"The inaugural $7,500 Virginia Slims of Houston was established on September 23, 1970 and it was the event that became the groundbreaker for all others," the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) advised. Billie Jean King had always been ahead of her time, 'The Los Angeles Times' noted. She was the driving force behind the formation of the WTA in 1973, CNN added. As the pioneer of professional women's tennis tour, Billie Jean King had successfully dragged the sport into the American consciousness.

The women's Houston tennis tournament was held 25 times between 1970 and 1995. From 1970 to 1984, the surface was indoor carpet. From 1985 to 1995, the surface was outdoor clay. It was noted in 1972, the tournament was not held. Martina Navratilova won the singles title 6 times; Chris Evert won 5 times; Monica Seles won 3 times; and in 1995, Steffi Graf was the last player to win the championship.

It was also in 1995 the public was informed the WTA and the Women's International Professional Tennis Council, the two governing bodies of women's professional tennis had merged to become the WTA Tour. Between 1976 and 1983, the women's tennis tour was sponsored by Colgate, Avon and Toyota. In 1980, over 250 women were playing professional tennis around the world "in a tour consisting of 47 global events, offering a total $7.2 million in prize money." By 2017, there were 2,500 plus players from close to 100 countries competing in 59 events held in over 30 nations for a record $139 million in prize money.

In April 1989, Andrei Chesnokov of the Soviet Union won the $200,000 clay-court Swatch Open in Nice, France. It was in the final years of Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms of the Soviet Union with glasnost and perestroika. Associated Press reported, "His $28,000 first-place earnings pushed his career total over $500,000 most of which has gone to the Soviet Tennis Federation." Andrei Chesnokov made known, "Out of the $500,000 I received, I kept maybe $10,000 to $12,000. But I intend to talk to some people on Monday (back in 1989). When I won $59,500 at Orlando, I got $496 from the federation. Can you believe that? $496."

Between 1990 and 1993, Kraft General Foods sponsored the women's tennis tour. The cigarette company Virginia Slims' contract expired in 1994 decided not to continue the business of sports promotion amid growing governmental regulation. At stake, over $7 million Philip Morris Corporation had previously sponsored tournaments in places such as Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Delray Beach in Florida and Houston.

For the first 5 months of 1995, Steffi Graf and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario traded the No. 1 ranking 6 times. Promoter John Korff remembered, "When Arantxa Sanchez became No. 1, it was a scary moment for women's tennis. I mean, who was she? Sanchez Vicario?" Peachy Kellmeyer of the WTA reminded, "Tennis is very much an individual sport; it's based on your star quality. The more stars you have, the greater your sport shines. Like all business, the cycles in tennis come and go."

At the time, John Korff still insisted ticket sales for the Pathmark Tennis Classic played in August 1995 in New Jersey were up by over 20%. Television ratings for the women's tennis, Greg Garber of the 'Hartford Courant' reported, "The last time Steffi Graf and Monica Seles met in a Grand Slam final was Wimbledon, 1992. The rating was a record-breaking 5.3. Since then, the numbers have been 4.4 (in 1993), 4.3 (in 1994) and 4.1 (in 1995)."

In 1995, after losing two potential sponsors, Diet Coke and Diners' Club, women's professional tennis was forced to turn down a deal with Tambrands which understood would guarantee a minimum investment of $10 million (or £6.4m) over 3 years because it was the manufacturer of women's hygiene products, Tampax tampons. Martina Navratilova told the press, "We were caught in a Catch-22 situation.

"The players wanted to support it, but we came to realize that it was economically unfeasible. We couldn't risk losing the local tournament sponsors, which is where our $35 million in prize money comes from, because they didn't want to be associated with a WTA Tour presented by Tampax. It shouldn't be a stigma, but apparently it still is." There were 61 events on the 1995 calendar.

Anne Person Worcester clarified, "Women's tennis is a critical juncture, and we approached 1995 with a single mission statement, to increase the popularity and enhance the health and image of women's tennis on a global basis. But our research told us we unfortunately would not be able to do that had we accepted this sponsor. We're a conservative sport with a high-profile sponsorship, and we've got to represent ourselves in 22 countries, not just this one.

"No doubt it would have been great to work with a top-flight company like Tambrands, but whether the offer was $3 million or $10 million, image is image, and we received a tremendous backlash for even considering the proposal. It's not a personal decision, it's not a political decision, it's a business decision. When we researched the possible image and impact this deal projected on the tour itself, on our tournaments' ability to sell sponsorships and broadcasting rights to their events, we found that 75% of the insiders and experts we polled felt this would have a long-term negative impact."

Bob Kain of the International Management Group which replaced Advantage International as the tour's marketing agent pointed out, "In the real world of marketing and sales, the circuit has lots of individual title sponsorships to sell, and by having Tambrands as an overall sponsor you'd be blocking out a whole bunch of companies who don't want to affiliate with it."

Anne Person Worcester also made the point, "For 20 years, we've been known by our sponsor's name (such as the Virginia Slims Series), and it's time to develop our own identity (WTA Tour). That's something that will help us better endure any sponsor turnover in the future." 'The Washington Post' observed in 1978, "To tennis enthusiasts, 'Virginia Slims' meant not a cigarette, but women's tennis."

In his discussion about the "long-overdue reorganization," Gerry Smith told 'The New York Times' in 1991, "I want to run this like a business. To be honest, the players haven't exerted themselves since Billie Jean King got into it in 1973. To be more honest, Virginia Slims can't take women's tennis to the next level." 'The New York Times' understood, "The top female players presently (in 1991) commit to 10 of 27 events yearly; under Smith's blueprint for 1993, the number of major events would be trimmed to 21 (10 with $1 million in prize money, 11 offering $500,000), with top players required to commit to 7 of the 10 $1 million tournaments."

'CNN' reported in 1996, "The top women's tennis tournaments have always been able to attract the game's best players. But finding sponsors and prizes has been a different story. This year (1996), Chase Manhattan Bank is backing the $2 million WTA's season-ending event in New York." Charles McCabe Jr. of Chase Manhattan Bank told the press, "They want to fill the seats. We want to get our name out."

'CNN' continued, "The top 16 women in the world are competing for a top prize of $500,000. That's big money for a women's tour that doesn't have a national television contract. It wasn't always this way. Virginia Slims cigarettes sponsored the WTA for years (22 in total) but they split two years ago (in 1994) when sporting events began backing away from tobacco money." In 1996, Corel Corp., a Canadian-based computer software company, agreed to sponsor the women's tour because the demographics for the tour were just what the company was looking for.

In 1971, the prize money was $250,000. In 1996, the prize money on the WTA Tour sponsored by Corel was over $36 million. Back in 1991, an official from the International Tennis Federation stated regarding equal prize money for a year-end event as well as Wimbledon and the French Open would depend on "all sorts of reasons - ticket sales, television, sponsorships, all of those financial considerations. I don't know of any tournament that is proposing the kind of prize money we're talking about ($3 million to $3.5 million proposed for the year-end exhibition). We're trying to make something good here."

Anne Person Worcester spoke to the 'Chicago Tribune' in 1995, "We found that our players were thinking they were getting a paycheck for playing tennis and only playing tennis. We wanted to re-emphasize off-court activities. Billie Jean King, Martina (Navratilova), Chris (Evert), they left that legacy of being concerned for the next generation, and we're trying to reintroduce that philosophy by being more fan-friendly, more media-friendly and having more awareness."

After winning the Virginia Slims of Houston in 1991, Monica Seles made the comment, "If you ask tennis fans, the media or the players, they'll tell you that women's tennis has never been better, and I think that if this is the case then we definitely should have equal prize money." 'The Los Angeles Times' concluded in 1999, "Women's tennis always needs to appeal to young girls. It is the way to grow, to stay relevant. Women's tennis needs new players and new audiences always."

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