Tennis

New tennis tournament for women next year

A WTA event, similar to the ATP Cup, is on the cards following top players' gripes

Australian tennis officials said yesterday they were working on a "new concept" for women's tennis, after top players complained they were being shunted aside to make way for the men's ATP Cup.

Brisbane International tournament director Mark Handley said tennis in Australia was in a "transitional period" following the introduction of the ATP Cup, whose inaugural edition is being played in Brisbane, Sydney and Perth.

Maria Sharapova and Sloane Stephens have strongly criticised scheduling at the WTA Brisbane International, also being played at the Queensland Tennis Centre, saying women's players had been unfairly relegated to the outside courts.

"It feels like a little bit of a second-hand event," said Sharapova, who has been handed an Australian Open wildcard as she attempts to resurrect her career after an injury-plagued 2019 saw her slip down the rankings to 147.

"There are a lot of girls who are deserving of that centre-court spot," the five-time Grand Slam champion said.

Fellow Major winner Stephens fumed: "It was what the ATP (men's tour) wanted - they got what they wanted, girls to the side, that's kind of how it always is."

Tournament director Handley, while not directly addressing the concerns, said Tennis Australia was looking at a new format for the women next year.

"We are working with the tours to create an Australian summer of tennis that is an incredible global launch to the international tennis season," Handley said.

"The ATP Cup is the first step in that and now we are in talks with the WTA about a new concept and are really excited about the potential in this space."

Initial responses were positive, with former US Open runner-up Madison Keys saying she would welcome a women's version of the ATP Cup.

"I definitely love the idea of adding a team event into the season," she said.

"It would be really fun. We all love playing Fed Cup and being able to do that during the season for a WTA event would be really fun."

Sixteen-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic also said a women's version of the ATP Cup would work well.

"Why not? This kind of format is something that would bring benefits as well and kind of positive outcomes for the WTA tour," he said, after Serbia made it three wins from three in the round-robin stage with a 2-1 win over Chile.

DJOKOVIC STAYS UNDEFEATED

"Of course, I don't know what are the numbers and how is that going to affect their schedule, but it would make sense, considering that we have the ATP Cup also played in Australia.

"They're playing the WTA tour here in Brisbane... so most of the top female players are in Australia already, so it would make sense."

Djokovic had an easy outing in Brisbane, strolling past Chile's Cristian Garin 6-3, 6-3 to stay undefeated in the new year and to ensure Serbia will travel to Sydney for the knockout rounds.

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal had to twice fight back from a break down to beat Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 to seal Spain's spot in the final eight.

Hosts Australia, Britain, Argentina and Russia have also qualified. - AFP, REUTERS

Tennis