Upper Austria Ladies is aiming for WTA 500 status

Upper Austria Ladies is aiming for WTA 500 status
Peter Michael Reichel
Image: GEPA pictures/ Florian Ertl

On the one hand, the WTA 500 tournaments are to be increased from the current 12 to 18 events from 2024, while the current 32 WTA 250s are to be reduced by around a third. In addition, starting next year, players from the top 30 will only be allowed to compete in 250 events in exceptional cases. A massive intervention that could harm the smaller tournaments. Peter Michael Reichel, who has been the European representative on the WTA Tour Board of tournament directors for more than two decades, confirmed rumors in this regard in an interview with the APA – Austria Press Agency. However, there are “up to three exceptions per tournament” for the top 30 restriction in the WTA 250. “Things are in the pipeline and also the upgrades that are possible are in discussion over the next few days and weeks.”

Reichel would also like to bring his long-standing tournament in Linz, the Upper Austria Ladies, to the status of a 500 tournament. “Right, we’re in the upgrade process.” Do you have to do this to be able to hold the tournament? “It has always been difficult to get people to start. In the indoor season, the fields have already become thinner at the top. I wouldn’t see any direct, significant change if we didn’t upgrade. But we want to upgrade,” explained Reichel the situation.

“It’s just a question a) do we get the decision? And b) do we get the money financed?” For a 250 tournament you need an average budget of between 2 and 4 million, for a 500 tournament between 3 and 6 million.

Reichel is in talks with sponsors for the traditional Linz tournament, which has been held in February since this year. “We are in contact with two companies, hopefully something will come of it. The sooner we find a sponsor, the easier it will be for us to finance the upgrade.”

“Have a very good standing”

Father Reichel is not worried about the existence of the tournament, which is run by his daughter Sandra as tournament director. “We’re in the 33rd year. After Stuttgart, Linz is the second oldest indoor tournament that still exists. That’s why we have a very good standing and are certainly on the list of those who get the opportunity to upgrade.”

Reichel also confirms the reduction to 250 levels. “There will be less. You have to buy some of the 250s or merge them.” From the current 32 tournaments in this category, eight to twelve events will be reduced, Reichel knows.

The tournament in Linz has always had big stars as guests, also thanks to the feel-good factor and homely atmosphere. But the really big ones have been a long time coming. “That’s why we made the move back to February. If we can do this upgrade, we will certainly have better fields again,” believes Reichel, who expects all decisions to be made by Wimbledon.

In addition to the annual budget, such a license upgrade would of course also have its price. “As an existing, long-term organizer, we will receive the upgrade at a special price that will be cheaper.” This is seven digits, Reichel did not want to reveal more.

Up to $1.2 million in prize money

Up to $1.2 million in prize money is awarded at the 500 level. “But there’s also a lot more about media rights and the tour sponsorships. There’s also a percentage that the tour takes, whether it’s 250s, 500s or 1000s, by refinancing those marketing rights.” This is striking, there are no more precise numbers here either.

Reichel travels a lot for tennis and the WTA. “I’ve never traveled as much as I did last year. I had to catch up a bit because of Covid and have 2.1 million bonus miles.” Because of these contacts and his many years of commitment, Reichel is optimistic about Linz: “Of course, I’m on the board for the 22nd year, I’ve had a tournament for the 33rd year, that’s a good reference. If we get the financing, that’s almost done then we can certainly do it.”

Side glance at the ATP: There are no plans to weaken the 250 tournaments with player restrictions. This category of the WTA cannot be compared to that of the ATP, said Herwig Straka, who is on the ATP board, when asked by the APA. “On the WTA tour, they currently have around $220,000 in prize money, our 250s have between 600,000 and 1.5 million. That’s another dimension.”

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