James Martin penned a searing essay for Tennis.com's ESPN blog on the "train wreck" that is the WTA Tour's US Open Series.
As it stands the top five point leading lady ballers are Dinara Safina, Aleksandra Wozniak, Marion Bartoli, Flavia Pennetta and Jelena Jankovic. These women are all deserving of their places in the Series' standings and whatever prize money they earn from playing, but these are clearly not the marquee names the USTA was hoping for with the exception of JJ and possibly Dinara.
According to Martin,
...the U.S. Open Series is quickly devolving into a bit of a joke, proof yet again that the WTA is powerless when it comes to delivering its talent for the summer hard-court season and the USTA's principle marketing vehicle leading into the U.S. Open.Agreed. But will the WTA's new fangled "Road Map 2010" cure these ills? Let's take a look-see:
- 40% increase in prize money from $63.6 million in 2006 to $84.4 million
- 26 Tier I + II tourneys will be combined into 20 Premiere tourneys with a minimum baller commitment of 10 that they will play
- Four $4.5 million tournaments in Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Beijing will be mandatory for all players who qualify
- Five $2 million stops in Canada, Dubai, Rome, Cincinnati and Tokyo of which the top-ranked players must play at least four. The WTA must have at least seven of the world's top 10 ballers at each of these events.
- Ballers will complete their schedules by playing in at least one or two $700,000 events
- Zero tolerance for withdrawals from tournaments ballers have committed to playing. If a baller does pull out, even because of injury, she will forfeit bonus money ($5 million available to the top 10 ranked players) and receive zero ranking points for that event
They asked to put the best events in the right dates and we've done all of that. We've given them breaks. Now we're saying, there's going to be a little less flexibility on where you play and if you don't play, then there's going to be really significant ramifications.Ouch - the zero tolerance policy is pretty tough. But I do agree wholeheartedly that the WTA needed to figure out a way to stop the bleeding and get these top lady ballers to play the premiere tournaments or at least get them to show up and try.
Why do some of the men, like Andy Roddick in Cincinnati, attempt to play with an injury even if he ends up pulling out during the warm-up? The same goes for Andy Murray who dealt with a knee injury in Toronto but is still competing in Cincinnati. Of course injuries are part of any sport, some more serious than others, but it's the effort the fans what to see.
So they get some extra cash in their pockets - but will it get the ladies to show up?
(image via Getty)