Simply dangling more and more prize money on the tennis hook doesn't always guarantee attractive tournaments. Stars increasingly need to be enticed to play everything but the big, prestige events. Thus, resort settings, red-carpet treatment, and end-of-year bonus pools are used to influence decisions on where to play.
Seeking a new come-on, however, the World Championship Tennis circuit has announced a unique prize structure that lets players choose what bonus they win. Instead of simply allowing the eight qualifiers for the WCT finals to take the bonus money and run, they'll have to select among such prizes as an oil well investment, tax-free municipal bonds, and a classic antique car.
Altogether there are 15 prizes, with the winner of a points race conducted during eight regular WCT events picking first. The second-place finisher will make his selection from the remaining 14 prizes, and so on down the line. No prize will have an initial value of less than $20,000.
WCT director Lamar Hunt feels that the innovative bonus prize system "will serve to encourage a stronger participation in tournament tennis. This, in turn , will serve well the basic public interest."
Once a player qualifies for the WCT finals, his participation is almost guaranteed, since no prizes can be collected without playing. There are only two exceptions: Players having legitimate physical reasons for not competing still receive $10,000 in cash; and the points champion, whether he plays or not, is entitled to the All-Gold Tennis Ball Trophy, valued at $10,000.