WTA Tour hopes to shorten season in 2009
November 24, 2006 7:48pm CST
The WTA Tour wants to shorten its season, reduce the number of mandatory tournaments and give the top women more of a break after Grand Slam events. The tour said Tuesday it hopes to implement the changes for the 2009 season. The WTA board is expected to approve them in March. The proposals also call for more competition between elite players, the creation of four events that coincide with ATP tournaments and a simplified ranking system. WTA Tour chief executive Larry Scott acknowledged the season is "simply too long and grueling," adding the changes will "deliver to fans the stars and rivalries they want to see." Under the new system, the season would end in October. The 2006 season ended Nov. 13 at the WTA Championships in Spain. The WTA said the proposals are "designed to create a more understandable calendar structure for fans, and one that builds stars and rivalries by ensuring that top players remain healthy and are consistently playing against one another on the tour's biggest stages." Steve Simon, a WTA Tour board member and the tournament council chairman, said the plans were developed with input from tournaments, players, sponsors and media. The aim, he said, is a "clearly defined premium product for fans." Last week, the WTA board passed interim changes for 2007, including a reduction of tournaments for top players from 13 to 12. The proposed system will further reduce the number of mandatory tournaments to 11. The interim changes also doubled the fines for a late withdrawal up to a maximum of $40,000 for a third and subsequent offense. The rise in withdrawal fines came in response to a rash of players pulling out of tournaments this season. According to the tour, withdrawals from Tier I events -- the 10 most important WTA tournaments -- by players ranked in the top 10 more than doubled from 13 in 2005 to a record 31 in 2006. Withdrawals at Tier I tournaments by top-10 players have increased 72 percent the past five seasons, the tour said, and for the first time, none of the 10 Tier I events featured more than five women ranked in the top 10.