MONTREAL (Reuters) - Women’s tennis will get a 40 percent pay raise next year along with bigger fines, suspensions and responsibility for the leading players.
Road Map 2010, the WTA’s masterplan to bring order to the sport’s structure and schedule, will be formally unveiled at the U.S. Open next month.
But WTA president Stacey Allaster, during a visit to the Montreal Cup on Tuesday, revealed details of the ambitious overhaul which will be rolled out next season, a year earlier than planned.
“The 2006 season was a disaster,” Allaster told reporters. “We failed to deliver on our player commitment to any of our top 10 events. We just felt something needed to be done now.
“We’re trying to change a culture, where it’s not an option but a commitment when you enter a top level event.
“The top players will be doing the heavy lifting so they should share in more of the rewards, more prize money, more bonus pool money, more ranking points.”
Tour prize money will rise from $63.6 million (32.1 million pounds) in 2006 to $84.4 million next season but it will come at a price with a more regimented system and greater accountability.
Under Road Map 2010, 26 Tier One and Tier Two events will be combined into 20 Premiere tournaments with players committed to play in at least 10.
Four $4.5 million tournaments in Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Beijing will be mandatory for all players who qualify.
Below the mandatory events will be five $2 million stops in Canada, Dubai, Rome, Cincinnati and Tokyo, of which the top-ranked players must play at least four. The WTA has committed to having at least seven of the world’s top 10 players at each of these events.
Players will complete their schedules by playing in at least one or two $700,000 events.
“They asked to put the best events in the right dates and we’ve done all of that,” Allaster said. “We’ve given them breaks.
“Now we’re saying, there’s going to be a little less flexibility on where you play and if you don’t play, then there’s going to be really significant ramifications.”
The WTA also laid out a list of penalties designed to hurt players were it matters most, in the pocket and the rankings.
There will be zero tolerance for withdrawals from tournaments players have committed to.
If a player does pull out, even due to injury, she will forfeit bonus money ($5 million available to the top 10 ranked players) and receive zero ranking points for that event.
Maria Sharapova, one of the WTA’s biggest draw cards, was a late withdrawal from last year’s Montreal Cup and lost $125,000 in bonus pool money and was fined $20,000.
Editing by Ed Osmond