ST. PETERSBURG, FL, USA - It was an historic year for the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour with the launch of the 2009 Roadmap, which was designed to give players a healthy calendar and to provide sponsors, fans and tournaments with a stronger product and greater credibility of commitment from the players.
The players stepped up and their cooperative partnership with the Tour and the tournaments made the first year of the Roadmap very successful. There were significant improvements with overall player commitment, especially from the Top 10 players. They met their commitments 90% of the time (up from 78% in 2008), providing greater credibility with the tournaments. Due to this commitment, for the first time ever, the Top 10 players all qualified to collect at minimum a portion of their Bonus Pool monies (see photo - Jelena Jankovic holding her 2009 $1,000,000 Bonus Pool cheque).
As part of the Roadmap, the players received a prize money increase of 35% (31% at Premier events and 49% at Internationals), with approximately 20 more players (Top 75) earning $225,000 or more in 2009 compared with 2008. Player withdrawals were down by 34%, thanks in part to the new PlayerZone entry procedures and staggered entry deadlines, which seem to have contributed.
In line with providing a premium product, overall acceptance cut-offs were tougher in 2009. To meet player obligations, it is important to maintain this quality of competition; however, in response to identified playing opportunities concerns, the Tour added two new International events in 2010, plus increased qualifying draw sizes in weeks where playing opportunities are at a premium. At a time of economic challenges when other sports and leagues are struggling to maintain their events, it is a testament to the strength and depth of women's tennis that the Tour was able to add new playing opportunities.
Thank you to the players for their contributions in making the 2009 Roadmap such a success. 2010 looks to be an even bigger and better year for women's tennis and the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.