By Sudipto Ganguly
MUMBAI (Reuters) – The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) will rename its tournament categories from next season to align with the men’s ATP, a sign of further collaboration between the tours following a season that was severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The global health crisis decimated the 2020 tennis calendar and prompted calls for a merger of the governing bodies, a suggestion that was well received by both the WTA and ATP.
The women’s tour has comprised of five tiers — Premier Mandatory, Premier 5, Premier, International and $125K events, while the ATP has Masters 1000, 500, and 250-level tournaments.
From the 2021 season, the WTA’s Premier Mandatory and Premier 5 tournaments will be categorised as WTA 1000, the Premier events will be WTA 500, the International level will be renamed WTA 250 while the $125k events will be known as WTA 125.
“A numerical system allows for immediate understanding of tournament level, providing fans with a simple way to understand and engage with the Tour and tournaments,” WTA President Micky Lawler told Reuters.
“In addition to providing simplicity and immediate understanding, this provides alignment with ATP’s tournament nomenclature so that professional tennis is consistent and reflects the same tournament naming system.”
Prize money and ranking points of the renamed WTA categories will not be changed to mirror that of their ATP equivalent.
Merging the professional tours would be no easy task.
As many as seven associations run different parts of tennis around the world. In addition to the ATP and WTA, the sport is also controlled by the International Tennis Federation and the boards of the four Grand Slam tournaments.
The men’s and women’s tours have a separate ranking system while some rules, including on-court coaching, are also different.
However, a merger could simplify television contracts and sponsorship deals as viewers currently need different pay-TV platforms to watch matches.
“2020 has paved a unique opportunity for greater synergy across all the governing bodies of tennis,” Lawler said, adding that she was proud of the WTA’s work with the ATP and looked forward to further collaboration to help strengthen the sport.
As part of its rebranding, the women’s governing body will reveal a new logo on Wednesday and launch a ‘WTA For The Game’ https://www.wtatennis.com/videos/1922112/for-something-bigger-than-the-game campaign, featuring top current players, to better connect with fans.
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by xx)