Schedule changes leave players concerned, and Safina says boycott is possible

Updated: October 12, 2008, 10:23 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

MOSCOW -- The top players could boycott next year's WTA Tour if their questions are left unanswered, third-ranked Dinara Safina said Saturday.

The Russian said the players were unhappy with the planned changes to the schedule.

"If they [WTA] don't listen to what we have to say, we might even choose to boycott the new tour," Safina told reporters after losing 6-2, 7-6 to compatriot Vera Zvonareva in the Kremlin Cup semifinals.

"They said the leading players would have to play in designated tournaments while lower-ranked players would be able to enter any event they like. There's no logic in that at all.

"What if all the top players choose to enter the same tournament? What will the WTA do then? We want to know."

Under the so-called Road Map 2010, 26 Tier One and Tier Two events will be combined into 20 Premiere tournaments with players committed to play in at least 10.

Four $4.5 million tournaments, to be held in Indian Wells, Calif., Miami, Madrid and Beijing, will be mandatory for all players who qualify.

Below the mandatory events will be five $2 million stops in Canada, Dubai, Rome, Cincinnati and Tokyo, of which the top-ranked players must play at least four.

The WTA has committed to having at least seven of the world's top 10 players at each of these events. Players will complete their schedules by competing in at least one or two $700,000 events.

"There are a lot of grey areas," said Safina. "No one seems to understand which tournaments you can play and which you can't."

Her thoughts were echoed by Zvonareva and Svetlana Kuznetsova.

"I was told only two players from the top 10 could enter a smaller tournament like the Kremlin Cup next year," said seventh-ranked Kuznetsova.

"What if [No. 1-ranked] Jelena Jankovic and Serena or Venus [Williams] want to play here? Then all the top Russian players, and there are five of us in the top 10, will not be able to play in their home tournament. That's nonsense."

In an e-mail to ESPN.com on Sunday, a WTA Tour official said the Kremlin Cup can receive unlimited top players under the new plan.

Safina, who will become a career-high No. 2 when the new rankings are released on Monday, said the leading players will get together at next month's season-ending WTA Championships in Doha to share their concerns.

Information from Reuters was used in this report.