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WTA leads by example

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Jonathan Overend | 19:17 UK time, Monday, 24 October 2011

With the governing body of the men's game, the ATP, still without a leader for next year - Adam Helfant deciding not to renew his contract when it expires in December - the women's tour, the WTA, is showing admirable stability at the top as it prepares for its showpiece tournament.

Canadian Stacey Allaster, the pocket rocket of a Chief Executive, has just signed a new five year contract on the eve of the season-ending WTA Championships in Istanbul.

The ATP board meets in London next month to finalise their choice for Helfant's replacement with the campaign for former Wimbledon champion and Rotterdam Tournament Director, Richard Krajicek, gaining momentum.

Helfant - a former Nike executive - gave six months' notice of his departure in June, presumably to give his employers plenty of time to find a suitable replacement, and how they've needed it. Talks, interviews, knock-backs, more talks. A decision will come next month we're told.


The world's top eight players come together this week, as they play the final major event of the year at the Sinan Erdem Dome stadium. PHOTO: Getty

While the appointment is undeniably a crucial one, time is running out. This may help the case of the two internal candidates, Brad Drewett and Mark Young.

Having said that, there is plenty of life left in the ATP season.

As the women prepare to wrap in Turkey, the men are in Vienna and St Petersburg this week with valuable tournaments in Valencia, Basle and Paris still ahead. That's all before we reach the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London which start on 21st November.

The ATP tour remains hamstrung by the number of rich and historic tournaments late in the year. How can they shorten the calendar without a lawsuit or three?

This is where Stacey Allaster and her predecessor Larry Scott have done an excellent job. Three years ago the WTA, under Scott's leadership, recognised it had a problem. The solution was simple; they had to shorten the season.

They negotiated, they traded, they got it done.

The creation of a "Roadmap" plan has led to a 24% increase in top player participation at the WTA's top events and an 18% reduction in withdrawals.

And most significantly here we are, in the final week of October, with the WTA end of year Championships. Players not involved in the Fed Cup Final, between Russia and Czech Republic, will have a clear off-season lasting two months.

Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova head the field in Turkey with the Russian the nearest challenger to the ultra-consistent Dane's number one ranking.

Wozniacki has been number one for a total of 54 weeks, in two separate stints, which is more than Sharapova, Kim Clijsters, Venus Williams and Evonne Goolagong put together.

Li Na, Petra Kvitova and Sam Stosur, the wonderful trio of first-time major winners from 2011, are also in Istanbul but the perceived "big three" - Clijsters, Venus Williams and Serena Williams - have not played enough this year to qualify.

For all the good work done at the WTA to shorten the season, there is little more they can do to persuade part-timers and working mums to play more. The ATP may soon face a similar situation with working dad Roger Federer, who this year skipped the entire Asian swing.

So Victoria Azarenka, Vera Zvonareva and Agnieszka Radwanska complete the eight-player line up in Turkey which should make for a competitive week.

They may not be enjoying the golden era of the men - Wozniacki's domination without a major is the main story to most outsiders - but with Allaster at the helm until 2017, at least the WTA has leadership, vision and a clear strategy to take the sport forward.

In these tricky political times, that's exactly what the ATP needs.


  • Comment number 1.

    There is another difference between Wozniacki and the group of Clijsters, Venus Williams, Shapaeova and Evonne Goolagong. They won majors.

  • Comment number 2.

    Womens tennis is a joke! Poor quality and you can stay No1 without winning any majors? Hate to mention this as i'll be accused of being a pig.... Why was there such a big fuss about woman getting the same prize money? Why should they? should i work half as long as do now, do less of job and still expect to get paid the same as someone who does much more??

    The men are playing for a lot longer in all the major and give us a much more entertaining spectical. 3 sets for the woman is a "marathon" match while this is a walk over for the men and yet the women are paid just as much. Also the quality of "top" women tennis players is nothing compared to the top men.

  • Comment number 3.

    As a guy I find all the male objections to women players getting the same remuneration for their efforts, sad. Come on chaps, the biological differences are part of the equation and with your kind of logic, female high-jumpers should earn less than their male counterparts because they can't jump quite as high - even though they work just as hard as the men to be where they are. And that is what matters - working hard to be where you are.

    Some people have yet to realise that the same sport places different demands on the bodies of the different genders. They have yet to realise that female players suffer just as many injuries as male players do. They have also yet to realise that males play 5-setters only in selected top tier events - it's not like they do it all year long. And they have yet to realise too that you can't compare apples with oranges - expecting the quality of men's and women's draws to be the same, only shows a clear lack of understanding physical differences.

    Men's bodies aren't adapted to carry children - women's bodies are. The trade-off is in athletic abilities. Why should men benefit more from that trade-off? Why can't there be mutual and equal respect between the sexes?

  • Comment number 4.

    Another point to make - the Grand Slams aren't the only tournaments that matter. The ranking is set up to reward consistency. If it weren't, why would any player bother then to put their best efforts into other tournaments? Wozniacki gives her best in EVERY GAME she plays - not only the Hollywood games. That is why she is #1.

  • Comment number 5.

    I find womens tennis much better to watch, especially Wosniacki . This season shows many girls are getting up for the big ones, where as the men its the same four each time. Wasted and pig have chosen the right names for their comments.

  • Comment number 6.

    #5 :)

    There's a reason there are generally the same four men involved. they are consistently brilliant. The womans draw is laughable. no idea who may or may not be bothered to perform? One day, someone like Wosniacki, plays brilliant stuff. The next day they cant get a first serve in, never mind string a couple of good shots together.

  • Comment number 7.

    Ladies' tournament tennis and always has been a joke! Go down to Wimbledon: the best men in local clubs would struggle to get a game off any of the men in the tournament; I would back several local ladies tennis players to do very well or beat the weaker ladies in the draw. Ladies tennis tournament players do not use the back half of the court and don't get me going over the screaming. It's an insult to pay the same as the men. By the way, I have stopped going to Wimbledon in case the order of play gets disrupted and I am forced to watch some ladies playing!

  • Comment number 8.

    Wozniacki needs a new manager/agent!!

    Anyone seen that dreadful Turkish airlines advert she's done?

  • Comment number 9.

    The WTA may have a strategy, but it's the ATP which has the excitement and viewing figures, the current women's game is a turn off for TV audiences, due to its rather robotic nature, with repetitive slugging from the base line.

  • Comment number 10.

    No debate about the good decisions the WTA made about its calendar, and the ATP would surely be better off were they to be able to set something similar up for the men's game.

    But I think you have to recognise that the contracts the ATP signs with its tournaments tend to be a quite a bit larger than the WTA contracts, so renegotiation is generally a more expensive proposition. And the experience the ATP endured when cutting Hamburg out the Masters Series program has made it pretty nervous about taking similar steps with other high profile tournaments.

    As I see it, the men's game is to a large extent a victim of its own success, it puts many more bums on seats and eyeballs on tv screens, so a lot of people have a lot to lose through shortening the calendar. The WTA has had a bit more of a window to restructure its calendar - but they did a good job of it, and there are presumably some lessons for the ATP to take away from how they did it.

  • Comment number 11.

    It's interesting how few comments there are in this blog,and the reason is WILLIAMS sisters involvement!. We have the best women players being discussed & we have only 10 comments? Goes to show, love them or hate them the WILLIAMS Sisters make the WTA tick! If they'd been in the pic or been mentioned in the blog i am very sure the comments will be 4 or 5 pages long! Thats what you call STAR POWER, even the haters can't deny. I cant even tell who is who in the pic & am not talking skin colour here.

  • Comment number 12.

    I think the fact that any player can win a slam in the ladies makes it more exciting. Wozniacki may not have won a slam yet but she has been the best player outside the slams consistently. The women's game has had its fair share of dominant players such as navratilova, Graf, Hingis, the Williams sisters etc. I'm sure another one will come along soon. This is just a period of strength in depth for the ladies.

  • Comment number 13.

    #7, club level mens players would struggle to get a point against pros, let alone a game. Also bit harsh on the women, the game is still massive, just not quite as big as the mens........

  • Comment number 14.

    I'm not a huge tennis fan so I won't pretend I know much and you may think this is utter rubbish, but from the tennis I have seen men's tennis is much better to watch.

    I'm also a firm believer that, in tournaments when the men play 5 sets to the women's 3, the women should either have to play 5 sets or not get paid an equal amount as I don't believe that you should get paid the same for doing less.

    Lastly, I also believe that the fact that almost any female tennis player can win a tournament is indicative of how much poorer they are in comparison. I'm not basing this on the fact that they're just not as fast or powerful or whatever but that it shows that even the top female players make mistakes they shouldn't this then allows for upsets and as a result you end up with a wide variety of winners. Whereas the opposite is true for the men where you rarely see surprises in recent times and I think the only Grand Slam winner in the past 5/6 years outside of Nadal, Federer and Djokovic is Del Potro on one occasion. Equally I can understand that some people find this boring, having the same players win all the time, but I rather like that your guaranteed high quality tennis almost every time.

  • Comment number 15.

    I've always wondered whether the female players approach the majors differently from other tournaments. Much is made about the difference on the men's tour, and that some players are apparently better at three-setters than five, but when the only difference with the ladies is that to win a major you have to win more matches in a row, does the mindset differ that much from that at any other tournament? Not a criticism, by the way. I still don't understand why people get so upset about equal prize money when it doesn't affect them.

  • Comment number 16.

    Overpaid pushers, the lot of them (Williams sisters and Sharapova aside)

  • Comment number 17.

    How many people are at the top end of a sport is no indication of the quality within that sport. The fact that four men dominate the mens game only tells us the gulf in class between those four and the rest. The fact that no one dominates in the womens game has nothing to tell us about the quality of competition only that it is more even.

    It may well be that the standards in the womens game is low at the moment but to use the lack of dominance of any players as proof is poppycock. I actually think the depth and quality in the womens game as a whole is at its strongest its just that no one is truly excelling at the sharp end.

  • Comment number 18.

    I'd agree with 14. In the major's to get the same money the women should be playing best of 5, with some of the games are so short.

    The mens game is top class at the moment with Djokovic and Nadal playing a level above in the majors. It is the majors where names are made, yes Murray's a great record at that notch slightly below in the masters events, but he does need that major.

    I'm sure he'll get one, as I think Federer's won his last major, in the key games he's lost his nerve - losing from 2 sets up against Tsonga at Wimbledon, and they way he collapsed at the end against Djokovic in the last few games having failed to win his two match points further evidence.

    In the women's game the breadth of winners, isn't a sign of the strength of women's tennis. Instead Serena Williams reaching the US Open Final having barely played all year is indication of it's weakness.

  • Comment number 19.

    I have nothing against the WTA, but have a look at their website and see what the women do between, in, and after events. A lot of fun stuff, pre-tournament parties, photoshoots,etc. Too many distractions, in my opinion. That could be the reason they're so inconsistent. I don't see that many distractions on the ATP tour. The men are definitely more focused on their game. Having saif that, i like watching the women play, and I do wish they'd cut down on other activities around tournaments and be more consistent.

  • Comment number 20.

    I'm really tired of these people (#14, #18, etc) who come in and keep saying the women're doing less when they play 3 sets instead of 5. That's why the society could do with some better science education. As #3 pointed out, there're major differences between the physiology of a male and a female, in terms of endurance and power and else. We should acknowledge that and move along.

  • Comment number 21.

    Having done a great job of sorting out the schedule maybe Stacey Allaster could now focus on sorting out all the ridiculous screeching and screaming made by certain players on the WTA? I'm sure it would greatly increase the popularity and watchability if you didn't have to take ear plugs to tournaments or turn the sound off on your TV when watching ladies tennis.

    You don't hear any of the top men making the same noises when they play every single point...

  • Comment number 22.

    Jaco at post #3

    You are completely wrong.

    It has nothing to do with respecting the sexes, frankly, what are you on about????

    Women and men get paid the same to work in office jobs, for example, because they do the same job.

    Male tennis players perform their skills to a much higher level in terms of shot making, power, endurance, excitement, everything.

    Do you understand that by making it into a male vs female argument, you and people like you are introducing the gender element.

    It is simply a case of one group of "workers" doing their job to a far higher standard than another set of "workers" - and so they should rightly get paid more.

    And this is before we get into any of the commercial realities which, clearly, you are ignorant to.

    The reason why we are even talking about the women being entitled to get £1m for winning wimbledon like the men, is because professional sport is a money making business, it is big business, big entertainment, where the rewards for the best "entertainers" are huge.

    The players drive this and, more specifically, the male tennis players. My mum loves tennis, but will only ever watch the interesting stages of a woman's grand slam.

    The product is what it is all about, one product is MUCH MUCH MUCH better than the other, and therefore the people responsible for that product get paid more - how could anyone argue with this?!

    you said: "Come on chaps, the biological differences are part of the equation and with your kind of logic, female high-jumpers should earn less than their male counterparts because they can't jump quite as high - even though they work just as hard as the men to be where they are. And that is what matters - working hard to be where you are."

    Do you not understand that if your logic is to be accepted here, then in theory it would be applicable to every sport on earth, because they all "work as hard, to get to wehre they want to be". So women footballers should be on £100k a week.... the england women's cricket team should be on central contracts worth £500k a year... england's female rugby team's number 10 should be on similar wages to Jonny Wilkinson.... the list goes on, I'm sure you see my point.

    Please understand, that remuneration in sport (a business, essentially) has nothing to do with "how hard they worked to get there..." Most olympic event athletes work as hard as any other type of sportsman/woman on earth, yet live most of their sporting life almost as amateurs in terms of remuneration!! It just has no bearing on it... you need to wake up.

    I find your comments nauseating to be honest.

    it's not like they do it all year long. And they have yet to realise too that you can't compare apples with oranges - expecting the quality of men's and women's draws to be the same, only shows a clear lack of understanding physical differences.


    I assure you, no one expects the quality of women's tennis to be anywhere near the mens....

    Yes, it is apples and oranges, but you dont expect to pay the same price for an apple and an orange do you? they both have different value!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 23.

    #22 I agree totally.

    These sportspeople are merely entertainers. As such they get paid for their performance. It has nothing to do with how much effort they put in, during or before the event.

    Those who entertain more, get paid more. And this is measured not just by the quality of the entertainment, but also by the length.

    One group of workers entertain in tennis for far longer than another group and rightly deserve more pay.

    #3 argues and writes "And that is what matters - working hard to be where you are."

    If this is the case, then you should apply it to all scenarios, not just men v women. Hence supermarket trolley collectors should get the same as a GP.

    #20 Please don't patronise us. We know men and women have different physiologies, but that's not the dispute. We're not paying for that. We're paying for the entertainment. That's the business they're both in.

  • Comment number 24.

    i dont kno about which org is more organised but i do know the wta needs to do something to get there best players at the top of there rankings either force the top players to play more often or retire,wozniacki is not even a top 5 player.djock is atp #1 and it shows on court.the funny thing about the men though is the lack of competition,rafa,djiock and fed are so far above the rest and they thus hog the elite events.even more laughable is andy murray complaining about schedule of top players,what a joker,andy is not a top player he is the top also ran he has never won a

  • Comment number 25.

    Like to join 22&23 in bashing 3's logic.

    Jaco Wium,
    The argument of the high jumper is completely wrong. As far as I am aware the male and female high jumpers both have to complete the same number of jumps per round. This is the discrepency between the men's and women's games at the major's. The men play between 3 and 5 sets and the women play between 2 and 3.
    The comparison would be asking someone who works full time to accept the same monthly pay for the same work as some one who works part time.

    Though in reality because it is a sport/business actually the payment should come down to advertising money/viewing figures. Who brings in the most money/has the highest TV ratings. Ie for me the true comparison is with a commission based job - bring in more money take home more money

  • Comment number 26.

    Are yours the ramblings of a drunk?
    Wozniaki is #1 in women's rankings. Murray is #3 and has won 5 times this year - 3 in this month. Murray didn't complain about the scheduling - he made comments regarding it.
    The men's tour is by no means monotonous. Many players challenge and have indeed rocked the boat of the top 4, but the very best tend to be at the finals more often. This is GOOD. Do you want to see also rans in all the finals? I do if Murray is one of them.

  • Comment number 27.

    In any field of work, there are two sides to the equation: what amount will induce people to take on the task? What is the value of their work to the employer? The vast majority of those playing in high level well-supported sports such as the EPL would surely happily work for much less than they get - who'd knock back 200,000 quid a year if they had no other skills of comparable value? The issue is that when most people in developed countries, and an increasing number in less-developed countries, can comfortably meet all their needs, they have an increasing proportion of their income available for non-essentials, e.g. music, films, sport and other forms of entertainment. But the number of people who can provide entertainment at the top level is limited, there is money to be made by having the best, to owning the winning team with the greatest tv drawing power, etc. This is reinforced by the ability to sell the product to a global audience rather than just the venue. So the wages of top entertainers and sports people are bid up to ridiculous levels. If women have as much commercial value in any activity as men, then they will be paid similarly. If not, then there is no argument for equal pay.

  • Comment number 28.

    #22 is right and the idea that remuneration is based on how many sets play is indeed missing the point.

    Sport is a business funded principally by television. The men's tour generates more income and the male players should therefore receive higher incomes and they should not be expected to subsidise the lower earning ladies tour.

    The higher a sports revenue generating capacity the more the participants earn so the highest salaries go to the F1, golf, soccer stars and fishermen (or women) earn very little even if they sit there for hours.

    Simple as that - I can't understand the fuss


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