WTA, ATP planning four joint showcase events by 2009By ERICA BULMAN, AP Sports Writer
October 18, 2006
ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) -- The WTA and ATP tennis tours want to have four major joint tournaments beside the Grand Slams starting in 2009, the head of the women's tour said on Wednesday.
For now, both tours come together at six stops outside the Grand Slams -- Sydney, Memphis, Indian Wells, Key Biscayne, New Haven, Tokyo -- but the tours want to showcase their talent better.
"The four Grand Slams are the pillars of tennis. But after that I think there's room for four additional combined mandatory events around which we have this common vision," WTA Tour chief executive Larry Scott said at the Zurich Open. "I think we should be able to put most of the pieces in place by 2009.
"One of the best things that could happen in tennis from my perspective is for the ATP and WTA tours to work more closely together. Both tours are excellent on their own but they're better together at the appropriate times."
The purpose of showcasing four non-Slams is to create more big stages with the best of men's and women's tennis "because that's what creates stars and excitement," Scott added, "and that hopefully translates to the other weeks on the tour when people want to see the stars come to town."
Key Biscayne in Florida, long considered the "fifth Grand Slam," was one certainty for 2009, as it offered equal prize money which will characterize all four events, Scott said.
Another could be Indian Wells in California, also already a multi-week combined event but currently only a mandatory event on the men's tour and not the women's.
"So we'd have two in America in March," Scott said.
Those will be followed by a clay event before the French Open. European tournaments which have expressed interest include Madrid, host of one of the men's Masters and 2006 season-ending WTA Championships; Rome, which hosts the men and women in successive weeks; and Monte Carlo, which also features a men's Masters.
The fourth will likely be in Asia, indoors or outdoors, late in the season.
"China would be the most logical market given the development of tennis, in particular the women's game," Scott said.
Scott said he and ATP chairman Etienne de Villiers hoped to eventually stage their year-end championships together but that will have to wait until both tours can coordinate their calendars.
The WTA is planning to finish its season two weeks earlier to give players a longer offseason in an effort to reduce the number of injuries and withdrawals on the tour.
"Etienne and I would love to see that happen, together at a joint event ending the season," Scott said. "It would be a nice end to the story of the season, where the circuits come together with a big bang.
"But it's unlikely to be part of the initial rollout of the new order in 2009. The men so far cannot streamline their calendar and end it as early as we do, and I'm not sure I want to sacrifice that. So it could take a few more years but it's certainly desired eventually."
Scott also cited commercial complications, with the WTA and ATP each having different sponsors, and television broadcasters partners. "There's been a lot of talk about it even before I left in 2003," said Martina Hingis
. "I enjoy the big events like Miami and Indian Wells and the Grand Slams. It makes things interesting for fans to see both sides and the difference between the two, men and women. It makes it more attractive."