Women's Tennis: No Attendance, No Popularity, BIG PROBLEM! - TennisForum.com
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old May 16th, 2004, 09:09 PM Thread Starter
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Women's Tennis: No Attendance, No Popularity, BIG PROBLEM!


Women’s tennis has attendance problem

Top stars, hampered by injuries, hardly play each other.

The Associated Press
Updated: 3:24 p.m. ET May 15, 2004

Not long ago, there were complaints that Venus and Serena Williams were too dominant, hurting tennis’ popularity by meeting in one Grand Slam final after another.

Oh, how the sport could use some of that continuity now.

The sisters haven’t played each other since Wimbledon, more than 10 months ago. The All England Club also was the site of the last matches featuring a Williams against Justine Henin-Hardenne or Kim Clijsters. The Belgians, who supplanted the siblings at Nos. 1-2, have squared off just once in 2004.

And it’s not simply that the best in women’s tennis aren’t playing each other — they’re hardly playing anyone, it seems.

Nine of the top 10 players in the WTA Tour rankings missed time at some point this season. Clijsters, twice a French Open runner-up, already ruled herself out with a hurt left wrist. The clay-court major starts May 24.

“I’m definitely concerned about it,” WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott said. “In talking to people who have been around women’s tennis for a long time, they said it’s bizarre to see so many flukish injuries and illnesses among top players so early in a season.”

The tour says its research shows injuries haven’t increased overall. But:
  • Henin-Hardenne hasn’t competed in five weeks because of what the tour called a virus; <LI class=textBodyBlack>Serena Williams just returned from nearly a month off with a sore left knee, the same one that was operated on Aug. 1, keeping her away from the tour until March;
  • Venus Williams couldn’t play in last weekend’s German Open final after twisting her left ankle in the semifinals, and she lost the last half of 2003 to an abdominal strain.
“We have very demanding schedules,” she said in Berlin. “We play nonstop. When we don’t, it’s an issue.”

The list of sidelined stars goes on: Jennifer Capriati’s hip, Amelie Mauresmo’s back, and Lindsay Davenport’s arm prevented them from playing in tournaments this season. Monica Seles hasn’t competed in a year; Martina Hingis retired at 22 in 2002 after operations on both ankles.

“At the moment, it’s like there is a spell following the tour,” Clijsters said in Berlin.

The main reasons cited for the host of hospital visits: too many matches, too few breaks, too much emphasis on power.

“I’ve been talking about this for a long time, and it’s not going to change until the structure of the tour changes,” Martina Navratilova said at this week’s Italian Open. “People play too much. The ranking system, the computer system, is encouraging people to play more, and then it’s encouraging them to play more when they’re not well, because they don’t want to miss out on anything.”

It’s a particular worry in an individual sport that counts on personalities and rivalries — and has dipping TV ratings. Still, citing three new deals worth a total of $15 million over five years, Scott said, “We haven’t been more successful from a marketing perspective than we have in the past three months.”

He said he’s committed to addressing the injury issue, discussing possible solutions at recent meetings with European and U.S. tournament directors and players’ representatives.

“Nothing is more important than having our players healthy and able to play their best tennis,” he said. “It’s at the top of my priority list.”

Among the proposals: starting seasons later by pushing back the Australian Open a week or two (unlikely before 2007), ending seasons earlier by moving up the Fed Cup final, and changing the ranking system to strike a balance between quality and quantity.

The men’s tour has been involved in such talks, although ATP CEO Mark Miles noted few male stars were hurt lately.

This week’s Hamburg Masters, for example, had 16 of the top 19 men. Andre Agassi plays a limited clay-court schedule, while reigning French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero (wrist) and U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick (knee) cited injuries; all are expected at Roland Garros.

Marat Safin, the 2000 U.S. Open champion, and David Nalbandian, the 2002 Wimbledon runner-up, have voiced concerns about lightening players’ loads.

“A somewhat longer offseason is a good idea, primarily because it brings the guys back fresher,” Miles said.

But while elite players might want extra rest, Miles said lower-ranked players aren’t “looking for more time off. They’re not concerned about a longer offseason. They’re concerned about opportunity” to play. Scott agreed.

It’s among the top women where the problem is most noticeable.

After winning five of six majors, beating her older sister in each championship match, Serena Williams missed two Slams in a row. Capriati also skipped the Australian Open, while Mauresmo tore a back muscle and couldn’t play her quarterfinal.

From 1987-90, Steffi Graf didn’t just play in 13 straight majors — she reached the final at each.

Talking recently with reporters about her induction to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Graf credited her doctors and physiotherapist with keeping her in shape when she played.

“I can’t speak for others — how they handle it or how differently they do things,” she said. “It’s a matter of having great people around you that help you.”

© 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old May 16th, 2004, 10:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Foot_Fault
Itís a particular worry in an individual sport that counts on personalities and rivalries...
IMO, you can trace Everything Else back To This partial sentence. WHY do you think the ranking system (counting only best 17 results in past 52 weeks) encourages ovaplay? WHY do you Think They let The TD's get away with murder re. WC's? (I could give a half dozen more Examples Easily, but the answer is the Same "Star System"). Scott, Sell TENNIS, you SOB!
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old May 16th, 2004, 10:37 PM
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Pretty bizarre article. Navratilova didn't get her record for matches won and lost in a year by not playing. - indeed she was churning out doubles wins at the same time. Graf may have turned up from 87-90 but she spent an awful lot of time injured therafter. Venus and Serena are the most damaged top tenners but play the least when they are well. Kim and Justine have problems unrelated to how much they have played - unless you argue the virus struck Justine when she was tired. Momo and Jennifer have long-standing problems which have kept them from playing and Jennifer hasn't been getting that far into tournaments until her latest revival so its n0ot too much play. Conclusion it isn't how much you play its luck or how you play or how you played when you got the injury the first time or how your body couldn't cope with play after a time not playing.
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old May 16th, 2004, 11:20 PM Thread Starter
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The article was pretty good, b/c Womens tennis have been damned somewhat with all the injuries. The men's game is flourishing. So the interest is lying with them at the moment.


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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old May 17th, 2004, 01:26 AM
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they aren't marketing women's tennis well at all. they need to focus on the younger sexier up and comers. it may sound wrong and gross, but sex sells. i'm 16 yrs. old i don't want to see some 30 yr. old woman who is ugly playing tennis. i want the young hotties. trust me if you well the younger hotter players you will be fine. people might not watch it for the tennis, but you have to get them watching first. if you get them watching they will learn how to appreciate the game.
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old May 17th, 2004, 06:33 AM
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MSNBC picked up the same AP wire story that many newspapers have. The headline is very misleading, to say the least. Someone who glanced at it and didn't read the article would think that tournament attendance (fans) was down. (Expect an article from Sally Jenkins any day now.)

And where do they get that crap about dipping ratings? Did they just look at the numbers for a couple of slam finals vs. the all-Williams matchups of a year earlier? If they looked at the overall numbers, WTA TV ratings have held steady, despite the long absences of les Williams, and injuries to the other top players. Which leads one to believe that had they all remained healthy, the ratings would have continued their steady rise upward. It's the rest of tennis (slams, ATP) that have seen ratings slide in this country (USA, home of the writer who wrote this article).

It's the typical garbage the WTA gets from the media. Everything is magnified and spun in the most negative way possible. Remember early 2000, when Venus and Serena were out of action for a little while, and Hingis and Davenport met in a few finals over the first 3 months of the season? All of a sudden there were headlines "Women's tennis in a tailspin". Or even just a few weeks ago, when Serena beat Elena badly in the Miami final. Suddenly there were articles proclaiming how bad it made the tour look for Serena to win the final of her first event back so convincingly, and how bad it made the tour look that someone who played like Dementieva did in the final could be #8 in the world. They conveniently overlooked the fact that Serena lives and practices with one of the best players in the world. And they conveniently neglected to compare Dementieva's performance in the final with her effort from days earlier, when she beat Venus, and from throughout the past year. It would be immediately obvious to anyone who follows the tour at all that there would be no way in hell Dementieva would get anywhere near the top 8 if she always played as she did in the Miami final. And the little detail that she was injured, and considered not even playing the final, somehow slipped by most articles. But then, many of them never let a little thing like journalism get in the way of their writing.

This article, in and of itself, is not as bad as many of its contemporaries. It's just the collected whole that tends to be annoying. But it does underscore the dilemna in solving the injury "problem". People can't seem to agree what the "problem" is. Overplaying? Then why are the Williamses frequently hurt? Surfaces? Players are getting hurt regardless of which surface they prefer. Power tennis? Finesse players seem to be falling at a faster clip than power merchants. The only real solution is smarter scheduling by the players. Don't play 4, 5 weeks in a row, regardless of the surface.

And to think, in light of these injury problems, some tennis writers are in favor of making all of the top tournaments mandatory.
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old May 17th, 2004, 01:14 PM
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it's been discussed over and over again... I wish someone would show the stats of the players who get injured very often (such as Kim, Williamses, Mauresmo) vs. players 10 years ago. I bet 10 years they played more matches (excpet for, maybe, Kim).

Vassilissa is my girl............
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