The WTA has approved changes to the 2020 WTA Rule Book which will allow more flexibility in player scheduling and a restructuring of the year-end bonus pool to reward participation and success on the WTA Tour.
Starting in 2020, all players will be subject to the same tournament commitment rules, which outline a minimum tournament commitment in a season. Prior to the 2020 changes, commitment rules only applied to the "Top 10", defined by the year-end Top 10 of the previous year.
The new Player Commitment Rules are as follows:
- A player must play all Premier Mandatory tournaments (Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Beijing), if accepted at the main draw entry deadline.
- A player must play four of the five Premier 5 events (Doha/Dubai, Rome, Canada, Cincinnati, Wuhan) if accepted at the main draw entry deadline. If a player is able to gain entry into all five, she cannot exclude the same tournament in consecutive years.
- A player must play two Premier events per year if she would have been accepted at the main draw entry deadline. If she would have only been accepted into one, then she must play one.
- Players not fulfilling the above criteria will receive a zero-pointer for each tournament missed.
- All players’ rankings must include their two best Premier 5 results (if played).
- Years of Service Rule applies for players over the age of 34. A player over 34-years-old will not receive a zero (0) ranking point result for any Premier 5 or Premier Commitment Tournament she does not play during that season.
In addition to a change in commitment rules, the qualifying protocols for the year-end Bonus Pool has also been restructured. The year-end Bonus Pool was previously paid to the previous year’s year-end Top 10, provided the players met their commitment obligations the following year.
In 2020, the WTA Bonus Pool will be paid to ten singles players who finish in the Top 10 of the "Bonus Pool Standings", which is based on a player's singles performance in Main Draw or qualifying at the following 12 WTA events in that year:
- 4 Premier Mandatory Tournaments*
- 4 Premier 5 Tournaments*
- 2 Premier 700 Tournaments*
- Best 2 other WTA Premier or WTA International results
*other results cannot be substituted
"In the prior system using where we basically based everything off of the year-end Top 10 list, the challenge with that is, as you know and follow, the rankings of these players change dramatically from November to June," WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon told WTA Insider. "So you have all of your tournaments in June through the end of the year that are basically promoting they have Top 10 player commitments but you may have several of those players that aren't even Top 10 players anymore, and we have new ones that have come on into the Top 10 and they're not being recognized as Top 10.
"So I think this system provides the fans better transparency in the actual quality of the product that is being delivered at the time. And it allows us to also promote and celebrate the players that are playing well and have entered this circle of Top 10, Top 20 players, whereas before they might not have been recognized because everything was based upon a system that was six to nine months old and it just wasn't current.
Sloane Stephens, who serves on the WTA Players Council, applauded the changes, which now treat all players equally while also easing the burden on players who finish a season in the Top 10.
"Top 10 commitments have been a little bit tough," Player Council representative Sloane Stephens said. "When you have a great year, you're not necessarily going to have another great year right behind it. That does not happen very often.
"I think the year that you play great you should definitely be rewarded for it, you shouldn't be rewarded after. You played great this year, here's your money. That's it."
The rules regarding tournament withdrawals have also been adjusted in an effort to support player health. Instead of requiring a medical reason for a player's pre-tournament withdrawal, a player is now allowed two "Excused Withdrawals", which she may use for any reason without any supporting documents unless the basis for the withdrawal will keep the player from competing in the next event that she is scheduled to play.
- Players may use their Excused Withdrawal up to the start of their first match if they are on site, or up until the qualifying sign-in deadline if they are off-site and playing qualifying. Players may also now withdraw while still playing a previous tournament
- Players are also allowed two “Main Draw Prize Money Withdrawals” - available for onsite withdrawals after the start of Qualifying (as in 2019). A Prize Money Withdrawal allows a player to withdraw before playing their opening round and still receive their first-round prize money.
- Late Withdrawal Fines have been reduced.
"I think being able to say, I just needed a break, is a lot more healthy than trying to make up some random injury that you don't have," Stephens said.
"I think a lot of it is, I need a break, I've played too much, I'm tired. You can't put tired on the form. So I think being able to just be like, I'm just not going to play this week, I think it will help a lot of girls out so they don't have that pressure of having to go or getting a fine or making up something.
"So I think that will help a lot of the girls."
To review the full WTA Rulebook, click here.