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WTA Gets a New Sponsor

Season-ending championships will be underwritten by Bank of America.

September 26, 2003|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

The season-ending WTA Championships at Staples Center has received a significant boost with the acquisition of a new title sponsor, Bank of America.

The agreement is for three years, according to sources, and the company has an option after the first year.

Home Depot was title sponsor of the event in its first year in Los Angeles.

The tournament, Nov. 5-10, will be played in a different format, moving from single elimination to round-robin. Also, the singles field has been reduced from 16 players to eight.

Three players have qualified for the $3-million tournament -- Serena Williams and Belgians Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters. The singles champion will earn $1 million.

Martina Navratilova is in excellent position to make the doubles field. Navratilova and partner Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia are ranked fourth in the race to the championships; the top four teams advance.

Meanwhile, the draw for the 2004 Davis Cup was held in London on Thursday, and the United States will host unheralded Austria in the first round.

Like the U.S., Austria came through with a victory in the relegation round over the weekend, defeating Belgium, 3-2, in Portschach, Austria.

Austria's last appearance in the World Group came in 2000.

Leading the way against Belgium was 65th-ranked Stefan Koubek, who won both of his singles matches. Koubek, whose last singles title came in Doha, Qatar, in January, did not make it past the second round of any Grand Slam event this year.

The U.S.-Austria match will be Feb. 6-8 and will be the second meeting between the nations.

In 1990, the U.S. defeated Austria, 3-2, in the semifinals, with Michael Chang winning the decisive match. Should the U.S. defeat Austria in the opening round, it could play either Australia or Sweden in the quarterfinals, April 9-11.

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