More in prize money, but no escape from a grueling schedule for top players. That is the message written large and clear in the Badminton World Federation tour restructuring.
BWF has made it compulsory for the top ranked players – 15 in men’s singles and 10 in men’s doubles to play a minimum of 12 Open tournaments. Escaping events beyond the permitted numbers will be inviting penalties as the revised World Badminton Tour comes into force from the next season.
Now the ageing stars like Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei will find it tough to pick and choose tournaments. However, this also means that only the best 32 players in the world will get to play in all five graded events.
The tournament structure, unlike the existing Super Series and Grand Prix Series, has been converted into ‘grades and levels’.
Major team and national importance events like the Olympics, Thomas-Uber Cup Finals, Sudirman Cup, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and World Junior Championships have been put under Grade One.
Grade Two events are further divided into six levels.
World Tour Finals, knows as World Super Series Finals slated in Dubai for the last edition this month will be Grade Two Level One events under the revised structure.
Premier Super Series events All-England Open, Indonesian Open and China Open will now be Grade Two Level Two competitions.
Level Three will have five tournaments – Malaysian Open, China Open, Denmark Open, France Open and Japan Open.
Level Four is for seven tournaments, including Malaysian Masters (formerly known as a Grand Prix Gold event); Level Five is for 11 tournaments (formerly known as the International Satellite and Challenge); and Level Six (numbers to be decided by BWF, continental tournaments).
The qualifying tournaments (draw of 16) have been scrapped for Level Two and Level Three tournaments. The qualifying tournament for Level Four will be limited to only eight players instead of 16.
The new rules make it mandatory for a top-15 player like Chong Wei to play in all three Level Two and all five Level Three tournaments. He then has to play in at least four Level Four tournaments. That means a minimum of 12 tournaments in a year or one tournament per month at an average. The rule shall also apply to top Indian stars like Kidambi Srikanth and HS Prannoy.
The season’s final will have $1.5million prize purse. The minimum prize money for Level Two tournaments will $1million and the Level Three tournaments will have to have a minimum prize purse of $700,000.
The BWF is also trying out the new service rule from March 1, beginning with the All-England in Birmingham (March 14-18). Under the new service rule, the whole of the shuttle must be below 1.15m from the surface of the court at the moment it touches the server’s racquet.