Sunday, August 15, 2004

Women's tournament events organized under tier system

Q&A on WTA

By Dustin Dow
Enquirer staff writer

Question: What is the WTA Tour?

Answer: The WTA Tour is the women's professional tennis organization or the women's equivalent to the ATP Tour. Since 1970 with the advent of the Virginia Slims, women have had a professional tour. The tour in its current form came about in 1995 when the Women's Tennis Association Players Association merged with the Women's Tennis Council to form the WTA Tour.

Q: Does the WTA Tour play outside of the United States?

A: Yes. The WTA plays 59 events in 31 countries as well as the Federation Cup and the Olympics. Europe hosts the most tournaments with 25. North and Central America host 17. The United States, with 14 events, has the most tournaments of any country.

Q: What do the Tiers mean?

A: WTA Tournaments are categorized by Tiers, with Tier I being the highest level and Tier V the lowest. The main distinction between Tiers is the purse. Tier I tournaments have a minimum purse of $1.3 million. The W&S Women's Open is a Tier III tournament with a purse of $170,000, which is the Tier III minimum.

Q: What is an example of a Tier I event?

A: Ten tournaments are Tier I events, including the Rogers Cup from Aug. 2-9 in Montreal. Grand Slams are events not classified by a Tier.

Q: Who is the No. 1 player?

A: Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium is the WTA's top-ranked player, which is determined on a 52-week cumulative scale capped at 17 tournaments for singles and 11 for doubles. The rankings determine acceptance and seeding for tournaments. Lindsay Davenport is the highest-ranked player in the W&S Women's Open at No. 4.

Q: What is the Porsche Race to the Championships?

A: This determines the eight singles players and four doubles teams that play in the WTA's season-ending championships in November. This is not a ranking, but rather a positioning system in which all players start the season with zero points. It measures performance based on the particular season rather than a rolling 52-week calendar.

Q: What's the difference between the W&S Masters (men) and the W&S Women's Open (women)?

A: The men's tournament is one of the top 13 tournaments on the ATP Tour. The women's tournament is not nearly as high-profile. Back in Cincinnati for the first time since 1988, it is a Tier III tour event that is competing with the Olympics. Davenport's wild-card entry was a major boost.

Q: Why doesn't the WTA have a Masters Series?

A: Rather than follow the ATP's model of designating each of its tournaments into a particular series, the WTA uses Tiers I-V to separate its tournaments and award points. For example, winning a quarterfinal match in a Tier I event would be worth more points than in a Tier III event. These points figure in to the rankings and the season-ending championships.

Q: Why don't the men and women play in Cincinnati at the same time?

A: The ATP and WTA tours are separate organizations, so there is nothing that specifies the tournaments would play at the same time.

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