September 7, 2009 / 7:08 PM / 8 years ago

Women's tour shines during tough times, chief says

3 Min Read

<p>Melanie Oudin of the U.S. wears shoes bearing the message "BELIEVE" while serving to Nadia Petrova of Russia during their match at the U.S. Open tennis championship in New York, September 7, 2009.David Gray</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The women's tennis circuit lost only one title sponsor in 2009 despite the woes of the global economy, WTA Tour chief executive Stacey Allaster said on Monday.

Allaster, head of the 36-year-old organization that runs the professional women's tour, also said that three new tournaments have been added for 2010.

"Our players are delivering, the fans and sponsors, and what a time for it to come particularly during these tough economic times," Allaster told reporters at the U.S. Open.

Under the WTA "Roadmap" banner, a streamlined calendar was introduced this year to ensure more top names attend the key events. With the players now having to compete in fewer tournaments, Allaster said player withdrawals were down by 36 percent from 2008 to 2009.

"The Roadmap was about changing the culture and being committed to play," she said. "If you enter, you're committed to play.

"The bottom line is we want to be a credible product, consistently delivering to fans and sponsors and in 2009 our athletes have done that."

<p>Venus Williams of the U.S. serves to Kim Clijsters of Belgium during their match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, September 6, 2009.Kevin Lamarque</p>

Allaster, who has been on the job for only two months, said of the tour's 51 title sponsors only one has dropped out, and that is "an incredible success story for women's tennis."

Tournaments have been added in Copenhagen and Kuala Lumpur, and the event in Los Angeles has moved to San Diego.

Slideshow (4 Images)

Allaster said the focus will be on "fan growth," especially in non-traditional markets in Asia and South America.

"We need a younger fan base to have sustainable sponsorship revenues and we need fan growth in key strategic markets," she said.

"That's why China is an incredibly important strategic priority for us and I think we do need to look at other markets where we might not have events.

"But it doesn't mean we can't build a brand presence in markets like India and-or Brazil, which are key for the long-term growth of this business."

"When we sit with a global sponsor, they say, 'We want Russia, we want Brazil, we want India, we want Europe and we want the United States.' So we have to adapt."

Editing by Pritha Sarkar

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