Dubai A top women's tennis official has put the success of the sport down to some incredible players and a loyal league of sponsors.
Stacey Allaster, chief executive officer and chairperson of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), told Gulf News there had been a 12 per cent increase in premier events and the "television audience was up 70 per cent, and that really is attributed to the quality of play on court".
The depth on court can be seen from the fact that we have nine different nations represented in the top-10 players, and we have five different Grand Slam champions
"The depth on court can be seen from the fact that we have nine different nations represented in the top-10 players, and we have five different Grand Slam champions," Allaster said on the sidelines of a press conference at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Monday.
"That is actually creating more exposure and more engagement from fans around the world. And, as the world economy goes backwards, women's tennis has gone forward.
"All the credit for this success goes to our athletes and to our tournaments that continue staging the best events around the world during these challenging times for the economy. And much of this is because of our loyal partners and sponsors."
Allaster's tenure as chairman and CEO began in July 2009 and much of her energy has been focused on maximising the fan experience through a series of on-court and digital innovations, while also securing a record number of new sponsors to ensure the financial success of the sport.
"Attendance is a major factor. The product that we are delivering is bringing in more fans at the venues and on television. The prize money is up also. Between the Grand Slams and other tournaments the prize money is a total of $96 million (Dh352.6 million)," she said.
"All this relates to the fact that, as the revenue grows, it kicks off an increase in the prize money at the events as well."
Allaster also played an integral role in the development and adoption of the WTA Roadmap — the WTA's long-term strategic plan aimed at streamlining the playing calendar in an attempt to enhance the health and well-being of the players.
"We are delivering more top players on a consistent basis and the results have shown a 35 per cent reduction in match withdrawals by the players," she said.
"So there is a correlation with the fact that the road map is working because the business is growing."
Allaster has also been credited with pushing forward innovative programmes in tennis, such as on-court coaching, electronic line calling and a revised doubles scoring format — all aimed at enhancing the fan experience and taking women's tennis to new heights.
"This success is not due to me. The success of the WTA is the members, the players and the tournaments. Together with my team we keep their business moving forward and they can do what they need to do on the court and we market the sport forward and drive them forward," Allaster said.