About the WTA
The WTA is the global leader in women's professional sport, with more than 2,500 players representing 92 nations competing for a record $129 million in prize money at the WTA's 55 events and four Grand Slams in 33 countries. Nearly 5.4 million fans attended women's tennis events in 2014, with millions more watching on television and digital channels around the world. The 2015 WTA competitive season concludes with the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global from October 23-November 1, 2015 and the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai, China, from November 2-8, 2015. Further information on the WTA can be found at www.wtatennis.com; facebook.com/WTA and twitter.com/WTA.
THE WTA STORY
Billie Jean King and her group of eight other renegades were revolutionary by 1970s standards. A full two years ahead of the passage of Title IX in the United States, they envisioned a better future for women's tennis.
In September 1970, the birth of women's professional tennis was launched when nine players signed $1 contracts with World Tennis publications publisher Gladys Heldman to compete in a newly created Virginia Slims Series. The Original 9, as they were called, included King, Rosie Casals, Nancy Richey, Kerry Melville, Peaches Bartkowicz, Kristy Pigeon, Judy Dalton, Valerie Ziegenfuss and Julie Heldman.
Heldman, along with her friend Joe Cullman from Philip Morris and several others, provided women's professional tennis the opportunity the Original 9 and so many others sought. The inaugural $7,500 Virginia Slims of Houston was established on September 23, 1970 and it was the event that became the groundbreaker for all others.
1971 - The Virginia Slims Series debuted with 19 tournaments, with a total purse of $309,100 on offer in the United States and Billie Jean King became the first female athlete to cross the six-figure mark in season earnings
1973 - King founded the Women's Tennis Association, uniting all of women's professional tennis in one tour. The WTA was borne out of a meeting held in a room at the Gloucester Hotel in London the week before Wimbledon; the US Open, for the first time, offered equal prize money to the men and women.
1974 - The WTA signed the first television broadcast contract in the history of the Association (with CBS).
1975 - The Virginia Slims Series was streamlined to an 11-week Tour of the US, concluding at the end of March. The first official rankings appeared and were used to determine acceptance into tournaments.
1976 - Colgate assumed sponsorship of the Tour events from April to November for four years; at the Palm Springs event, Chris Evert became the first female athlete to cross $1 million in career earnings.
1977 - New York's Madison Square Garden hosted the season-ending Championships for the first time.
1979 - Avon, replacing Virginia Slims as winter circuit sponsor, offered a record $100,000 to the winner of the season-ending Avon Championship.
1980 - By now over 250 women were playing professionally all over the world in a Tour consisting of 47 global events, offering a total of $7.2 million in prize money.
1982 - Martina Navratilova became the first woman to earn over $1 million in a season.
1983 - Virginia Slims returned, replacing Avon and Toyota to sponsor the first unified Circuit of more than $10 million.
1984 - Navratilova received a $1-million bonus from the ITF for winning Roland Garros and thus holding all four Grand Slam singles crowns at the same time, having won Wimbledon and the US and Australian Opens in 1983 (Steffi Graf would later do so in 1988 and 1993-94); Navratilova crossed the $2-million mark in season earnings, more than men's No.1 John McEnroe; the Australian Open joined the US Open in offering the women's event equal prize money (temporarily did not between 1996-2000).
1986 - Navratilova passed $10 million in career earnings by winning the US Indoors.
1988 - Graf became the second woman in the Open Era to complete a calendar year Grand Slam, and made it a 'Golden Grand Slam' by winning the Olympic title in Seoul.
1990 - Another Philip Morris company, Kraft General Foods, replaced Slims after 15 years of loyal sponsorship; the Tour's prize purse increased to $23 million and concluded the season at Madison Square Garden, in New York, with the first-ever $1-million tournament in women's sports; Navratilova won a record ninth Wimbledon singles title.
1991 - Monica Seles became only the second player to pass the $2-million mark in season earnings and would better men's leader Stefan Edberg in '91 and '92.
1995 - The WTA Players Association merged with the Women's Tennis Council to form the WTA Tour, and after Seles' inspiring return to the sport in the summer, the Corel software corporation came on as title sponsor at the end of the year; prize money of the season-ending Championships doubled to $2 million.
1997 - On March 30, Martina Hingis became the fastest player ever to win $1 million in a season and a day later became the youngest-ever world No. 1, ending Graf's record reign (for men and women) of 377 total weeks.
1998 - By winning Leipzig, Graf eclipsed Navratilova's all-time prize money record of $20.3 million.
1999 - After 17 years, Graf retired from the Tour with 22 Grand Slam singles titles and a record $21,895,277 in career earnings.
2000 - Sanex bodycare products came on board as the Tour's title sponsor for three years; after 22 consecutive years, Madison Square Garden hosted its last season-ending Championships.
2001 - The Australian Open returned to equal prize money and overall Tour prize money increased to $50 million in 63 events, including the first-ever Middle Eastern Tour events in Doha, Qatar, and Dubai, UAE; Munich hosted the season-ending Championships; Jennifer Capriati capped a fairytale return to the sport by winning her first two career Grand Slam titles and rising to No.1 in October.
2002 - The Williams sisters fulfilled their father's prophecy by becoming the No.1 players in the world, first Venus in February, then Serena in July. Serena won three majors, defeating her older sister in each final; Los Angeles hosted the season-ending Championships for the first time since 1976.
2003 - The "Get In Touch With Your Feminine Side" marketing campaign was launched, the Tour's most significant branding effort in its history; Serena Williams won the Australian Open to complete the "Serena Slam" while Kim Clijsters became the first female athlete to earn $4 million in season earnings.
2004 - Dubai Duty Free became Presenting Sponsor of the Middle East/Asia-Pacific region, while Whirlpool came on board as European Premier Sponsor; the season will be remembered as the year of the Russian emergence, with Anastasia Myskina, Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova claiming their nation's first Grand Slam singles titles.
2005 - Sony Ericsson became the Tour's worldwide title sponsor in a landmark $88-million, six-year deal, the largest and most comprehensive sponsorship in the history of tennis and of women's professional sport. As winner of the US Open Series, Clijsters earns double prize money for winning the US Open; her $2.2 million prize cheque was the single biggest payday in women's sports and in any official tennis event, men's or women's.
2006 - Worldwide title sponsor Sony Ericsson unveiled several game-changing innovations designed to make the sport more fan-friendly and interactive (such as electronic line-calling and on-court coaching); a landmark partnership with USANA Health Sciences and Travelex were announced, along with the extension of the Tour's partnership with Eurosport/Regency into 2011, becoming the largest TV deal in the history of women's tennis; European Premier Sponsor Whirlpool extended its agreement for three years; Navratilova ended her 32-year career in which she amassed more titles than any other female or male player; a global partnership with UNESCO was announced to advance gender equality and promote women's leadership in society.
2007 - The Board of Directors approved the Roadmap circuit reform, the most sweeping changes in our history which will include a shorter season, fan-friendly structure and 40 percent increase in Tour prize money (from 2009); the historic achievement of equal prize money at Roland Garros and Wimbledon meant that following a 30-year campaign that began with King, all four majors offered parity for the first time; after two successful years in Madrid, the Tour announced the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships would move to Doha, Qatar, for 2008-2010 and to Istanbul, Turkey, from 2011-13; Justine Henin became the first woman to earn $5 million in a single season.
2008 - Celebrating its 35th anniversary, the WTA unveiled the largest advertising campaign in its history, with the Looking For A Hero? campaign launched on the eve of Wimbledon. The WTA's Asia-Pacific headquarters opened in Beijing, China, complementing offices in St Petersburg, FL-USA and London, England. Dubai Duty Free announced an extension of its sponsorship through 2011. Henin became the first player to retire while ranked world No.1, saying goodbye to tennis at the age of 25. A record five women held the No.1 ranking during the season (Henin, Sharapova, Ivanovic, Jankovic, S.Williams), while Doha, Qatar, made a successful debut as host of the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships.
2009 - Off the court, Stacey Allaster succeeded Larry Scott as chairman and CEO of the WTA Tour, while on court the historic Roadmap circuit reforms became a reality. Serena Williams secured the year-end No.1 during the WTA Championships - Doha, while she became the first player in history to earn more than $6 million in prize money in a single season. Caroline Wozniacki reached a Tour-leading eight finals, winning three of them. The 53 titles were won by 34 different players, producing 13 first-time champions and proving the depth of women's tennis. Clijsters stormed out of retirement and won the US Open in only her third tournament back.
2010 - The WTA celebrated the 40th anniversary of women's professional tennis, marking four decades of unprecedented growth and an increase in annual prize money from $309,100 to $85 million. Serena Williams collected two more Grand Slam titles but it was Wozniacki who secured the year-end No.1 ranking after picking up six titles. Clijsters was crowned champion at the WTA Championships - Doha after picking up her third, and second consecutive, US Open singles crown. Henin made a comeback from retirement and soared to No.12, while Francesca Schiavone became the first Italian to win a Grand Slam title with victory at Roland Garros. Sony Ericsson renewed its sponsorship with a two-year extension, while new sponsorship deals were signed with Oriflame, as official cosmetics partner, Jetstar airlines and Peak as tennis apparel provider in Asia-Pacific.
2011 - Clijsters began the season by winning her fourth Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, which was followed by three first-time Grand Slam champions: Li Na became the first player from Asia to win a Grand Slam singles title at Roland Garros; Petra Kvitova broke through at Wimbledon, one of her six titles during the season; and Samantha Stosur dominated at the US Open, defeating Serena Williams in the final. For the first time in WTA history, 10 different nations were represented in the world's Top 10 rankings. The TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships made a successful debut in Istanbul, Turkey, with more than 88,000 fans in attendance. Off court, the WTA launched its global advertising campaign 'Strong is Beautiful', featuring 40 players, which will be unveiled in more than 80 markets by the end of 2012. BNP Paribas and its Turkish partner, TEB, signed on as the title sponsor of the Championships, and Rolex became the official timekeeper of the prestigious season-ending event. Jetstar was announced as the WTA's official airline partner in Asia-Pacific, while sponsorship renewals were secured with European cosmetics brand Oriflame, and global vitamin and health supplement manufacturer USANA. The Board of Directors extended Allaster's CEO contract through 2017, which will see her become the second-longest serving CEO in WTA history.
2012 - Victoria Azarenka became the fourth first-time Grand Slam winner in a row with her maiden victory at the Australian Open, duly becoming the 21st woman to hold the world No.1 singles ranking. Sharapova captured her first Roland Garros title to become the sixth woman in the Open Era to complete a career Grand Slam, returning to No.1 for four weeks, but the second half of the season belonged to Serena Williams, who defeated Agnieszka Radwanska for a fifth Wimbledon singles title and again to seal her career Golden Slam with gold at the London Olympics; Serena also combined with Venus to win the doubles at both events at the All England Club. Serena went on to edge Azarenka for a fourth US Open crown, her 15th Grand Slam title, and capped the season by winning the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul, again at Sharapova's expense. The Italian duo of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci emerged as a force in doubles, winning Roland Garros and the US Open, but it was the Russian pair of Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova who prevailed at Istanbul. After three years in Bali, the Tournament of Champions, the season finale of the International Series, moved to Sofia, Bulgaria, with Petrova again triumphant. The WTA also said farewell to two popular stars of women's tennis in multiple Grand Slam champion, Clijsters, and former World No.1 doubles player, Gisela Dulko. Clijsters called time on her illustrious career at the US Open and leaves the sport and her legion of fans with memories of her four Grand Slam titles, 20 weeks as world No.1 and engaging persona both on and off the court. Off court, for the first time since the 1980s, all nine members of the trailblazing Original 9 were reunited during the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, while preparations began for celebrations to mark the WTA's 40th anniversary, to be celebrated in 2013.
2013 - Founded by Billie Jean King in 1973, the WTA recognized four decades of growth and achievement with a season-long campaign named 40 LOVE. The campaign showcased the pioneers of the game and the current stars that all contributed to the ongoing success of women's professional tennis and the WTA. In a year celebrating the growth of the tour, Serena Williams enjoyed a record-setting season with personal-bests in titles (11 - most since 1997), match win percentage (.951 - best since 1999), prize money ($12,385,572 - third highest in tennis history, men or women), match wins (74) and the longest match win streak (34) since 2000. Williams continued her climb up the Grand Slam record charts improving her overall total to 17 Grand Slam singles titles by winning Roland Garros and the US Open before capping her record-setting season by winning the title at the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in the event's final year in Istanbul. The year-end event will move to Singapore for its next five editions (2014-18). Williams ended the year as world No.1 for the third time in her career, followed by No.2 Victoria Azarenka, who defended her Australian Open title. Li Na finished the 2013 season ranked No.3, the highest ranking obtained by a Asian player - men or women. Four Chinese women finished the year in the Top 60 (also No.43 Peng Shuai, No.52 Zhang Shuai, No.53 Zheng Jie), the most Chinese women in a year-end WTA ranking. On the doubles front Peng combined with Chinese Taipei's Hsieh Su-Wei to win five titles including Wimbledon and the WTA Championships. 2013 saw the emergence of Generation Next with 16 players born in 1993 (or later) finishing in the year-end Top 100, including eight in the Top 50. Eugenie Bouchard, who reached QF or better at five of her 17 main draw events in 2013, was voted 2013 Newcomer Of The Year by international tennis media. Meanwhile rising stars Madison Keys, Laura Robson, Sloane Stephens and Elina Svitolina ascended the rankings finishing the year in the Top 50. With players competing for a record-setting $118 million in prize money, 25 players finished the year with at least $1 million in prize money (previous record was 2010, 19).