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UP IN SMOKE
Virginia Slims has been synonymous with women's tennis since 1970, when Gladys Heldman, then publisher of World Tennis magazine, introduced the two to each other. Since then, the January-March tour has prospered, but now it appears that the two have come to a parting of the ways.
Exactly why is unknown. Both Jerry Diamond, the WTA's executive director, and Ellen Merlo, brand manager of Virginia Slims, say there is disagreement over the tour format. Slims wants it to remain the same, with a substantial increase in prize money—that is, 11 $120,000 tournaments with a field of 32, and an eight-player championship event at the end of the season. WTA wants a new look, including at least two $200,000 events for only 16 players. Negotiations between the two groups went on for five months before breaking down.
"It's a time of great opportunity," says Billie Jean King, an advocate of the new format. "We have to move forward. That's why we wanted to inject some new sparkle. The women will have to deliver a good product, as we always have, and I imagine we'll have more than $2 million in prize money next winter."
Mark and Gail Drury, both 21 and married for a little more than a year, recently made history of a sort when they became the first husband and wife to ride against each other in a race at Pimlico. Neither won, but Gail, on Barkley Square, which went off at 24 to 1, finished seventh, eight lengths ahead of her husband, who finished 12th and last aboard Kiria Eleni, a 173 to 1 shot.
Would either claim foul against the other in the event of interference? "Darn right," said Mark. "If Gail wants to do a man's job, she has to take the risks of a man."
Man's job, Mark? Man, you may be in trouble.
An amateur sports law has been a long, expensive, contentious time in coming. This week, when Senate Bill S. 2727 reaches the Senate floor, with a do-pass recommendation from the Commerce Committee, it will have in its lineage years of hearings, volumes of records of NCAA-AAU battles (Arbitrator Theodore Kheel once said amateur sports feuds were more difficult to settle than the toughest labor disputes), dozens of prior bills and a presidential commission's recommendations.