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This is from this week's mailbag. Two questions, two answers. One question pretty obviously came from someone on the baord.

For those of us who didn't know what you were talking about, could you explain what the "gold exempt list" is?
—Jenna Ward, Miami Beach, Fla.


My crass definition: The gold exempt list is a cloak-and-dagger rating kept by the WTA Tour of the top 20 players in terms of marketability. The list comprises the top 16 players in the world (though not necessarily in order of their computer ranking) as well as four wild cards. Players on the list have certain responsibilities and must play a certain number of events at a certain tier. Those who fulfill their playing obligations are eligible for bonuses ranging from $20,000 or so to well into six figures.

The list essentially exists so that promoters can ascertain that marketable players will compete in their tournament and that "ticket-sellers" like Kournikova are compensated accordingly. In theory, anyway, the bonuses are also supposed to preclude appearance fees for the "drawing card" players.

Obviously, that's not the way the WTA explains it, but it works for me.

Regarding the exempt list, I can understand why the WTA Tour would want to recognize Anna Kournikova. I can see why a pair of great champions and classy players like Amanda Coetzer and Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario would get wild cards. But why, oh, why, would Alexandra Stevenson? Is this a joke? Has she won a match since Wimbledon 1999? Should the tour be promoting other players? Is there a story we should know about?
—John Pickett, Hartford


You're not alone in your healthy skepticism. The "glass-half-empty" explanation: A) Tawdry curiosity remains at work, and some fans want to see "Dr. J's kid"; B) The WTA Tour threw Stevenson a bone in hopes of avoiding yet another knock-down, drag-out battle with her combative mother.

The "glass-half-full" explanation: A) While she underachieved mightily in the Slams, Stevenson did play well earlier in the year and has shown flashes of being a top-20 player; B) For all the attendant melodrama, she is one of the better players at fulfilling off-court obligations, participating in kids' clinics, meeting sponsors, etc. Perhaps this is the tour's way of rewarding her for her professionalism.

Hmmmm '... she is one of the better players at fulfilling off-court obligations, participating in kids' clinics, meeting sponsors, etc....' bet THAT'S news to the legions of Stevenson haters. Almost everything that goes favorably for Alex kind of cheers me up, simply because so many people put her down. It's like when the fat kid decks the bully, or the nerd grows up to be Bill Gates, or the girl everyone taunts out of cruelty gets her screenplay picked up at when she's only 17. It's twice as good because not only do they win, but all the mean people in the world lose.

I like seeing cruel people lose.
 

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Originally posted by Volcana B) For all the attendant melodrama, she is one of the better players at fulfilling off-court obligations, participating in kids' clinics, meeting sponsors, etc. Perhaps this is the tour's way of rewarding her for her professionalism.


She is just imagining that she can replace Diana :D

(This was a joke. I thought same people need some guidance reading the posts)
 
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