Women's Tennis Association

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The Women's Tennis Association, formed in 1973, is the principal organizing body of women's professional tennis. It organizes the WTA Tour, the worldwide professional tennis tour for women, which has for sponsorship reasons been known since 2005 as The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Its counterpart organization in the men's professional game is the Association of Tennis Professionals.

The Women's Tennis Association can trace its origins back to Houston, Texas when the inaugural Virginia Slims event was won on 23 September 1970. Billie Jean King was a major figure in the early days of the WTA. The WTA's corporate headquarters is in St. Petersburg, Florida. The European headquarters is in London, and the Asia-Pacific headquarters is in Beijing.

Contents

History

The predecessor of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Tour, the Virginia Slims Circuit, was formed in September 1970, after nine tennis players, led by Billie Jean King, signed $1 contracts with Gladys Heldman of World Tennis publications. The other eight players who pledged to compete were Rosemary Casals, Nancy Richey, Kerry Melville Reid, Peaches Bartkowicz, Kristy Pigeon, Judy Tegart Dalton, Valerie Ziegenfuss, and Julie Heldman. Gladys Heldman, and a team that included associates of hers such as Joe Cullman, helped provide the foundation for the first women's professional tennis circuit. The Philip Morris cigarette brand Virginia Slims provided financial backing, and on 23 September 1970, the inaugural Virginia Slims of Houston was held, paving the way for many others of its kind. The circuit was composed of 19 tournaments, all based in the United States (one in Puerto Rico),[1] and prize money totalled $309,100.[2]

Formation of the Virginia Slims Circuit resulted in part from changes that tennis was undergoing at the time and from the way prize moneys were distributed. During the first two years of the open era, a large number of male players began playing professionally, and the tournaments in which they competed, often men's and women's combined events, attracted increased investment. The International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF) began dropping several women's competitions from the tournaments it presided over. For example, in 1970, the ILTF sanctioned 15 men-only tournaments, all of which had previously been combined events.[3]

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