I love you. I really, really do.
But we need to talk.
The WTA year is technically already over. How do I know that? Well, the WTA Year End Championships featuring the top players on tour has already been completed. A Champion has been crowned. All that is supposed to be left is Fed Cup, a team competition. Then… off-season!!
BUT NO. There’s more. Let’s look at your website:
The fourth annual Qatar Airways Tournament Of Champions Sofia is scheduled for October 30 to November 4, 2012 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Featuring top WTA players and next-generation champions competing in an eight-woman, round robin singles format (with the singles semifinals on semifinals day and the final on finals day), it offers $750,000 in prize money.
Six players who have captured at least one International tournament during the year and who are not participating in singles at the season-ending WTA Championships will qualify for the event, plus two wildcards.
Wait..what? First, I’d like to highlight this line: “with the singles semifinals on semifinals day and the final on finals day.”
Second, I’d like to break this down. Eight players, who are NOT the best players in the world, get a chance to compete at a tournament for lots of money and lots of points after the season is finished. The only requirement is that the members of the field be International Event Title holders. Except, of course, TWO of the players in the tournament are wildcards. Therefore, 1/4 of the field in the Tournament of Champions is not even a tournament champion.
Now, let’s look at these wildcards. Since the event (which was founded in 2009) started giving them out in 2010, the following players have been awarded wildcards: Peng Shuai, Ana Ivanovic, Daniela Hantuchova, Ana Ivanovic, Kimiko Date Krumm, Maria Kirilenko, and Tsevetana Piroknova (in 2010 Ana Ivanovic was offered a wildcard, but then she won the tournament at Linz so was able to qualify directly. Her wildcard went to Kimiko.)
(I’m going to let you draw the comparisons for yourself.)
What’s wrong with wildcards? Well, usually nothing. At regular tour events they totally serve their purpose. But the Tournament of Champions, which is already lacking credibility to put it mildly, having A QUARTER OF THEIR FIELD NOT EVEN BE CHAMPIONS is absurd. Absolutely. Positively. Absurd.
The reason why this is so absurd is because of the amount of points available at this pseudo event that takes place after the Year-End Championships.
In 2009, Aravane Rezai won her first International Event title in Strasbourg and therefore qualified for the Tournament of Champions event in Bali. She was ranked No. 44 going into the tournament, which, it bears repeating, took place after the Year-End Championships.
That year Rezai won the event. For winning the event she got 600 points. SIX. HUNDRED. POINTS. This boosted her from No. 44 in the rankings to No. 26 in the rankings. It also accounted for over 30 % of her rankings points at the end of the year. This was her road to the title:
Ana Ivanovic won the tournament in both 2010 and 2011. (Remember, both years she was awarded a wildcard!) I suppose the WTA realized that 600 points was a bit extreme, so in 2010 and 2011 the winner of the event only got 375 points. The event also shrunk in size, and only required three victories to take the title. THREE.
In 2010 Ivanovic’s victory launched her from No. 24 to No. 17 in the rankings–quite a significant leap. The 375 points were 15% of her yearly total. In 2011 the victory took her from No. 26 to No. 22 in the rankings, and accounted for 17% of her 2011 points. That is just a very high percentage. And honestly, it makes me angry.
Because allowing this many points and this much money to be up for grabs in an event with absolutely zero significance that takes place after the WTA season has technically ended is just embarrassing.
I have nothing against the players who take advantage of the event or the host cities of the event or even the structure of the event. It’s produced some nice moments, and I’m all for the round-robin format. But it is just not working the way it is now. It is undermining the entire WTA Rankings system.
If the event is to continue, it needs to either: 1) be moved to a different time in the season; 2) revamp the qualification system; or 3) turn completely into an exhibition–money only. No points.
Stop getting in your own way, WTA. It’s been a fabulous year. I’m really excited for Fed Cup to finish it. But it’s hard to stomach Wozniacki and Pironkova getting one final chance to surge up the rankings while everyone else is left at home.
Time to go back to the good-old days when the Year-End Championships actually signaled the end of the year.