The WTA is implementing a new schedule for next year, the goal of which is to increase prize money but require mandatory events and initiate a zero tolerance policy on withdrawals. From ESPN's story:
Tour prize money will rise from $63.6 million in 2006 to $84.4 million next season, but it will come at a price with a more regimented system and greater accountability.
Under Road Map 2010, 26 Tier 1 and Tier 2 events will be combined into 20 Premiere tournaments with players committed to play in at least 10.
Four $4.5 million tournaments in Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Beijing will be mandatory for all players who qualify.
Below the mandatory events will be five $2 million stops in Canada, Dubai, Rome, Cincinnati and Tokyo, of which the top-ranked players must play at least four. The WTA has committed to having at least seven of the world's top 10 players at each of these events.
Players will complete their schedules by playing in at least one or two $700,000 events.
"They asked to put the best events in the right dates and we've done all of that," Allaster said. "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," Allaster said.
The WTA also laid out a list of penalties designed to hurt players where it matters most, in the pocket and the rankings.
There will be zero tolerance for withdrawals from tournaments players have committed to. If a player 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.
Uh, that's all fine and dandy. But seriously? Zero tolerance even for withdrawals due to injury? And how will the tour deal with the Williamses legitimate refusal to play Indian Wells, which will become a mandatory event? It's fine that the tour wants to put the burden on the top players to attend events to get fans and sponsors, but if I were the Williamses, Sharapova, or Ivanovic, I'd buck the system. Money they've got. It's Slams and history that they want. At the end of the day, the WTA needs them more than they need the money. If the WTA can't get it's top players to fully back this schedule, they run the very real risk of shooting themselves in the foot and making a mockery of the rankings system, which is already under scrutiny. This system would guarantee that the #1 player coming out of 2009 will be Jelena Jankovic, while the "true #1s" will all be ranked between three and eight, and they'll be the ones that win the Slams.
Maybe I'm being too cynical (shocker!) and maybe this plan will work. But it seems awfully heavy-handed and if I were a top player I'd tell them to take their fines and their rankings computer and go...well, you get the idea.