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Women's calendar to be streamlined by 2009

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, Nov 21 (Reuters) A major overhaul of women's tennis will be completed by 2009, the WTA Tour said today.

A final decision on a new tournament schedule aimed at shortening the season and getting the top players facing each other more regularly should be agreed by March 2007.

The announcement follows a decision taken by the Tour Board at the recent Championships in Madrid to launch a tournament selection process as part of its Roadmap 2010.

''Today marks a shift into the implementation phase of the Roadmap 2010 that will deliver to fans the stars and rivalries they want to see, and that addresses the issue of player withdrawals caused by a season that is simply too long and gruelling,'' WTA chief Larry Scott said in a statement.

''The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour is the leading global sport for women, but the only means to ensure that we reach our full potential as a sport is to make our calendar more understandable so that fans can clearly follow the circuit.

''It will be more streamlined and logical so that our biggest stages are bigger and consistently feature the best players competing against one another.

''This is what our fans, players, tournaments, broadcasters and commercial partners deserve, and what our Roadmap plan will deliver by 2009.'' The re-structuring of the women's game would mean the season finishing in October and the number of tournaments top players are expected to play would drop from 13 to 11.

There would also be more breaks built into the calendar after grand slam tournaments.

WTA Tour board member and tournament council chairman said that keeping the status quo ''was not an option'' and would insure that the world's top players would spend less time injured.

In October Scott called for the speeding up of the Roadmap 2010 after a rash of player withdrawals.

Then world number one Amelie Mauresmo retired from the Zurich Open while world number two Maria Sharapova pulled out of the Moscow tournament with a bad foot.

Others such as former world number one Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters have also been blighted by injuries throughout their careers.

Last week the WTA Tour passed a series of interim rule changes that would come into effect next year.

They include a minimum tournament commitment reduction from 13 to 12 and that all late-season tournaments would be played on the same surface and with the same tennis balls.

Players who have played on the tour for 12 years or more will only be committed to play 11 tournaments.

REUTERS DH KP2134

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