Austin Powers
by Sean Randall | December 15th, 2005
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Tracy AustinFormer WTA star and current tennis talking head Tracy Austin says that the women’s circuit is just too long. Wow, what an original thought. I’ve never heard that one before…

Here’s what I haven’t heard: HOW EXACTLY TO SHORTEN THE SEASON. Enough of the “season is too long, shorten it so there will be less injuries” argument. Instead, can someone please come up with a plan on just how to shorten it?

Since Tracy won’t do it, I’ll take a crack. How about removing all Tier IV events. That is, any event offering less than $170,000 in prize money you are history. Does anyone outside of the city it’s played in actually care? Probably not. According to the 2005 WTA guide, there were 13 such events. If Larry Scott & Co. simply passed a rule upping the prize money minimum from $140,000 to $170,000 that would certainly wipe out a few financially strapped events and allow for a couple more off weeks. Sure the tournament would be upset, but hey, economics. If ya can’t meet the minimum prize money, you are gone. Sorry!

Another way to get rid of tournaments is to set an attendance minimum and zap those events that cannot meet it.

Let’s say the Tier III $170,000 event in Quebec City with Maria Sharapova only draws 15,000 spectators for the week. If the attendance minimum for a Tier III was set at 20,000, the WTA would gain some leverage asking that event be gone for not making that minimum attendance. Instead of the WTA looking bad for getting rid of the tournament, the tournament in the end did it to themselves. Ha! Tough luck Quebec, time to drop down to challenger ball!

Either way, once a tournament is gone, please don’t add a replacement just to pad the schedule. I know the image of a “shrinking” tour is not good for the sponsors, but one has to find the right equilibrium or price point. At least that what I was taught in economics, and isn’t that in the end what it comes down to anyway?


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