Tour Tackles Withdrawal Issue
15 November 2006
Adding to momentum behind Roadmap 2010 plan, Tour passes new rule changes and standards for 2007 to ensure consistent delivery of top players to fans and tournaments and to improve player health
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – At its year-end Board meeting held yesterday at the Sony Ericsson Championships in Madrid, and just one month after the release of new data showing that top player withdrawals had reached an all-time high, the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Board passed a series of rule changes and new standards for 2007 designed to
ensure better delivery of top players to the Tour’s most important events, and to alleviate player injury and fatigue.
The Tour also announced that testing of on-court coaching will continue at all top level Tour tournaments following the Australian Open and up until Roland Garros in 2007, among other innovations for the New Year.
2007 REFORMS TO PROTECT PLAYER HEALTH & ENSURE MORE STARS/RIVALRIES FEATURED ON COURT
The package of 2007 rule changes and new standards is an important interim step in support of the Tour’s Roadmap 2010 long-term plan. Today’s announcement follows calls by Tour CEO Larry Scott in mid-October to take immediate action to improve the player withdrawal situation. The reforms include the following:
• Reduction of top player minimum tournament commitment requirement from 13 to 12 events, including two events to be chosen by the Tour for each player
• New standards that will mandate that all Tour fall season events shall utilize the same surface and same ball
• Doubling of player late withdrawal fines, up to a maximum of $40,000 for third and subsequent late withdrawal offenses
• Reduction of minimum player tournament commitment requirement for players who have been on the Tour for 12 years or more by one tournament
• Option for players aged 30 years old or more (as of January 1 of the Tour year) to have their minimum
tournament commitment consist of only four Tier I events
The passing of the new surface and ball standards for the Tour’s fall events follows new data drawing a link between player health and frequent change in surface and ball type. Over the course of the coming months, the Tour Board will evaluate and determine which surface and ball to use.
"Today’s package of reforms is an important step forward to ensure that we are able to deliver to fans and tournaments the players that they want and deserve to see on the court, and to protect the health of our players," said Larry Scott, CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. “The data on player withdrawals caused by injury and fatigue is undeniable, and the solutions are equally clear to our players, tournaments and partners - a shorter season, more breaks for players and reduced requirements on top players."
In addition to the new rules and standards, the Tour has also decided, based upon very positive feedback from fans, broadcasters, players and other key stakeholders, to continue testing of on-court coaching at all Tier I and Tier II Tour tournaments taking place following the Australian Open and up until Roland Garros in 2007. In light of the positive feedback from fans, broadcasters and others, and in recognition of the difficulty in policing coaching from the stands, the Tour also intends to put forth a proposal in the coming months to legalize coaching from the stands, subject to important parameters that would ensure no disruption or interference with play.
The Tour will also continue testing of various new doubles scoring formats designed to enhance and better promote the doubles game. Such format testing will include, among other formats, the testing of no-ad scoring with a 10-point "Super-Tiebreak" in lieu of a third set, to be trialed at the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells and the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, among other tournaments, in 2007. The format to be tested in Indian Wells and Miami will enable the Tour to test the same format as currently utilized by the ATP, and allow the Tour to explore the benefits of uniformity in doubles format for fans.
Other fan friendly innovations, including electronic line calling, pre-match player interviews, interviews with coaches during matches and enhanced microphones on court, will also continue in 2007.
"Sport lives or dies by the fan experience, and I am very excited that 2007 will bring our fans more excitement and accessibility than ever before," added Scott. "Our on-court coaching test this past fall showed us that fans and broadcasters like the added drama that live coaching brings to the game. These past months have also showed us that coaching from the stands is simply too difficult to police, and we intend to address this through a forthcoming proposal to legalize coaching."
In addition to today's announced rule changes, Scott previously confirmed on October 13 the need for the Tour’s Roadmap 2010 plan to be accelerated by one year, to 2009. The Roadmap 2010 is the Tour’s tennis calendar reform plan designed to ensure better and more reliable delivery of top players to top tournaments through a healthier schedule.
Elements of Roadmap 2010 Plan:
• Shortened season, ending in October
• Periodization – more breaks for top players after Grand Slams
• Reduction in number of Tour tournaments top players must play from 13 to 11
• Creation of four combined mandatory events with ATP
• Simplified ranking system
• Streamlined top level of tournaments with top players competing against each other more often