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Marcell
Aug 14th, 2007, 01:57 PM
Tour needs young stars to sell game

Damien Cox

The powers-that-be of the women's tennis world understand the system is broken. Badly broken.

The demanding schedule means the athletes are constantly injured but also frequently portrayed as either disingenuous or out-and-out liars for the manner in which they frequently withdraw from tournaments.

It's a disease that doesn't affect mighty Wimbledon or the U.S. Open. But for the rest of the game and in the industry – like this year's Rogers Cup in Toronto – it's just bad for business.

While just a few years ago the women's game was perceived to have become more colourful and interesting than the men's game, the disappearance of top players – Lindsay Davenport, Monica Seles, Kim Clijsters – and ongoing problems with getting players to appear when they're supposed to appear has once again put the women a step behind.

So changes are on the way. But they're still two years or more away, which means an awful lot of added damage can be done before the tour structure is fixed.

It's up to the women currently on the tour, then, to go out of their way to do positive things to sell and promote the game, and part of that is developing new personalities and storylines to replace the old ones.

The dynamic Serbs, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic, are both in Toronto this week, and both are blessed with sunny personas that would help any promoter. While they are seen as rising stars likely to be dominant forces in the game for years, the same is not yet necessarily certain for Marion Bartoli of France, an intriguing new character who charmed the All-England club last month en route to the Wimbledon final.

Was it all a fluke or is Bartoli the real deal, a late bloomer at age 22? She arrived in Toronto having lost three of the four matches she has played since stunning world No. 1 Justine Henin at Wimbledon – while simultaneously playing groupie to movie star Pierce Brosnan – and then losing to Venus Williams in her first Grand Slam final appearance.

Getting to a Grand Slam final, it seems, came with costs as well as benefits. The day after losing to Williams, Bartoli was bundled off in a car to Canterbury for a French TV commitment, then hustled back to London for the Wimbledon ball before jetting home to Geneva the next day.

When she later crossed the ocean to resume activity at a tournament in Stanford., Calif., she lost in the first round to an unknown wild card.

"After Wimbledon, I didn't really feel like I had any time off," she said yesterday. "There were so many phone calls, people wanting to talk to me, so many things going on with my agent, with sponsors. I felt I was busy every single day even though I wasn't playing tennis.

"But I'm young. In five years I will remember my final in Wimbledon, but not the first one I lost after that in Stanford, so that's fine."

Now ranked a career-high No. 11 in the world, Bartoli has so far accumulated more than $900,000 in winnings this season, mostly rewards for getting sizzling hot on clay in May and staying hot on grass in June.

"When you work so hard during your childhood, and put in all those hours on the court and in the gym, it's for going somewhere to do something," she said yesterday. "But it's really hard to bounce back after such a great result like Wimbledon. If you're more used to it, you know how to deal with it."

Bartoli caught the attention of the tennis world on the famous green lawns, but is now just realizing the truly heavy lifting is just beginning.

b_o_r
Aug 14th, 2007, 02:09 PM
Usually the young stars make a name for themselves by beating the old stars in a big match. However, if the majority old stars are on the disabled list more often than not, it becomes harder to sell the up and comers --unless they are willing to take their clothes off or some other controversey:tape:

frontier
Aug 14th, 2007, 02:20 PM
The fault lies with the wta head honchos they want the tour to revolve around pova at the expense of the tour.Unless the young players step up and start winning big events nobody will pay attention.They should put themselves out there and take responsibilty of their careers.

Marcell
Aug 14th, 2007, 02:30 PM
The players and their team are responsible for putting their names out there.Sadly, some players just aren't charismatic to draw fans to them. Although Venus was well known to the tennis community when she played at the U.S Open in 97, there were flyers under the doors of many apartments in Brooklyn telling non-tennis fans about this Phenom who would be playing at the Open.

goldenlox
Aug 14th, 2007, 02:58 PM
The tour has no problem with young stars. Sharapova is 20 So is Chakvetadze.
Ivanovic is 19.
They are all in the top 6. Sveta is 22, so is Jelena.
5 of the top 6 are early in their careers.

frontier
Aug 14th, 2007, 03:46 PM
Unless they start winning slams they will remain on the fringes of stardom.Ranking means nothing otherwise players like Serena and Venus would not be winning slams and beating these top ten players in the process .At 20yrs Venus and Serena and pova were and are multiple gs winners.I think these 20yr olds dont have that extra umph that champions have and its not an acquired quality its innate and the players that have this quality are paszek serena pova venus justine but kim dementieva lindsay amelie kuzzy dont have it .

DownTheLine21
Aug 14th, 2007, 03:58 PM
Ivanovic will definitely be a future star for the tour. However, I really wish that Kirilenko could realize her potential soon. At twenty years old, she has the looks (as superficial as this is, looks do matter) and the talent to be a "star" for the sport.