There will be no easy early round matches in the $250,000 Colgate Series Championships that will begin Wednesday at Capital Centre.
Rather than the 32-women draw employed in previous women's tournaments in Washington, this year's Colgate Championship will include only the world's top eight singles players. They will compete in a double-elimination format in the tournament's Washington debut.
Players and fans will benefit from the format, being used only the third time on the women's tour, Edy McGoldrick, Colgate Series executive director, said.
The players like it because they can win a tournament despite an off day, something the rigors of travel and top-flight competition make unavoidable, Chris Evert Lloyd lost an opening-round match to Dianne Fromholtz in the second Colgate Series Championship in Palm Springs, Calif., in November 1978 and came back to win the tournament.
The fans like it because they are assured of seeing their favorite player at least twice and, with each match including two of the world's eight best players, will be spared those boring, early-round mismatches found in conventional single-elimination draws.
"The players are very high on it," McGoldrick said. "In it, a top tennis tournament player has a chance to have a bad day and still win the tournament. They realize they can't keep it up every night.
"It's impossible not to have every match meaningful. Every match counts directly toward the championship. It's not like in round robins like the men use where some of the matches are meaningless.
The tournament draw chart resembles a geometry student's final exam in symmetry, replete with rectangles, arrows and dotted lines. Actually, the double-elimination concept is simple.
The players are divided into blue and red groups with the first, third, fifth and seventh seeds composing the red group. After first-round matches, the two winners in each of the red and blue groups play each other to the winners' bracket and the losers meet in the losers' bracket.
The winners of the second-round winners' bracket matches take their 2-0 records directly to the semifinals. Losers in the two losers' brackets are eliminated and play the seventh and eighth place.
The four players with 1-1 records crisscross. Those in the red winners' brackets play the survivors of the blue losers' bracket, and vice vera. The two losers in the losers' bracket matches are eliminated and play for fifth and sixth place.
The two players with 2-1 record will play the two undefeated players in the semifinals. If the players with 2-1 records are from different groups, they will play the 2-4 player from the opposite group. If the 2-1 players are from the same group, they will be matched against opponents they have not played before or, if that is impossible, a coin flip will determine matchups.
So in Wednesday's first-round matches, top-seed Evert Lloyd will play seventh-seed Fromholtz and third-seed Tracy Austin will meet fifth-seed Wendy Turnbull in the red group. In the blue group, No. 2 Martina Navratlova will face No. 8 Kerry Reid No. 4 Evonne Goolagong will play No. 6 Regina Marsikova.
The four-team doubles tournament will be single elimination with matches between Dana Kloss-Betty Anne Stuart and Billie Jean King-Navratilova Wednesday and Betty Stove-Turnbull and Rosie Casals-Evert Lloyd Thursday.
Win, lose or draw, the women will leave Washington with a cool $1 million, more money than ever before has been destributed at a women's tournament. In addition to the $250,000 prize money largest on the women's tour, according to McGoldrick, $750,000 in bonus money will be awarded to the top 35 singles and 20 doubles players for their season-long point accumulations from 33 Colgate tournaments.
The top singles prize in this week's tournament is $75,000, with $30,000 going to the winning doubles team. Evert Lloyd will receive the largest bonus award, $118,000, followed by Navratilova's $83,300.