Australia reveals 'new concept' for women’s tennis after scheduling row

Brisbane International tournament director Mark Handley said tennis in Australia was in a “transitional period” following the introduction of the ATP Cup.

Maria Sharapova and Sloane Stephens have strongly criticised scheduling at the WTA Brisbane International, saying women’s players had been unfairly relegated to the outside courts.(File Photo)   -  AP

Australian tennis officials said they were working on a “new concept” for women’s tennis on Wednesday 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.

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“It feels like a little bit of a second-hand event,” said Sharapova, while 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 in 2021.

“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 great talks with the WTA about a new concept and are really excited about the potential in this space.”

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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.

“I think it would be really fun. We all love playing Fed Cup, and I think 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.

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“Why not? I mean, I think this kind of format is something that would, I think, 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.

“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 the fact that we have the ATP Cup also played in Australia.

“They’re playing the WTA tour here in Brisbane as well, in Auckland, so most of the top players from the female side are in Australia already, so I think it would make sense.”

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