The WTA updated its 2013 calendar and made significant changes for 2014, when the tour will solidify its push into Chinese markets with two new tournaments, as well as a new event in Rio de Janiero. The tour also announced a 10 percent increase in prize money this year, from $53.3 million to $58.7 million, not including the Grand Slams.
Five thoughts on the announcement:
1. Is the WTA relying too much on Li Na? The WTA has made no secrets about its desire to tap the Chinese market, establishing a Beijing office in 2008 and upgrading the Beijing tournament to Premier status in 2009. It hit the jackpot in 2011, when Li Na became the first Chinese player to win a Slam, capturing the French Open. With that, the doors to the Chinese market swung open. The tour continued its expansion this year with a new event in Shenzhen, won by Li, and it will continue its expansion in 2014.
The Toray Pan Pacific Open will end its 30-year run in Tokyo and relocate next year to Wuhan, China, Li’s hometown. Wuhan will retain the tournament’s Premier 5 status, promising seven of the year-end top 10-ranked players competing for over $2 million. The end of the Tokyo tournament, which spent years as the WTA’s primary outpost in Asia, is illustrative of the global seachange. With the relocation, Japan will only have one tournament on the calendar, an International-level event in Osaka.
In addition to the new tournament in Wuhan, the WTA will relocate the International tournament in Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong, marking the first time a tournament will be held there since 1993. But we’re not done yet. This year the WTA adds three $125,000 tournaments in China, in Suzhou, Ningbo and Nanjing. On the whole, the changes mean five of the 18 tournaments in the Asia-Pacific region will be held in China, and three of the six WTA 125 tournaments will also be in China.