LONDON The early demise of the top four players at Wimbledon is great for women's tennis, WTA chief Larry Scott said.
For the first time since seedings began at Wimbledon in 1927 none of the top four women reached the last eight. World number one Ana Ivanovic and third seed Maria Sharapova were eliminated last week, by players ranked well outside the top 100, while Jelena Jankovic (2) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (4) fell in the last 16 on Monday.
"I think it's reflective of the unprecedented depth in women's tennis. It's the first grand slam where the top four seeds did not make it through to the quarter-finals," Scott told Reuters in an interview on the eve of the women's semi-finals.
"It wasn't that long ago that you would have been pretty confident predicting which players were going to be in the final or at least the semi-finals. Women's tennis today is vastly different.
"There is different kind of depth and variety in the game and lot more personalities capable of winning at any moment."
The shock exits at Wimbledon meant there was a distinctly unfamiliar look to the women's quarter-finals lineup.
World number 133 Zheng Jie, conqueror of Ivanovic, kept up her remarkable run by defeating Czech Nicole Vaidisova; Serena Williams trampled over Polish teenager Agnieszka Radwanska; Elena Dementieva, at five the highest seed left, beat fellow Russian Nadia Petrova; and defending champion Venus Williams strode past Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn.
"It's very exciting (to see) the depth of the stars. You've still got Venus and Serena in the semi-finals but there are lot of exciting next generation stars coming through," said Scott.
"This is just a golden age in women's tennis. This year's Wimbledon is a shining example of the amazing depth right now."
While the non-household names such as China's Zheng and Radwanska have helped to back up the women's right to receive equal prize money, which they were awarded for the first time in
2007, many of the top players feel it is difficult to cope with the rigours of the tour.
Over the last 14 months Belgians Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin quit in their prime. Clijsters was 23. Henin quit aged 25 in May while still ranked world number one.
Scott admitted the demands on the top players could be unforgiving but hoped plans to shorten the season from 2009, when the 25 Tier I and II events will be trimmed to 20, would ease their concerns.
"The circuit is gruelling these days. Not just the length of the season but also the style of play being more and more physical all the time and with the depth of competition increasing, the way the players are tested early in the tournament, all conspires to break down players' bodies," he said.
"The most important aspect of our Roadmap is a healthier calendar. So we're shortening the season, there is more logical scheduling with less changes of surface and we're reducing the amount the players have to play."
(Editing by Clare Lovell)