View Full Version : WTA joins the chorus for a March start to the season

Jan 26th, 2004, 05:50 PM
Women's tour joins the chorus for a March start to the seasonBy Linda Pearce
January 27, 2004

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The WTA Tour has endorsed the more radical date change of the two options being considered for the 2007 Australian Open, joining the International Tennis Federation in supporting the grand slam's shift from the January holiday period to March.

WTA Tour chief executive Larry Scott has confirmed to the Herald that the women's governing body prefers a major calendar overhaul to a minor tweak, despite the ramifications for the American hardcourt events in Indian Wells and Miami, now held in March and early April.

Australian Open officials announced last year that the tournament's mid-January start would be altered by 2007. It will either go back a week into February, thereby retaining one week of school holiday time, or shift to formula one territory in March.

"I think, for the game, the bigger the move back the better, and so closer to March would be the better of the options that we've discussed, from my perspective, even though it creates a lot of complications," said Scott, a former ATP executive who replaced Kevin Wulff eight months ago.

"If we take a step back, and look at the length of the season and the fact that the game continues to get more competitive and more rigorous, I think that would be healthiest. But obviously you can't just operate in a vacuum, and there's a lot of complications, a lot of issues . . . the Australian Open has to make that call."
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Scott said he had been told by Tennis Australia president Geoff Pollard that no decision had been made, and a TA spokesman confirmed yesterday that "there's no update at this stage, and there's not one expected in the near future", although Scott will meet Australian Open officials over the weekend and the Grand Slam Committee will discuss the issue on Thursday and Friday.

"Any move would be a positive development in terms of giving us a longer off-season," Scott said. "The fact that, to get ready for the Australian Open, the players have to be travelling and have to really feel like they're preparing over Christmas and the New Year, is very difficult."

Tennis Australia has consistently argued that, although the season does need to be shortened, an extended break can be better facilitated by an earlier finish to the year. This year, for example, the Davis Cup final will not be played until early December.

"I definitely believe that we can work on both ends and, in consultation with the ITF, I think the Fed Cup is the first priority, because we've got some significant player concerns about the fact that it takes place two weeks after the [year-end] championships," Scott said. "If we can make some improvement with the Australian Open date, and we can make some improvement on the Fed Cup final date, I think we'd be making a serious dint on this issue, and I think that's achievable within the next two years."

Scott confirmed that no naming-rights sponsor was being sought to replace Sanex, and reiterated his support for the WTA's contentious age eligibility rule, of which he has ordered a wide-ranging review.

Martina Hingis and her mother, Melanie Molitor, are among those who have been invited to address a forum in Miami in March, and Scott will review the results at Roland Garros in May. Young Russian Maria Sharapova is the latest player to challenge the tournament restrictions placed on players until they turn 18.

"I can tell you with certainty that the program will stay in place, and I can tell you with certainty that there will be a greater push to education and development," Scott said. "I think it's proven that it's successful and I think it's our responsibility as the WTA Tour to have a program. However, it has been in place for 10 years and a lot's changed, and it does need a fresh look."

Scott also vowed to continue the campaign for equal prizemoney at the French Open and Wimbledon. Among the four slams, only the Australian and US opens have parity. "The issue makes a statement one way or another for women, and the status women have in society, and there's a lot of cultural significance to it," Scott said. "I remain quietly optimistic that we will, over time, progress on the issue."

Jan 26th, 2004, 06:34 PM
Where are they going to put IW and Miami? They're both 2-week tournies. If the AO starts on March 15th, that's 2 weeks of Aussy warmups starting March 1st, which means IW starts Feb 1st and Miami Feb 15th. And weather can be awful in Southern Cal in early February. It just doesn't add up. Somebody's doing some bad math.

Jan 26th, 2004, 06:40 PM
They should eliminate the indoor season and end the season in September a few weeks after the Open.

Jan 26th, 2004, 09:10 PM
I was wondering myself about why they replace cancelled tournaments. Since the tournaments in Tokyo (outdoor tier 2), Leipzig and Shanghai have been dropped in recent years, they could be ending the season by late October.

Jan 26th, 2004, 09:14 PM
While everyone complains that the Aussie is too soon, it doesn't make sense for the country of Australia to move it.

It's in the summer time (meaning nice weather), thus the kids are out of school. Why would you move it to a time where children are in school? The crowds would be much lower.

darren cahill
Jan 26th, 2004, 09:14 PM
They should eliminate the indoor season and end the season in September a few weeks after the Open.
I agree

Jan 26th, 2004, 09:16 PM
I think it would make sense to move some of the big indoor tournaments (Filderstadt, Moscow and Zurich) to the winter and combine to make one indoor season and then just play the Tour Championships and Fed Cup after the US Open.

Jan 26th, 2004, 09:52 PM
"Any move would be a positive development in terms of giving us a longer off-season," Scott said. "The fact that, to get ready for the Australian Open, the players have to be travelling and have to really feel like they're preparing over Christmas and the New Year, is very difficult."

A one week move would achieve this if he means what he says.

If he wants a longer break over christmas (footballers, runners, and skiers might laugh at the idea) tournaments have to go. If you have US tournaments before Australia you don't have a longer break. You can't cut Tokyo or the (lucrative) Gulf if you want to remain global and it would be silly given the probable decline in US tournaments which faces the WTA in a post-Williams/Davenport/Capriati/Seles world - which might be here by 2007. The same arguments apply to Moscow, India, China and South America as tournament sites and many other countries could make a case that a global tour ought to have more rather than less tournaments in their country (think Italy or the UK) The WTA may lose tournaments and end up with a shorter year if they lose sponsors but throwing away sponsored tournaments they already have seems silly.

Cutting the European indoor season would be as damaging in Europe as losing the US outdoor season at the start of the year. Indeed, given what may cause injuries it might be better if the US hardcourt season took the hit. The US tournaments are important though as they are big enough and rich enough to matter to too many players.

in fact any reduction of the year leaves less money coming in, fewer slots in tournaments for the same number of players and more players copying Jelena as they try and fit more tournaments and travel into a shorter period. As new players would never get to become experienced players as they would never be ranked high enough to play and poorer players would do more in less time to make a living (if they could) and leave tennis (if they couldn't) it doesn't have much logic going for it.

Jan 27th, 2004, 02:08 AM
I think the season should end right after the US Open. Hold a year ending championship for a week, then the fed cup, and be done. That would give players three months to rest. And if the Aussie were pushed back another week, that would give time for a tier one warm up before Oz, and then everyone would be nice and prepared. Finally, change the surface, and Oz=on par w/ other slams.