MELBOURNE, VICTORIA, AUS – The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) will honor its four decades of growth and achievements throughout 2013 with a season-long campaign named 40 LOVE. Following a successful year in 2012 that saw record prize money, tournament attendance, and television viewership, in addition to new highs in social and digital media numbers, the WTA will continue igniting the growth of women’s tennis in emerging markets and through a focus on increased fan engagement around the world. Prior to the women’s singles semifinals at the Australian Open, Tennis Australia will honor the WTA’s milestone, in addition to inducting Judy Dalton, member of the Original 9, into their Hall of Fame.
Founded by Billie Jean King in 1973, the WTA proudly counts many pioneering accomplishments, including the successful campaign for equal prize money. The 40 LOVE campaign will showcase the pioneers of the game and the current stars that all contributed to the ongoing success of women’s professional tennis and the WTA.
“Guided by the leadership of Billie Jean King and together with four generations of iconic ambassadors, the WTA is proud to have evolved as the global leader of women’s professional sport,” said Stacey Allaster, WTA Chairman and CEO. “The ability to offer more than $100 million in prize money at the WTA’s 54 events and four Grand Slams in 33 countries is a testament to those who believed in Billie’s vision.”
“Having the opportunity to be part of the cherished history and growth of women’s professional tennis is very humbling,” said Maria Sharapova, WTA World No. 2. “Each week we play for millions of tennis fans around the world, and to see the sport getting even stronger, is inspirational to all of us.”
To mark its 40th anniversary, the WTA plans to roll out a multi-faceted marketing campaign, #WTA40LOVE, that will include promotions across its tournaments. This campaign, scheduled to launch prior to the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, will feature its players; digital and social media content celebrating the past, present and future of the sport; and a series of events honoring 40 years of the world’s leading global sport for women, headlined by a gathering of former World No. 1s in London, during Wimbledon.
WTA HISTORICAL TIMELINE
1970 – The birth of women’s professional tennis was launched when nine players signed $1 contracts with World Tennis publications publisher Gladys Heldman to compete in a newly created Virginia Slims Series. The Original 9, as they were called, included King, Rosie Casals, Nancy Richey, Kerry Melville, Peaches Bartkowicz, Kristy Pigeon, Judy Dalton, Valerie Ziegenfuss and Julie Heldman.
1971 – The Virginia Slims Series debuted with 19 tournaments, with a total purse of $309,100 on offer in the United States
1973 – King founded the Women’s Tennis Association, uniting all of women’s professional tennis in one tour. The WTA was borne out of a meeting held in a room at the Gloucester Hotel in London the week before Wimbledon; the US Open, for the first time, offered equal prize money to the men and women.
1976 – Colgate assumed sponsorship of the Tour events from April to November for four years; at the Palm Springs event, Chris Evert became the first female athlete to cross $1 million in career earnings.
1977 – New York’s Madison Square Garden hosted the season-ending Championships for the first time.
1980 – By now over 250 women were playing professionally all over the world in a tour consisting of 47 global events, offering a total of $7.2 million in prize money.
1984 – Navratilova received a $1-million bonus from the ITF for winning Roland Garros; the Australian Open joined the US Open in offering the women’s event equal prize money
1988 – Graf became the second woman in the Open Era to complete a calendar year Grand Slam, and made it a ‘Golden Grand Slam’ by winning the Olympic title in Seoul.
1991 – Monica Seles became only the second player to pass the $2-million mark in season earnings and would better men’s leader Stefan Edberg in ’91 and ’92.
1995 – The WTA Players Association merged with the Women’s Tennis Council to form the WTA Tour.
2001 – WTA prize money increased to $50 million in 63 events, including the first-ever Middle Eastern Tour events in Doha, Qatar, and Dubai, UAE.
2002 – The Williams sisters fulfilled their father’s prophecy by becoming the No.1 players in the world, first Venus in February, then Serena in July. Serena won three majors, defeating her older sister in each final.
2003 – The “Get In Touch With Your Feminine Side” marketing campaign was launched, the Tour’s most significant branding effort in its history; Serena Williams won the Australian Open to complete the “Serena Slam” while Kim Clijsters became the first female athlete to earn $4 million in season earnings.
2005 – Sony Ericsson became the Tour’s worldwide title sponsor in a landmark $88-million, six-year deal, the largest and most comprehensive sponsorship in the history of tennis and of women’s professional sport. As winner of the US Open Series, Clijsters earns double prize money for winning the US Open; her $2.2 million prize cheque was the single biggest payday in women’s sports and in any official tennis event, men’s or women’s.
2006 – Worldwide title sponsor Sony Ericsson unveiled several game-changing innovations designed to make the sport more fan-friendly and interactive (such as electronic line-calling and on-court coaching); a landmark partnership with USANA Health Sciences and Travelex were announced, along with the extension of the Tour’s partnership with Eurosport/Regency into 2011, becoming the largest TV deal in the history of women’s tennis; Navratilova ended her 32-year career in which she amassed more titles than any other female or male player.
2007 – The Board of Directors approved the Roadmap circuit reform, the most sweeping changes in our history which will include a shorter season, fan-friendly structure and 40 percent increase in Tour prize money (from 2009); the historic achievement of equal prize money at Roland Garros and Wimbledon meant that following a 30-year campaign that began with King, all four majors offered parity for the first time; Justine Henin became the first woman to earn $5 million in a single season.
2008 – Celebrating its 35th anniversary, the WTA unveiled the largest advertising campaign in its history, with the Looking For A Hero? campaign launched on the eve of Wimbledon. The WTA’s Asia-Pacific headquarters opened in Beijing, China, complementing offices in St Petersburg, FL-USA and London, England. Dubai Duty Free announced an extension of its sponsorship through 2011. A record five women held the No.1 ranking during the season (Henin, Sharapova, Ivanovic, Jankovic, S.Williams), while Doha, Qatar, made a successful debut as host of the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships.
2009 - Stacey Allaster succeeded Larry Scott as chairman and CEO of the WTA Tour, while on court the historic Roadmap circuit reforms became a reality.
2010 – Serena Williams collected two more Grand Slam titles but it was Wozniacki who secured the year-end No.1 ranking after picking up six titles.
2012 – In April 2012, for the first time since the 1980s, all nine members of the trailblazing Original 9 were reunited during the Family Circle Cup in Charleston. Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams became the first 2 women to surpass the $7 million prize money mark in a single season.