the basic premise of singles as an individual sport. Therefore, with these conflicting viewpoints, it will be interesting to see how these changes will stamp the game in the upcoming year.
For complete details on the “roadmap” and to view the calendar for 2009, click here or logon to www.sonyericssonwtatour.com , scroll down to quick links section and click on roadmap 2009.