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Journalist's Roundtable: In Search of Common Sense

This is a really interesting (albeit long) article from insidetennis.com. It touches on so many debates on how the sport is managed, its internationalisation, the role of the media, plus there are some really amusing stories and observations :



'At the U.S. Open, Inside Tennisí Matthew Cronin sat down with Sports Illustratedís L. Jon Wertheim, Eleanor Preston of Britainís the Guardian and Tennis Life, and Cecile Soler, the tennis correspondent for Franceís le Figaro to discuss the future of the sport.

IT: Jon, does the U.S. need to have players at the top for tennis to be a popular American sport?
JW: Thatís the conventional wisdom, but we had Pete, Andre, Courier, Chang, the Williams sisters, Lindsay and Capriati all in an eight-year window and the numbers tailed off. From a media perspective, the coverage was better, but participation tailed off. But getting Joe Sports Fan to appreciate Federer, Nadal and Mauresmo is so key for the tours. They do themselves no favors with some of the scheduling and promoting. All the figures say participation is increasing, but I donít see it.
IT: ESPN gave up on Davis Cup this year, which is a bad sign. Just a couple of journalists traveled to Russia for the semis, and thatís not a good sign because it means publications donít think there is enough fan interest to warrant spending the money.
JW: Davis Cup is a mess. The hope I see is that tennis becomes so international that the national factor ceases to matter. I get dozens of e-mails every week from fans in China and the Philippines, and 10 years ago, that wasnít there. Emerging nations give tennis hope. Forty-thousand people can greet Sania Mirza when she goes back to India. But in the U.S. every year it seems like tennis is getting chipped away.
IT: Itís clear that tennis is becoming more international and both tours are pushing to expand their borders. The ATP Championships is in Shanghai, China, where there are no male players of note. The Sony Ericsson WTA Championships is in Madrid, and Spain has no woman inside the top 20. Plus, with the increased internationalism, the days of having a dominant tennis nation are over. The Russian women are doing really well, but they certainly arenít dominating. France is deep on both sides but isnít sweeping up menís crowns, and outside of Nadal, the Spanish men have tailed off. For all this talk of the Chinese women, few have had major impact. It seems like every country has one or two very good players, and thatís the way itís going to stay.

EP: The problem tennis has is not keeping its fan base, but attracting new fans who donít play it or understand it. You need to attract casual sports fans. Thatís what tennisí long-term health relies on. What the tours think is appealing to nontennis fans is Sharapova in a really short dress, and they canít see beyond that. They heavily promote Nadal, Roddick, Sharapova and Serena because they believe they are saleable and they ignore others. Theyíre running their marquee stars into the ground trying to get them to appeal across all other sports markets. So we have six crossover stars that people in the street recognize, and you have a whole lot of Nicolay Davydenkos who people donít give a monkey about.

IT: Isnít that because the tours are promoting the stars as products rather than as athletes? Sharapova is promoted as a sex symbol and Nadal is too ó ďCome see the sexy Russian, come see the cool muscular Spaniard.Ē But they forget to focus on which sport they play. And they are going to nonsports fans, which is a big mistake.
EP: They arenít going beyond six names and thatís a mistake. There are other interesting stories out there. Jelena Jankovic is an interesting story. Sheís a struggling student-athlete. Ivan Ljubicic was caught up in a civil war in Croatia. So was Ana Ivanovic. Why donít people talk to her about being in Belgrade and having bombs dropped when she was 6 and 7 years old? Instead, itís Ivanovic looks nice in a short skirt.
IT: Cecile, four Spanish males plus Gustavo Kuerten from Brazil have won Roland Garros since Ď97. Are any of those guys popular in France?
CS: They are not popular at all. But what the ATP is doing now is promoting the rivalry between Federer and Nadal, and itís catching on.
IT: Fortunately this year, Federer and Nadal played each other five times, but weíve had years when the tours are trying to promote rivalries and the players were hardly facing each other.

JW: The idea is out there to split the tours up like they do in golf, that people in L.A. would rather see Justin Gimelstob than Ljubicic. Theyíd rather see Blake v. Roddick and even if Federer isnít in the draw, Americans like Americans and Europeans like to see Europeans. They can come together and face each other at the Slams.

IT: When the ATP is frequently holding three tournaments a week, thatís what they have to do. There is no way that Federer is going to come to the U.S. when there is a tournament going on in France during the same week. Same goes with Roddick going to Europe.
JW: Julian Benneteau is not selling tickets in Memphis during February, and Vince Spadea is not selling seats in Marseille.
EP: Itís bizarre that one of the few truly global sports feels that it needs to become more insular in order to sell itself. That doesnít follow common sense.

JW: But thatís how it is in the States. NASCAR is so popular because itís so concentrated. The NFL is the least global sport and is the most popular. Hockey and the NBA have the most foreign players, and it dilutes the interest. The most successful sports in the U.S. are the most Balkanized.

EP: When you look at tennis from the outside, itís completely insane. What do you want when you have three menís tournaments in three different time zones at the same time and then another three womenís as well. Some people are playing Davis Cup and others are playing Challengers and donít forget about Sopot. There are too many events and no one understands them. You have Davis Cup, which is fantastic, and Fed Cup is also a very good team event that they have squandered.
CS: Itís amazing to me that so few U.S. journalists travel abroad to cover Davis Cup, because if France was playing Russia in the final and it was on the moon, all the French journalists would be sent. But when Mauresmo won the Italian Open, there were five journalists on site. Davis Cup is sacred. But in the States, thereís not the same feeling.



IT: Weíre the most successful Davis Cup nation ever, but weíve really lost that sense of how relevant the competition is. If a tie is in the States, thereís a pretty decent group of journalists, but if itís abroad, it has to be a final to convince publications to send folks and even then, there wasnít a huge group of us in Sevilla two years ago. Itís almost prohibitively expensive to fly to Moscow for what could end up being a two-day competition. They need to switch the format to every other year.
JW: Plus the format is confusing. You play the final in December and then two months later, the finalists are playing again. My editor doesnít understand why I was just in Spain and then I wanted to go to L.A. two months later. He said, ďI thought you just went to Spain?Ē And I have to say, ďBut itís a new year and a new round.Ē
EP: Try explaining a relegation tie in the Euro-African zone II to a sports editor. The BBC has stopped showing Davis Cup on regular cable.
CS: National TV in France shows all the ties.
EP: It is partly that weíre crap and going down the divisions. Itís not like Andy Murray is out there playing Nadal. Heís playing Sergiy Stakhovsky from the Ukraine.
IT: No one wants to give ground on the schedule, not the ITF, the tours, the Slams. Weíve essentially been stuck for the past 20 years.
EP: The Muppets are in charge of the dressing room. Itís a great product sold by idiots.
IT: Letís go to doubles. The players were pushed aside last year when the ATP essentially attempted to legislate doubles specialists out of existence, and even though the players eventually won the day, I still donít think that most people follow doubles unless they are at a tournament and need another match to watch. Outside of a handful of teams, I donít think that fans support it like the doubles specialists think they do, and there may not be much of a future for it in the pro game.
EP: The idea of the doubles specialist is fatal for the sport. No one is cueing up to see Kevin Ulleyet.
JW: The saving grace is that the tournaments need them to fill sessions.
IT: Itís dessert.
EP: Itís not really. Itís more of a cigarette between courses. People watched doubles in the old days because they got to see McEnroe smiling or talking to his mate.
IT: But he was a star, and on the menís side, the stars donít play more than a couple times a year.
EP: But if you had fewer tournaments, the stars might play more. You have to be reasonable. You canít put on three-out-of-five-set doubles matches on the last session and expect the singles stars to play. Maybe you have to cut a round. You have to build the support for doubles at the Slams, where it is supported to some degree, and then sell it on down to the tours.
IT: But the Slams donít live in reality. They make so much money and are so successful it doesnít matter what they put on.
EP: But why are they so successful?
IT: Because they are the defined, historically important crown jewels of the sport. Everyone knows what they are, how important they are and how great it is to attend them or watch them.
CS: If there are doubles on Court Centrale at the French Open and there is a French player who they know like Natalie Tauziat, they will stay.
JW: There were 120 doubles players at the U.S. Open. Do they really need that?
EP: They could have a 16 draw.
IT: Why do the tours keep talking about reducing the schedule while at the same time they are trying to enter new markets? Getting into emerging markets is crucial, but other than for strictly financial benefits, and I mean taking huge money from nondemocratic governments who donít compete in the real economy, thereís no evidence that thereís a sustainable, local fan base for the tours in places like China, Doha and Dubai.
JW: But you need that beachhead. When an economy like China is growing at 10 percent a year, you have to be there.
EP: Overall, you need to have the Slams and then a very restricted number of mandatory events where the stars go, and then you need to cut out a lot of others. No, you canít play a small clay-court tournament; you have to play a Masters Series. No one cares about Hamburg unless they know that the players are there to get into form for Roland Garros.
IT: But how do you grow a sport if you cut 15 to 20 tournaments, many of which are very successful, and then also abandon the idea of going into new markets?
EP: No one cares about some of those events. You even go to Rome on Monday and no one is in the seats.
JW: Rome is exceptional, but Cincinnatiís Monday session is sold-out.
EP: Thatís because thereís nothing around there for 400 miles, including Cincinnati.
CS: There are so many things going on in Rome that itís hard to get people to watch tennis. Monte Carlo is successful now, and Bercy (TMS Paris) struggled for a while, but itís doing better now.
IT: Tournaments will fold on their own volition if they arenít successful. The major mistake being made is playing tennis during the day during the work weeks outside of the summer. No one is taking off work to go see those matches. The only thing that matters Monday through Friday is night tennis. So why not cut the number of tournament days to five and reduce the draw sizes? That way, the better players will be playing less during the week, and you can still keep the tournaments and fans happy by providing them with some top players. Thereís no need for 32-draws. Have the lesser players qualify into 16-person draws and give the stars a break.
EP: Thatís a good idea, but thereís still saturation.
JW: But for every Lindsay Davenport saying that the tournament commitment is too high, you have a Davydenko or Dementieva who play every week. Or there are the lesser players, like a Nicole Pratt, who want to get into a main draw to make $7,500.
EP: The future of pro tennis is not dependent upon whether Pratt makes her $7,500 or that Davydenko gets another paycheck. He doesnít even sell in Russia.
CS: No one sells in Russia. The worst attended event I ever covered was the Fed Cup final in Russia. It was completely empty. Itís incredible because 20 years ago, if you went to the U.S.S.R. to watch sports, it was packed. And now that Russian tennis is successful, fans arenít watching.
IT: The Russian economy hasnít kept up with the success of the players. Itís just too expensive for the average fan to afford.
CS: The ticket prices werenít low enough. But still, even though there are too many poor people in Moscow, there are a lot of wealthy people, too. Iím not sure why they wonít go.
IT: Do the players have a realistic view as to how popular tennis is?

EP: They havenít the faintest idea. They live in a pampered, cut-off existence where they are told they are the best things since sliced bread. Matt and I sat in a player meeting where Vera Zvonareva said to us, ďI donít think we should give journalists access to the playersí lounges because I donít want 20 to 30 journalists hovering around me when Iím trying to concentrate.Ē How you and I didnít laugh, I donít know. And then Jelena Dokic, who knows a little about getting a lot of press, very nicely said, ďVera, I donít think that is going to happen to you.Ē That sums it up.

JW: Billie Jean King says itís a shame that players arenít taking ownership of the tour. Sharapova makes $20 million a year. She thinks womenís tennis is the hottest thing going. The staffs have their membrane of agents and PR people, and they all make plenty of money and everyoneís happy.
IT: But players outside of the top 50 have to know itís not that popular. Iíve been at dozens of matches where there were no more than a hundred fans watching.
EP: Players outside of the top 100 know that no one watches, no one cares and they are making no money. Thereís a terrible inequality with a nice layer of cream at the top and layers of crap underneath. They live with the reality of not being able to afford hotels and live on baked beans.
IT: Thereís still too much power in the hands of the tournament directors who donít see the big picture beyond their own events.
EP: Menís tennis ó half owned by the players and half by the tournament directors. Whose idea was that? Itís insane. The structure of the ATP is doomed to failure.
IT: Especially because the ATP structure gives the ATP CEO the tiebreaking vote and for the most part, heís going to vote with the tournament directors, because they are the folks who hired him in the first place.
EP: Heís stuck because the politicking he has to do is never going to be for the good of the sport, but for the good of his position. Round-robin isnít good for the sport, but players want the guaranteed prize money and the tournament directors want guaranteed appearances by the stars.
IT: I disagree, I like round-robins.
JW: So do I.
EP: It goes against the grain of the sport, which is a knockout sport. You need the drama of upsets.
CS: It will take away the drama if the stars can keep playing.
EP: When Murray upset Federer in Cincinnati, it was at the top of the news, not just sport ó it was ahead of Bush and Blair.
JW: It would be the same effect in a round-robin.
EP: No it wouldnít because Roger could come back the next day and still end up winning the tournament.
IT: Now Iím defending the tournaments, but if you are a small event and paying $250,000 to Roddick just to show up, you want to be able to put him on your marquee for at least three appearances, even if one ends up being a dead rubber. Fans want to see the guy, and they are more apt to go if they have more chances.
EP: Then they should cut out appearance money and the number of tournaments and make more events mandatory.
JW: Then some guy in Houston will offer Andy $500,000 to play an exhibition.
IT: Is this a good group of personalities on both the menís and womenís sides?
CS: Yes. You have an amazing player like Roger who has some personality, and Nadal is great both ways.
JW: I think they have flip-flopped. The men are full of personalities who get it. Nadal is amazing. Roger is great.
EP: Roger has had a downturn as of late.
IT: Thereís too much media training, and some of the players are wooden. Nicole Vaidisova is robotic. Sheís the anti-Ivanovic, who is nice, thoughtful and full of life.

JW: The women used to be great. Richard Williams, Hingis and Kournikova. But youíre right about Vaidisova. Sheís been completely cleaned up.

CS: But do you want horrible stories like Dokic, or a nice story like Mauresmo who overcame so much?
JW: I just want access. The stories will sell themselves.
IT: Cecile makes a good point. Itís good to have some positive stories. Mauresmo is great and so is Clijsters.
EP: But no one cares about her outside of Belgium.
IT: I disagree. She drew very well in California this summer. Sheíll never be the most popular player in the world, but I think that fans do like her and enjoy having a friendly girl next door who smiles be a top player, even if sheís Belgian.
JW: In how may other sports can you say the access has improved? I think itís better than it was five years ago.
CS: The men for sure. Especially with Roger and Rafa. The ATP is better organized than the WTA. The women are really bad.
EP: I do think though that the ATP tries to do too much to promote itself and not the players.
IT: Itís time and place with the women. Some days itís so casual and they are so accessible that I think Iím hosting them at a dinner, and other days I feel like I forgot to bring my VIP invitation to a nightclub. Even though there are some problems with the women, Sharapova is very good for the most part.
EP: Sheís great and funny.
CS: Sheís bright and mature, and she canít help how successful she is.
IT: Unfortunately, you canít teach charisma. Some of them have it and some of them donít.
EP: But you can hide it. There are players with charisma that we donít know about.
JW: Exactly. You sit down with Andy Ram and 45 minutes later you say, ďWow!Ē
EP: There are hidden treasures away from the top six that the tours donít perceive to be marquee names.
CS: Thatís our job, to dig it out.
EP: But itís also their job not to continue to roll out the same players again and again. Thatís what is happening with Federer. Heís always been very accommodating, but they run him into the ground. The same thing will happen to Nadal.
IT: This goes back to the whole knockout argument. Try selling to your clients a feature story on a player who never gets beyond the second round. Itís nearly impossible. Itís a star-driven sport. No one has written more Sharapova stories then I did this year, and my clients have insatiable appetites for her. I canít say the same about a generic, titleless player, unless she has some incredibly interesting backstory, which is pretty rare.
EP: At the end of the day, itís not my responsibility to sell tennis. Itís my responsibility to sell newspapers, to file on time and to write what my editor wants.
JW: Agreed. The tours think we are complicit in the selling of tennis. Thatís lost on them. We donít work for them.
CS: Depending on the deadline, the editors might have to swallow what I send. They have to trust me. And I sell them story ideas. Not the sport, but the story itself.
EP: To me, there are no positive or negative stories, there are just interesting stories. When I go out to dinner and someone who doesnít follow the sport that much asks me about some subject, then I know what I should be writing about.'
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old Nov 20th, 2006, 05:58 AM
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Re: Journalist's Roundtable: In Search of Common Sense

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EP: Matt and I sat in a player meeting where Vera Zvonareva said to us, ďI donít think we should give journalists access to the playersí lounges because I donít want 20 to 30 journalists hovering around me when Iím trying to concentrate.Ē How you and I didnít laugh, I donít know. And then Jelena Dokic, who knows a little about getting a lot of press, very nicely said, ďVera, I donít think that is going to happen to you.Ē That sums it up.
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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old Nov 20th, 2006, 06:16 AM
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Re: Journalist's Roundtable: In Search of Common Sense

That was funny^

Incredibly long read, I'm sleepy now

But it was interesting. THEY seem to like Sharapova

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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old Nov 20th, 2006, 06:54 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Journalist's Roundtable: In Search of Common Sense

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But it was interesting. THEY seem to like Sharapova
I've always found Sharapova as a person way less annoying than the one-dimensional way in which the tour insists on marketing her.

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Re: Journalist's Roundtable: In Search of Common Sense

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That was funny^

Incredibly long read, I'm sleepy now

But it was interesting. THEY seem to like Sharapova
Well, what they say is true... Masha brings in the bread and the publicity for the WTA... and that in some way or another affects their paychecks, so they gotta like her We can say that perhaps ATP is more popular than the WTA overall but WTA has got the most popular player right now, and she outearns those top 2 on the ATP combined!
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Re: Journalist's Roundtable: In Search of Common Sense

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EP: They havenít the faintest idea. They live in a pampered, cut-off existence where they are told they are the best things since sliced bread. Matt and I sat in a player meeting where Vera Zvonareva said to us, ďI donít think we should give journalists access to the playersí lounges because I donít want 20 to 30 journalists hovering around me when Iím trying to concentrate.Ē How you and I didnít laugh, I donít know. And then Jelena Dokic, who knows a little about getting a lot of press, very nicely said, ďVera, I donít think that is going to happen to you.Ē That sums it up.
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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old Nov 20th, 2006, 07:23 AM
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Re: Journalist's Roundtable: In Search of Common Sense

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JW: But for every Lindsay Davenport saying that the tournament commitment is too high, you have a Davydenko or Dementieva who play every week. Or there are the lesser players, like a Nicole Pratt, who want to get into a main draw to make $7,500.

EP: The future of pro tennis is not dependent upon whether Pratt makes her $7,500 or that Davydenko gets another paycheck. He doesnít even sell in Russia.
*DEATH*

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IT: Thereís too much media training, and some of the players are wooden. Nicole Vaidisova is robotic. Sheís the anti-Ivanovic, who is nice, thoughtful and full of life.


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IT: Mauresmo is great and so is Clijsters.
EP: But no one cares about her outside of Belgium.


Talk about uninformed!
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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old Nov 20th, 2006, 09:43 AM
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Re: Journalist's Roundtable: In Search of Common Sense

good read....but long.

I'm not young enough to know everything.
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Re: Journalist's Roundtable: In Search of Common Sense

There is so much money out there for tennis.
Countries like Dubai Doha China.
Big companies that want to be sponsors like SonyEricsson.

Even though the popularity of tennis (relative to other major sports)
is going down, there is more money than ever available.

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Re: Journalist's Roundtable: In Search of Common Sense

What an interesting article and amazing to see something posted on the GM that doesn't focus on nobodies and without expletives.
It's just a pity that it isn't anything we haven't read before.
Thanks for posting that Bruingirl, it was a welcome change for us adults, who are able to concentrate for more than three lines, to have something to read.
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This is true. The best thing the majors could do is raise the money all the first round non-winners get to at least $20,000

"EP: Players outside of the top 100 know that no one watches, no one cares and they are making no money. There’s a terrible inequality with a nice layer of cream at the top and layers of crap underneath. They live with the reality of not being able to afford hotels and live on baked beans."

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EP: The problem tennis has is not keeping its fan base, but attracting new fans who don’t play it or understand it. You need to attract casual sports fans. That’s what tennis’ long-term health relies on. What the tours think is appealing to nontennis fans is Sharapova in a really short dress, and they can’t see beyond that. They heavily promote Nadal, Roddick, Sharapova and Serena because they believe they are saleable and they ignore others. They’re running their marquee stars into the ground trying to get them to appeal across all other sports markets. So we have six crossover stars that people in the street recognize, and you have a whole lot of Nicolay Davydenkos who people don’t give a monkey about.

[...]

IT: Isn’t that because the tours are promoting the stars as products rather than as athletes? Sharapova is promoted as a sex symbol and Nadal is too — “Come see the sexy Russian, come see the cool muscular Spaniard.” But they forget to focus on which sport they play. And they are going to nonsports fans, which is a big mistake.
Attracting casual sports fans, people who usually/sometimes attend sports events and watch sports TV channels, instead of people who don't care for sports either way, is probably the way to go.

But tennis has lost much of the "upscale" market it once dominated for golf, and fans of other less glamourous sports tend to look at tennis as something elitist and faggy. Others find it decidely upper-middle-class, square and unhip.

Quote:
IT: No one wants to give ground on the schedule, not the ITF, the tours, the Slams. We’ve essentially been stuck for the past 20 years.
That's because the game is managed by several different organizations with competing interests. Whatever happens, the Slams will always make money, so they see no need to be accomodating to any kind of changes (a point they make further down the roundtable). Tennis should take a look at football to see how a truly global sport can be managed by dozens of different organizations to the benefit of all.

Quote:
IT: Let’s go to doubles. The players were pushed aside last year when the ATP essentially attempted to legislate doubles specialists out of existence, and even though the players eventually won the day, I still don’t think that most people follow doubles unless they are at a tournament and need another match to watch. Outside of a handful of teams, I don’t think that fans support it like the doubles specialists think they do, and there may not be much of a future for it in the pro game.
EP: The idea of the doubles specialist is fatal for the sport. No one is cueing up to see Kevin Ulleyet.
JW: The saving grace is that the tournaments need them to fill sessions.
IT: It’s dessert.
EP: It’s not really. It’s more of a cigarette between courses. People watched doubles in the old days because they got to see McEnroe smiling or talking to his mate.
Good, candid analysis of doubles. They way it is now, nobody cares about it. Making celebrities/stars out of the Bryan twins was a good move, but there's a limit to what they can achieve by themselves - particularly outside the US.

Quote:
JW: But for every Lindsay Davenport saying that the tournament commitment is too high, you have a Davydenko or Dementieva who play every week. Or there are the lesser players, like a Nicole Pratt, who want to get into a main draw to make $7,500.
"Dementieva" remains a byword for "tournament hogger" even though there's 3 players who played more tournaments than her in 2006 on the top 10 alone.

Quote:
IT: There’s still too much power in the hands of the tournament directors who don’t see the big picture beyond their own events.
EP: Men’s tennis — half owned by the players and half by the tournament directors. Whose idea was that? It’s insane. The structure of the ATP is doomed to failure.
IT: Especially because the ATP structure gives the ATP CEO the tiebreaking vote and for the most part, he’s going to vote with the tournament directors, because they are the folks who hired him in the first place.
This is the heart of the issue. All the proposals that have been recently put forward for change cater to the needs of the TD's and of nobody else.

Quote:
EP: He’s stuck because the politicking he has to do is never going to be for the good of the sport, but for the good of his position. Round-robin isn’t good for the sport, but players want the guaranteed prize money and the tournament directors want guaranteed appearances by the stars.
IT: I disagree, I like round-robins.
JW: So do I.
EP: It goes against the grain of the sport, which is a knockout sport. You need the drama of upsets.
CS: It will take away the drama if the stars can keep playing.
EP: When Murray upset Federer in Cincinnati, it was at the top of the news, not just sport — it was ahead of Bush and Blair.
JW: It would be the same effect in a round-robin.
EP: No it wouldn’t because Roger could come back the next day and still end up winning the tournament.
IT: Now I’m defending the tournaments, but if you are a small event and paying $250,000 to Roddick just to show up, you want to be able to put him on your marquee for at least three appearances, even if one ends up being a dead rubber. Fans want to see the guy, and they are more apt to go if they have more chances.
This is a fair analysis of the pros and cons of the RR system. TD's get more bang for the buck, but upsets are no longer big news.

Compare:

"SHOCKER! Sharapova out of Miami after loss to Belarusian teen Azarenka!"

"Sharapova loses RR match to Chakvetadze; now has to beat Francesca Schiavone on her final RR stage match to proceed to the knockout stage, unless Petrova beats Shahar Peer in straight sets or Clijsters fails to win more than six games vs Srebotnik"

Quote:
IT: Is this a good group of personalities on both the men’s and women’s sides?
CS: Yes. You have an amazing player like Roger who has some personality, and Nadal is great both ways.
JW: I think they have flip-flopped. The men are full of personalities who get it. Nadal is amazing. Roger is great.
EP: Roger has had a downturn as of late.
IT: There’s too much media training, and some of the players are wooden. Nicole Vaidisova is robotic. She’s the anti-Ivanovic, who is nice, thoughtful and full of life.
JW: The women used to be great. Richard Williams, Hingis and Kournikova. But you’re right about Vaidisova. She’s been completely cleaned up.
CS: But do you want horrible stories like Dokic, or a nice story like Mauresmo who overcame so much?
Ah.

The personalities.

Sports hacks journalists can't quite come to terms with the fact that they're mostly writing about very boring people. Their counterparts on the mainstream media go on to interview artists, writers, statesmen, combat veterans, rock stars or even local heros with great stuff to tell, while they are stuck with Vaidisova, who says nothing but "I'm very excited to be here", "I'm looking forward to playing with her", "I'll do my best but it's going to be a very tough match", rewind and repeat. I feel for them.

Quote:
IT: It’s time and place with the women. Some days it’s so casual and they are so accessible that I think I’m hosting them at a dinner, and other days I feel like I forgot to bring my VIP invitation to a nightclub. Even though there are some problems with the women, Sharapova is very good for the most part.
EP: She’s great and funny.
CS: She’s bright and mature, and she can’t help how successful she is.
So she makes for a good interview/presser. So I'm even more at a loss as to why the press disses her so much.

Quote:
IT: Unfortunately, you can’t teach charisma. Some of them have it and some of them don’t.
EP: But you can hide it. There are players with charisma that we don’t know about.
JW: Exactly. You sit down with Andy Ram and 45 minutes later you say, “Wow!”
EP: There are hidden treasures away from the top six that the tours don’t perceive to be marquee names.
CS: That’s our job, to dig it out.
Nobody "dug out" this year's greatest discovery, Tursunov. He came out of nowhere. I don't believe anyone expected things to turn out the way they did when he was asked to blog from the Estoril Open.

Kvitova * Garcia * Dodin * Robson


Eu Jogo Tťnis


Prokofiev + Son Goku = pwnage

Last edited by Corswandt; Nov 20th, 2006 at 07:01 PM.
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post #13 of 20 (permalink) Old Nov 21st, 2006, 04:17 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Journalist's Roundtable: In Search of Common Sense

Quote:
Originally Posted by SpankMe View Post
What an interesting article and amazing to see something posted on the GM that doesn't focus on nobodies and without expletives.
It's just a pity that it isn't anything we haven't read before.
Thanks for posting that Bruingirl, it was a welcome change for us adults, who are able to concentrate for more than three lines, to have something to read.
I was thinking something like that before I posted it.
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post #14 of 20 (permalink) Old Nov 21st, 2006, 10:42 AM
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Re: Journalist's Roundtable: In Search of Common Sense

The problem for doubles is that it's not televised. People enjoy watching it. Every year the BBC say that they get letters asking for more doubles to be shown from Wimbledon - but they can't always do it because it's not on televised courts.. because other TV stations don't want to show it. I think doubles is entertaining enough that a push to get it televised would lead to it becoming much much more popular.
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post #15 of 20 (permalink) Old Nov 21st, 2006, 10:48 AM
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Re: Journalist's Roundtable: In Search of Common Sense

The writers seem to ignore that they are in between 2 different groups of fans. You have the ticket-buying fans, who tend to be more upper-income and more "traditional", and the fans who can't afford to travel to tournaments but watch on TV, and tend to be far more diverse. It is this second group that better represents the "casual" sports fan. (A successful tourney may draw about 100,000 spectators, but it will draw millions of viewers.) And it is this second group that the writers tend to be largely unaware of.

The tennis media tend to be their own group. They inhabit the world of press boxes and media centers, and their opinions are often shaped by interactions with each other, and not the public at large. Thus their perceptions of who/what has appeal to fans is often out of touch with reality. Witness the comments re: Clijsters. As the TV numbers bear out, here in the U.S., she's a bigger draw than everyone but the top American women stars, plus Hingis and Sharapova. Likewise the tennis press seem to think that because they are jazzed up about the Federer/Nadal rivalry, and a few of the other top ATP players, that men's tennis has somehow surpassed women's in popularity. The reality of the TV numbers once again runs in contrast. Here in the U.S., the women are pulling further ahead, despite the prolonged absences of Williams(x2), Davenport, Capriati, Seles, and the women draw higher TV numbers for Europe overall, and Asia overall. (That's why Eurosport balked at the ATP's demands a few years back. After a full year of WTA Tier I and II and ATP Masters Series coverage in which 12 of their top 15 rated tennis telecasts were from the WTA, including the top 8, it didn't make financial sense to dramatically increase the amount they were paying for ATP rights.)

The writers betray their ignorance of their own sport's history with their statements re: the slams. They aren't the biggest events in the sport purely by din of historical importance. Indeed, in the beginning, they weren't even the biggest events in their region. The Australian Championships took a back seat to the New Zealand Championships, and WImbledon wasn't even the biggest event in the U.K. (the Irish Championships were). These slams became as big as they are for one reason: the players support them. Why did the French Championships lose some luster in the mid-70's? Many top players skipped it. Why did the Australian Open nearly lose slam status? (And this was under serious discussion at the time.) The top players blew it off. That's why the ITF is so opposed to more combined events. Suppose there is a 2-week joint ATP/WTA event in Rome, with 128 draws, and all the top players in attendance. Now suppose, for whatever reason, most of the top players got angry with the FFT, and skipped Roland Garros? If that continues for a couple of years, which event would the general public consider the "clay court slam"?

Even worse is their disdain for the rank-and-file player. How hypocritical to criticize the tours for focusing on their stars, then to turn around and say it doesn't matter if Pratt makes enough money to stay on the tour, or that Davydenko doesn't matter. The Pratts and Davydenkos and everyone in-between ARE the tours. Without players of Pratt's calibre, the Federers and Mauresmos would be winning all of their early round matches in blowouts. It would harken back to the "Golden" era when a Lenglen or Tilden would pummel a local stiff in less time than it took to call the score. And if you took out players like Davydenko, a Federer or Mauresmo would enjoy similar ease in the later rounds. We'd be back to the good old days when a tournament was largely a couple of stars beating up local club players. Is that what these writers want? If not, then I'd say Pratt and Davydenko do matter.

And who can't see through their moaning about "access" to the women stars? In the old days of tennis, before the internet and global exposure, the tennis writers controlled every bit of information that got out to the general public. Women's tennis was shoved way to the back of the bus, with the scant coverage afforded to it just as likely to focus on what they were wearing as what they were winning. So now the WTA does an end-run around the traditional tennis media, and gets their stories and stars out to the general public through other avenues, and the tennis writers are crying because they don't have sole power to determine what we hear about women's tennis anymore. Boo hoo. Maybe if they had treated the women with a bit more respect, it wouldn't have come to this.

And the topper is the criticism of all the powers-that-be holding back the game due to constant disagreements between them. Have you ever tried asking a tennis writer to come up with a blueprint to solve all the game's problems? Have you asked another? And another? Ask 10 different writers, you'll get 10 different plans. And this is from people with (supposedly) no vested interests. If they can't agree, is it any surprise that those with turf to defend can't? Hell, the writers often disagree as to what the problems are. And many of their proposed solutions are worse than even stuff we come up with.
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