Francesca Schiavone WTA Kremlin Cup Champion 2009
Mikhail Youzhny ATP Kremlin Cup Champion 2009
Marcel Granollers left, and Pablo Cuevas 2009 ATP Kremlin Cup Doubles Champions
Nadia Petrova and Maria Kirilenko 2009 WTA Kremlin Cup Doubles Champions
The New York Times published the following interview with Stacy Allaster today.
Special Report: W.T.A. Tour Championships, Doha
Tour’s New Chief Aims to Keep Shoring Up Women’s Game
By CHRISTOPHER CLAREY
Published: October 25, 2009
Stacey Allaster, the new chairman and chief executive officer of the Women’s Tennis Association Tour, is well aware that she has a tough act to follow. Larry Scott, her predecessor and former boss, is the tennis administrator who helped convince Wimbledon to offer equal prize money for men and women. Scott also shored up the once-vulnerable W.T.A.’s finances. He signed a lucrative $88 million deal with Sony Ericsson to sponsor the circuit for six years and secured $84 million more from the Doha and Istanbul tournaments over six years to stage the Tour’s year-end championships. Most important to the players, he generated a significant increase in prize money.
In exchange, Scott got the players’ permission to make real changes in the Tour structure this season. He shuffled the calendar and the Tour’s top events, decreased playing requirements and increased the penalties for those who do not respect the new, more reasonable minimums.
The reassuring news for Allaster is that she was part of the act. She had served under Scott as Tour president since 2006. After Scott, 44, left in July to become commissioner of an American college athletics conference, the Pacific-10, Allaster, an articulate 46-year-old Canadian, was named his successor.
Like Kim Clijsters, she is a working mother. Like Scott, who was captain of the tennis team at Harvard and had a brief career as a professional player before joining the sport’s administrative ranks, Allaster has spent a lifetime in the game, first as an amateur player and later as vice president of Tennis Canada and tournament director of the Canadian Open in Toronto.
But in the midst of an economic slump, Allaster must now find a way (and fast) to keep the revenue and the player support flowing. She is in the process of negotiating an extension with Sony Ericsson and is still doing a poor job of containing her delight that she now has the former world No. 1 Justine Henin on the comeback trail along with Clijsters, her fellow Belgian.
Allaster spoke last week with the International Herald Tribune:
Q. How do you view the first year of your restructured calendar, the so-called road map?
A. I really couldn’t be more pleased. I think overall what we tried to achieve was for our players to deliver to fans and sponsors, and they did that. We made player commitment at 80 percent of our events. If we dial it back to 2007, we didn’t make player commitment at one of our commitment events. That was a big part of what we were trying to reform — bringing credibility to the Sony Ericsson W.T.A. Tour — and our players have stepped up and delivered.
I think some of the other metrics relate to the business aspect of the road map. In this economy, there was a 34 percent increase in prize money, which was incredible.
For the first time in many years, all top-10 players who were part of the bonus pool in 2009 will all receive a bonus pool payout. That hasn’t happened since 2004, and that’s all tied to their delivery of commitment. And Jelena Jankovic will receive a million-dollar bonus-pool payout.
Q. Do you have injury numbers for the season?
A. Withdrawals as a whole are down 30 percent. To give you context, the number of first-round retirements in 2009 is 17, compared with 36 in 2008. And total retirements and walkovers are at 58 in 2009, compared to 71 in 2008.
Q. Tennis Magazine in France recently conducted a poll asking women’s players to rank the most important tournaments in the world. The year-end championships came in a distant 10th, after the four Grand Slams, Miami, Indian Wells, Fed Cup, Rome and Dubai. It’s interesting that the Doha event is ranked that low despite the prize money and number of points at stake. Is there work to be done?
We are only 10 months into the most comprehensive set of reforms in the history of the Tour, so it is an ongoing process to educate the players about what are the important events on our Tour. And why are they the important events? Because they really are the financial drivers of the business.
A. I liken where we are right now on the Sony Ericsson Tour to where we were back in 2001 on the men’s tour, when we brought the Masters Series in. It was about making those nine events important in the minds of the athletes after the Grand Slams. And when we look now to the generation of male players competing, you often hear them refer to winning Slams and winning Masters Series and, in many respects, that’s now where we need to get to with our athletes.
Q. Are your players aware of doing more for the business in a tough economy?
A. Many of them talk to me in those terms, even the younger ones. They understand it. Obviously they live in a world where they’re not affected by the economy, but they’re in touch enough to know what is happening around them.
Players like Venus Williams — you could not ask for a better player leader. She’s been incredibly supportive inside the Player Council, and I can tell you she’s been actively engaged with helping with the Sony Ericsson renewal. She recently participated in a meeting in New York with me with Sony Ericsson along with Billie Jean King and Melanie Oudin. I think we know the story there: the past, present and future all understand the importance of our sponsorship partners.
It took literally a nanosecond for all three of them to say, “If my schedule is clear, I’ll be there.”
Q. The situation around Serena Williams’s incident at the U.S. Open is ongoing. It’s still being investigated by the International Tennis Federation, but do you believe a potential one-Slam suspension is too draconian?
A. I don’t want to comment on what decision they might make.
But what I will say is: Look, Serena Williams is a great champion, and she’s been a terrific ambassador and role model for the sport of women’s tennis for her entire career. And the U.S. Open situation is an isolated incident, for which Serena has acknowledged that it was a mistake and she has apologized for it.
I get the following from this:
Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters were recruited, pressed to come back by the tour. Henin's "retirement" was over any way and Clijsters, who had very personal reasons for stepping away from the tour when she did, always seemed that she would come back.
Melanie Oudin as the future of tennis? Really? Let's see where she is this time next year before we start throwing swag and crowns at her.
Why no question about splitting the tour into two parts?
I still say the woman's public statements make her seem delusional.
Marcos Baghdatis 2009 Stockholm Champion
Bruno Soares and Kevin Ullyett 2009 Doubles Champions Stockholm
Timea Bacsinszky 2009 Luxembourg Champion
Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova won the doubles at Luxembourg.
The official portrait for Doha 2009 as released by the WTA this morning.