WTA unveils rule changes

WTA unveils rule changes

The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour this week announced rule changes aimed at reducing the frequency of player withdrawals. Having admitted that injury-enforced pullouts have reached a new high this season, the Tour has moved to eradicate the problem.

Two of the five measures agreed at the Tour’s board meeting in Madrid this week are only applicable to those who have been competing for 12 years or more, or those aged 30 and above. The changes that affect Ana are:

- 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 autumn season events shall utilise 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 offences

The moves are designed to expedite the Tour’s realisation of its Roadmap 2010 objectives, the six-year plan aimed ensuring that the top players stay healthy as often as possible and compete against each other more regularly. An October end to the season also plays an integral role in the scheme.

“It is hard for me to say for sure if the season is too long because unfortunately I have not yet played a full season,” said Ana. “I have been injured both times during the autumn.

“What I can definitely say is that there should be more rest time after the Grand Slams. And it’s also important that they don’t keep changing the balls and surfaces. At the moment it is crazy, going from this Rebound Ace surface in Australia to indoors in Japan, then indoors in Europe then a different type of hard court outdoors in America!

“And most of the time the balls are different, which causes injuries. So I welcome this change of more consistency with the balls and surfaces, it is a great idea. But I wish they would use the same balls earlier in the season too, not just during the autumn tournaments.”

The Tour also announced this week that trials of on-court coaching would continue between the end of the Australian Open in January and the start of Roland Garros in May.

Ana has been consistently opposed to the initiative, as have many of the top players if one looks at the number of top 20 ranked players that used their coaches during the trials this season.

However, the Tour, together with title sponsors Sony Ericsson, appears to be pursuing this innovation aggressively – chief executive Larry Scott termed it “a forthcoming proposal to legalise coaching” – so it will be interesting to see how long players like Ana can resist utilising their coaches’ advice during matches.

By Gavin Versi

Photo: Stephanie Morel