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WTA Tour adjust age eligibility rule

September 11, 1997

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Anna Kournikova and Miljana Lucic have scored a victory off the tennis court.

Under changes in the Age Eligibility Rule announced Thursday by the Corel WTA Tour, the 16-year-old Kournikova will be allowed to play up to 17 tournaments, while Lucic, 15, will be able to play up to 12 events.

``The Age Eligibility Panel found that merit-based increased in play would be consistent with the goals of the rule and be reflective of the change in player behavior due to the new ranking system,″ Anne Person Worcester, chief executive officer of the Corel WTA Tour, said.

Both Kournikova of Russia and Lucic of Croatia have complained that the old rules restricted the number of tournaments they could play and thus inhibited their growth as professional tennis players.

Under the new rules, players 15 years and older who have completed their Player Development Program requirements can play eight regular tournaments regardless of the size of the event. And if they qualify by computer ranking, they can play in the Grand Slam tournaments, except for Wimbledon, and the season-ending Chase Championships.

Previously, 15-year-olds were restricted to nine professional events, including eight tournaments _ none larger than $164,250 in total prize money _ and one exhibition or non-tour event. They were not allowed to play in Grand Slam tournaments.

Lucic has reached the final in four of the five tournaments she has played since turning pro this year, winning twice. Ranked 50th in the world, Lucic lost in the third round of the U.S. Open to Jana Novotna.

Kournikova, ranked 29th, had been limited to 14 tournaments this year, including the four Grand Slams, plus the Chase Championships. Under the new rules, she will be able to play in three more events.

No changes were made in the rules for 14-year-olds, who are permitted to play only in small International Tennis Federation events.

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