As the women’s 2016 season approaches its end, we head into the second edition of the WTA Elite Trophy held in Zhuhai. The last tournament of the women’s season is played by the women ranked from no.9 to 19. Last year, Venus Williams defeated Karolina Pliskova to clinch the inaugural WTA Elite Trophy.
This year though, despite being in contention and being the defending champion, Venus has withdrawn from the tournament. In the second half of 2016, Caroline Wozniacki showed signs of resurgence and climbed up the rankings to qualify for the flight to Zhuhai. Yet, she withdrew from the tournament. It is now Johanna Konta, Carla Suarez Navarro, Petra Kvitova, Elina Svitolina and Roberta Vinci who will be headlining the tournament.
The tournament replaced the WTA Tournament of Champions (2009-14) which was held between players who won a title or two on the circuit but failed to qualify for the tour finals. The elite trophy tournament has its own advantages and disadvantages. To have a tournament in the men’s circuit corresponding to the elite trophy also depends on these pros and cons.
1) The Ranking Points
The elite trophy gives its winner a whopping 700 points. Amassing such a large number in the last tournament of the season can improve a player’s year-end ranking by a great margin. A conflict can arise when a no.8 ranked player playing in the tour finals at Singapore fails to go past the round robin stage and the no.9 at Zhuhai goes on to win the tournament. In the men’s circuit, similar issues can arise if an elite trophy is proposed.
“I think there’s also too much points there. I mean, [you’re] ending after Singapore, for example, No. 9. Then someone’s getting 700 points. Suddenly from No. 9, you’re No. 12. You thought you finish No. 10. I think that’s couple things about that tournament that should really change.”– Aga Radwanska
2) The Extended Season
Be it ATP or WTA, on a regular basis, the players have been grumbling about the packed season and the need to cut down a few tournaments. The Zhuhai tournament is mandatory for the players ranked between 9 to 19. If such a compulsion is laid upon the ATP equivalent of Zhuhai, the players will probably not welcome the tournament in unison.
3) The Wild Card
This year, Chinese and Asia’s No.1 ranked woman, Zhang Shuai is given the wildcard to play at the elite trophy. She was selected based on her performance throughout the year and her entry into the top 30 for the first time.
The wild card system definitely boosts the entrant’s career and gives the player a huge opportunity to compete in such a vital tournament. Though, considering the fact that the elite trophy is a tour end tournament as well and a number of points it gives, is it fair to have a wild card system? Players already fight out in the tournaments played throughout the year to qualify for either of the tour end finals and providing a wild card might not be harmonious considering the structure, format, and purpose of the tournament.
In the men’s circuit, someone like Juan Martin Del Potro will love to play in such a tournament as a wild card entrant. He will definitely take this as an opportunity to seize points to get back to the top rankings. But, is it fair to the other players on tour who also have performed consistently throughout the year? Imagine the plight of the player who was ranked 20!
4) The Growth in Asia-Pacific
One of the key reasons why the Elite trophy in Zhuhai was proposed was for promoting the sport in the Asia-Pacific region. It was specifically targeted towards the growth and development of WTA in this part of the world. For the men, such a tournament needs to be held in the Asia-Pacific region. ATP needs a stronger grip somewhere in the Indian Subcontinent and its surrounding.
Recently, after his early exit at Shanghai Masters, Wu Di, the Chinese No.1 player reported the need for players to play in the other parts of the world.
“We (Wu Di and Zhang Ze) may have appeared a couple of times, people think we are veterans, but really we are young. We need to get national team support and go abroad.”
5) The Test of Resilience
If an ATP Elite trophy is proposed, irrespective of the long extended season, a player will be tested based on various factors. The tournament which lasts for two weeks just like a grand slam will test a player’s stamina and resilience in those two weeks. At the end of the year, playing a round robin will be tiresome followed by more competitive knockout rounds. Surely, the winner will have to fight his way to win that million-dollar title.
These are probably the most vital points to think upon by the authorities of ATP and the player’s council who will ultimately decide whether or not a Zhuhai equivalent is needed in ATP.