New WTA boss vows to ease scheduling

Newly appointed Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) chief executive Steve Simon has vowed “fundamental changes” to the sport’s gruelling schedule following a rash of injuries among top players.

Speaking at the WTA Finals in Singapore Simon siad he’ll consult players on how to alter the schedule to protect their health and keep the tour a “premium product”.

Simon, the former tournament director of the prestigious Indian Wells tournament, has replaced Stacey Allaster who stepped down in September.

“Clearly one of the big issues that we have right now is dealing with … getting our athletes through the season healthy,” Simon said.

“We have to look at our structure and look at what we do to give the athlete the best chance to be as close to 100 per cent at the end of the year as they can.”

Simon hinted that next month’s new WTA Elite Trophy in China is one event that could be rescheduled. He added that changing the calendar will be controversial because it will affect investments and traditions.

The busy final weeks of the season, which include a rising number of events in Asia, has been marked by a series of injuries and retirements.

“To do some of the things we have to do, we have to make some fundamental changes in the calendar and our approach to it,” he said.

“I think we have to take an honest and open look at that. That’ll probably be the first thing that begins to create controversy and angst among the group as we have those types of conversations.”

The WTA Finals, involving the top eight players, will be followed on November 2 by the inaugural WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai, featuring players ranked nine-20, with one wildcard.

China alone has eight WTA events this year amid explosive growth in the sport following the career of the now retired Li Na, Asia’s most successful tennis player with two Grand Slams to her name.

World No.1 Serena Williams pulled out of Singapore to “heal” her body and restore motivation after losing the US Open final in September.

Second-ranked Simona Halep, the WTA Finals’ top seed, was forced to retire in her opening match at the China Open in Beijing due to an ankle injury.

Petra Kvitova, Garbine Muguruza, Victoria Azarenka and Belinda Bencic are also among the players who have retired from matches in recent weeks.

Tennis great Martina Navratilova, who will hold talks with Simon, said “the number of injuries withdrawals is still too high”.

“You got to think long-term. Maybe it’s great to have all these tournaments but at the end of the day, if you don’t have enough players playing, you got a problem,” she said.

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