Women's tennis in India has touched another high with the Bangalore Open WTA Tour event becoming a Tier-II tourney from 2008 season.
The hard court event, which will offer total prize money of $600,000, would now be played from March 3 to 9, an open week, whereas it has been held in the second week of February until now.
The increased prize fund means the championship would probably be the second richest sporting event in the country after the $2.5milion Indian Open golf to be held in February in Delhi.
"We want to push the envelope until we make it a Tier-I event by 2011," Sunder Raju, Secretary of Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association, which owns the organising rights, told Hindustan Times.
It would be some consolation for the KSLTA, which earlier this year lost the bid to host the year-end WTA Tour Championship from 2008 to 2010.
The tournament was earlier a Tier III event with a total purse of $170,000 and held in the same week as a higher-rated tournament in Belgium. Thus the Bangalore Open could not attract higher rated players because of the 'Play Down' rule of the WTA as per which a top rung player can not participate in a lower Tier event when a higher prize money tourney is scheduled the same week.
"It is now part of the Asian circuit and comes after the two big tournaments in the Gulf (Qatar Open, $2.5mn) and (Dubai Open, $1.5mn). Also, the Indian Wells event in the US ($2.1mn) starts the following Wednesday. So we hope to bring higher ranked players now," Raju said.
But raising Rs. 9 crore, the total budget for the event, is not going to be easy.
"We are sure that with higher quality and depth in the field, we would be able to attract both the sponsors and the crowd," Raju said.
A Tier II event would also help Sania Mirza who has earned a Silver Exempt for the next season. As part of her Silver Exempt obligations, Sania is already contracted to play in three Tier III events in 2008 - in Hobart, the UK and England, all tune up events for the Australian Open and the Wimbledon respectively.