No one is bigger than the game, says Melissa Pine
WTA does not tolerate doping; Azarenka's comeback exciting
So much has happened in tennis since the start of the new season and the sport has made headlines over the last few months.
Maria Sharapova's admission that she tested positive for the banned drug Meldonium made news around the world.
Maria is an amazing athlete who inspires many and her inspiration has been great for women's tennis.
That being said, she tested positive for Meldonium under the International Tennis Federation's Tennis Anti-Doping Programme (TADP) and no athlete is above the rules.
Nothing good can come out of an athlete testing positive - not for the athlete, the sport, nor any parties involved.
However, having a strong and independent anti-doping programme is fundamental in safeguarding the integrity and quality of our sport.
The TADP is an effective one that is compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency's practices and those who do not abide by them will be detected.
Maria is a person of the highest professional standard, and as she acknowledged herself, it is every player's responsibility to know what goes into his or her body and if it is permissible.
The ITF, Women's Tennis Association (WTA), Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and each of the Grand Slams formed the unified TADP in 1992, which is employed across our sport, effectively using all available testing and scientific analysis methods.
Players have to adhere to a stringent Whereabouts rule where they go through urine and blood testing in and out of competition and have a biological passport.
By and large, the top players are all tested more than in previous years, including more frequent out-of-competition testing and blood testing.
We continually review our programme with the input of independent experts with the goal of supporting its evolution towards its betterment.
We provide a platform for player education on the details of the programme, encouraging them to be knowledgeable and seek answers when needed. We view it very positively that players take an active interest in this and in ensuring our sport remains clean.
In 1973, the WTA was officially founded on the value of equality, at a time when the women were being paid much less than the men.
Billie Jean King and the rest of the "Original 9" had broken away, signed a US$1 contract to set up and play on the Virginia Slims Circuit in 1971.
Two years later, the WTA was established and has been supporting female players ever since.
Had the discrepancy persisted, talented young girls would not been able to craft a career out of playing tennis and the women's game would not have grown to be what it is today.
At present, there is a commitment to equal prize money in all four Grand Slams, the WTA Finals and the biggest ATP-WTA Tour-level combined tournaments with the same level of player in each field.
This is the vision that the "Original 9" first had over four decades ago and the WTA will always continue to push the boundaries for women's tennis and strive for equality.
The women's game has always been exciting and over the years, so many of our champions have become global phenomena.
Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams are just some of the names that have become inspirations beyond the game of tennis.
Serena has been our No. 1 on six separate occasions and lately, has occupied the position since February 2013.
The 34-year-old American has been so dominant for so long, but over the last couple of months, Victoria Azarenka has served notice that she could be set to challenge Serena this year.
We are delighted to see Victoria start the 2016 season so strongly.
She is not just a great player who has won two Grand Slam titles but is also a strong supporter of the sport, so it is wonderful to see such a champion back at the top of her game.
She had a challenging time in 2014 when she struggled with a foot injury, missed about five months of competition, and then ended the year outside of the top 30.
She improved her ranking to No. 22 in 2015 but in 2016, she has already shown why she became world No. 1 four years ago.
She won the Brisbane International, reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and then achieved a rare "Sunshine Double" (back-to-back wins at the Premier Mandatory events in Indian Wells and Miami), a feat only two others had previously accomplished (Kim Clijsters in 2015; Steffi Graf in 1994 and 1996). Victoria's stunning 24-1 win-loss performance has put her at No. 5 in the world and we are excited to see her right at the top of the Road to Singapore Leaderboard.
She has had some strong WTA Finals appearances in the past, making it all the way to the final in 2011.
Victoria is striving to make her first appearance in Singapore, so fans here can look forward to the possibility of welcoming her in October.
Serena will be fired up to come back even stronger after losing in the Australian Open final to Angelique Kerber and the BNP Paribas Open final to Victoria.
We often forget that Serena is human like the rest of us.
In fact, it is good for fans and for the sport that there are world-class players like Victoria, Angelique, Simona Halep and others who are stepping up to challenge her.
It only goes to prove the depth of the women's game.
The Road to Singapore is still long and I am excited to see how the rest of the journey unfolds.
- Canadian Melissa Pine is a former NCAA player and a columnist for The New Paper. Melissa is the Vice-President of WTA Asia-Pacific and also the Tournament Director of the WTA Finals. Held in Singapore from 2014 to 2018, the 10-day tennis extravaganza showcases the world's top eight singles players and doubles teams competing for a grand prize of US$7 million. For more information on the event, visit www.wtafinals.com