The Regulation of the Game – ATP & WTA
With the inordinate success of professional tennis in the open era came the acrimony and rivalry of the various ‘pro’ circuits that were trying to control the game. In 1973 there were no fewer than four so-called professional circuits!
Each of these tours – the World Championship Tennis (WCT) Tour, the Grand Prix circuit, the US indoor circuit and the European Spring circuit – tried there level best to cajole the few professionals to play exclusively for them and this led to a number of the top male tennis stars not competing in the grand slams.
Over the years, some of the tours joined forces and others fell away into the shadows of obscurity but, by the mid-1980’s, the Grand Prix Circuit had endured and was considered the legitimate professional tennis tour for men. It was ably governed by the MTC or Men’s Tennis Council, the precursor of the current ATP or Association of Tennis Professionals!
In 1990 the Grand Prix Circuit was effectively replaced by the ATP and the tour was broken up into different levels according to match importance and prize money up for grabs:
- Super Nine events, now known as the Masters Series
- International Series Gold
- International Series
As of the year 2000, only the four grand slam events and the Masters Series became mandatory for the players and all these events count towards the annual player rankings. From 2009 all ATP tournaments will be re-classified as 1000 series – previously the Masters Series, 500 series and 250 series.
The legendary American super star, Billie Jean King, was one of the prime motivators behind the founding of the women’s equivalent of the ATP, the Women’s Tennis Association, or WTA in 1973.
It has a similar structure and purpose to the ATP and acts as the only legitimate organising body of professional tennis. The WTA is also made up of various tournaments according to the prize money and importance of the event with the grand slams leading the way.
There are then four tiers of competition with Tier 1 matching the men’s Masters Series. All these tournaments have points available to the champion and these points make up each player’s annual ranking.
- Tier I – made up of 9 events with minimum prize money of $1 340 000
- Tier II – made up of 14 events with minimum prize money of $600 000
- Tier III – made up of 18 events with minimum prize money of $175 000
- Tier IV – made up of 13 events with minimum prize money of $145 000