World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty attempts to become the first local woman to make the Australian Open final in four decades when she faces Sofia Kenin in the semi-finals on Thursday.
Keep up with all the action from the premier global women’s sport as the stars of the WTA compete across the continents.
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Tennis is perhaps the only sport where the women’s game is as thoroughly professionalised, played to as high a standard of excellence and as widely available to watch as the men’s. Since it was founded in 1973 by Billie Jean King and the other members of the ‘Original Nine’, the WTA – Women’s Tennis Association – has boasted some of the biggest sports stars in the world among its players, from King, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert through to Steffi Graf and Monica Seles and contemporary superstars Maria Sharapova and Venus and Serena Williams.
Our team of tennis experts know the WTA’s tournaments and players inside out and this is our locus for tournament schedules, match predictions and previews and outright tips throughout the WTA season.
Beginning in January with events in Brisbane, Auckland and Shenzhen, the WTA tournament calendar rings in the New Year and runs without a pause through to October and the elite WTA Finals Shenzhen, taking in over 50 tournaments on the way. Tournaments are organised into categories based on draw size and the ranking points and prize money available to the competing players. At the top are the four Grand Slams, the most popular and prestigious events in the sport, at which 128-player fields compete fiercely for ranking points (2,000 awarded to the champion), prize money often in excess of US $2 million, and glory. To win a Grand Slam is to earn yourself a special place in tennis history. Just ask the great Serena Williams, who has won more Grand Slams than any other player in the sport’s professional era – and thanks to tennis’s history of equality and progressiveness, a female Grand Slam champion earns as much prize money as her male counterpart.
WTA Tour Key Events
The WTA season peaks around the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, but there is far more to it than these events. The highest tier of WTA tournament is the Premier Mandatory showcase events taking place combined with men’s tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami in March, Madrid in May and Beijing in October. These tournaments offer prize money of US$6.5 million (equal to the men’s purse) and feature 96- or 64-player draws with 1,000 ranking points available to the winner.
Following close behind in terms of strength of field, prize money and ranking points are the Premier-5 tournaments: Dubai/Doha, Rome, the Rogers Cup, Cincinnati and Wuhan, which offer 900 ranking points to the champion and around US$2.8 million in prize money.
The Premier tournaments number around 20 and are a step down in terms of draw size, ranking points (470 to the champion) and prize money. Nevertheless, this category includes some of the sport’s most popular tournaments, such as the Brisbane International in January; the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, which kicks off the clay-court swing; and the Eastbourne International, played the week before Wimbledon on the exquisite grass courts of Devonshire Park.
WTA International Tournaments & WTA 125
Finally there are over 30 WTA International tournaments, typically featuring 28- or 32-player draws and generally offering US$250,000 in prize money and 280 ranking points to the champion.
The WTA also introduced a new category of tournament, the WTA 125, in 2012. Designed as a bridge between the lower-tier ITF events and the elite WTA Tour proper, there are currently around 10 of these tournaments played across Europe, North America and China.
The WTA calendar also features the Fed Cup, the women’s equivalent of the Davis Cup, which from 2020 will be settled at a week-long, 12-nation finals tournament held at a neutral venue in April; and Olympics tennis every four years, with the Williams sisters leading the gold medal count.
While the WTA rankings are calculated on a rolling 52-week basis, with fierce competition for the honour of ranking world no. 1, the WTA Tour also features the ‘Road to Shenzhen’, special standings which track the accumulation of ranking points through the calendar year. Everybody starts with zero points in January and races to amass as many points as possible.
The eight players with the most points qualify for the WTA’s final tournament of the season, the WTA Finals. The showcase event has been played all over the world throughout its history. After a recent, successful sojourn in Singapore, it relocated to Shenzhen in 2019 and currently features a record prize money purse of US$14 million, with the champion potentially taking home $4.7 million.
The WTA Tournament Calendar
The WTA tournament calendar is best understood as a series of surface and/or continent-specific swings leading up to the biggest events of the season. In January, players compete in Australia, New Zealand and China ahead of the Australian Open, played in Melbourne in the last two weeks of January. February and early March sees tournaments across the Middle East (including the first Premier-5 of the season, rotating yearly between Doha and Dubai), Russia, South America and Asia, all outdoor hard-court events leading up to March’s extravaganzas at Indian Wells and Miami.
The WTA Tour’s focus now switches to clay and the key battlegrounds of Charleston – the birthplace of the WTA and featuring unique green clay courts – Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome before the French Open is played at Roland Garros in late May.
Grass-court season is short but intense, with the stars descending on the lawns of Rosmalen, Birmingham, Berlin, Nottingham and Eastbourne before July brings the biggest and most prestigious championships of the season: Wimbledon.
It’s back to hard courts for the rest of the season. First the US swing, with back-to-back Premier-5 events played in Toronto/Montreal and Cincinnati before the final Grand Slam of the season takes place in New York; then the much-expanded Asian swing, featuring the China Open, Wuhan Open and stops in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Zhengzhou, Guangzhou and Tianjin, among others. The last couple of weeks of the season traditionally feature a breathless scramble for the final few places at the WTA Finals, played out across Linz, Luxembourg and Moscow, with the winners heading to Shenzhen for the climax of the season while those who narrowly miss out compete at the second-tier season-ending championships, the WTA Elite Trophy.
Keep up to date with all the action from the WTA Tour as it spans the globe and the seasons by bookmarking this page, your resource for predictions, previews, tips, tournament information and the latest player news from the biggest women’s sport in the world.