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View Full Version : Smart Davenport Wasn't Taking WTA Tour's Huge Success for Granted in 2000...


Leo_DFP
Nov 29th, 2007, 11:56 PM
I was reading an old issue of Tennis Magazine, the July/August 2000 edition with Lindsay on the cover. Inside is a great article and it talks about how Lindsay was never afraid to speak her mind to/about opponents and to/about unsatisfactory WTA Tour Management. I loved this one excerpt, and it's really interesting to read today in 2007 because it rings so true. Lindsay was right: injuries have become a crucial part of the game, withdrawals are constant, the top players put out much fewer great matches, and the popularity of women's tennis has definitely declined since 2000 in the US if not throughout the world...

"We have to have someone in the position of leadership besides the players," she says. "I feel like this is how the tour is: A sponsor will come in and we're asking for, say, $5 million. And the sponsor will say, 'I'll give you $2 million.' And the tour goes, 'OK, we'll take that,' instead of going back in there and going, 'Bullshit, we deserve $5 million, and you know what? If you don't give it to us, we're going to walk away.'"

By most measures, women's tennis is booming. TV ratings are up, and attendance and prize money have reached record levels. But Davenport is worried that the WTA Tour isn't maziming its current leverage to build a stronger foundation should things change - as things usually do.

"I was talking to Bart McGuire (then-CEO) in Miami, and I said, 'You really have to take advantage of these last two years. I don't think you've done enough, and it could be over quickly, you never know.' And he said, 'Lindsay, you're really selling yourself and this entire sport short.' And I think, 'No. I think it's a cyclical sport. I think we're very lucky right now. And you guys aren't doing enough.' So he said, 'No. I think we'll be all right for a number of years.' And I was thinking, How naive is that? How naive! It's just a joke.

"I went through periods when we lost Martina Navratilova, we lost Monica Seles, we lost Steffi to injuries, we lost Jennifer Capriati. Five of us could go down in the next two years. Venus is talking about retirement now. And our CEO is like, 'Oh no. You guys will be around forever.' I was like, 'Oh, that's a really smart attitude.'"

~~~~~~~~
"A woman's liberation" by Johnette Howard, Tennis Magazine, July/August 2000


And of course, she was right. All good things come to an end. If only WTA Tour CEOs weren't so damn crappy.

joaco
Nov 30th, 2007, 12:10 AM
what a vission.... wow :eek: :eek: Lindsay is SO smart, really, she is one of the most intelligent players out there. Whenever she speaks her mind, it's for some reason. She doesn't speak just for the sake of it, I think she ought to be heard a lot more than she's actually heard. She's a phenomenal representative for the WTA

dybbuk
Nov 30th, 2007, 12:13 AM
"'Bullshit, we deserve $5 million, and you know what? If you don't give it to us, we're going to walk away.'"

I love her. :hearts:

Seriously, so few players today would ever speak out like Lindsay does, and even when they do, none of them have her insight. She really is an underappreciated jewel. :hug:

Jarrett
Nov 30th, 2007, 12:15 AM
One smart lady there!

The Daviator
Nov 30th, 2007, 12:24 AM
"'Bullshit, we deserve $5 million, and you know what? If you don't give it to us, we're going to walk away.'"

I love her. :hearts:

Seriously, so few players today would ever speak out like Lindsay does, and even when they do, none of them have her insight. She really is an underappreciated jewel. :hug:

:worship:

Lindsay for WTA CEO when* she retires :rocker:

*if :tape:

jujufreak
Nov 30th, 2007, 12:28 AM
:worship:

Lindsay for WTA CEO when* she retires :rocker:

*if :tape:

:D

she'd be great for that job!

sammy01
Nov 30th, 2007, 12:32 AM
hmmmmmmmmmmm in some ways i agree with her (especialy the bit about trying to get as much sponsorship as possible), but you have to have faith that each generation will have its stars. when she said this its like she thought her generation was the best (and some may argue it is/was), but no one could predict sharapova would come along or henin and ana ivanovic, but the people at the top have to have faith that new stars will keep emerging or we would have a amazing tour for 4/5 years then no tour at all when the 'star' retire and the money runs out. intresting read and thanks for posting.

OsloErik
Nov 30th, 2007, 01:47 AM
hmmmmmmmmmmm in some ways i agree with her (especialy the bit about trying to get as much sponsorship as possible), but you have to have faith that each generation will have its stars. when she said this its like she thought her generation was the best (and some may argue it is/was), but no one could predict sharapova would come along or henin and ana ivanovic, but the people at the top have to have faith that new stars will keep emerging or we would have a amazing tour for 4/5 years then no tour at all when the 'star' retire and the money runs out. intresting read and thanks for posting.

I think she was spot on that her generation was the most marketable, tennis-wise. If you adjust for inflation, the coverage and money tennis received in 1999-2001 (when Hingis, Williams x2, and Kournikova were all marketing dreams) was unprecedented. The only other time Americans who didn't follow tennis found tennis cool was during the Borg-McEnroe rivalry, and a little bit during the Evert-Navratilova rivalry.

Sharapova isn't the same marketing success that Kournikova was. Kournikova may never have done anything great (she's not going into the hall of fame, for example), but she did wonders for the sport's viewership. I don't think we're going to see that from Sharapova or Ivanovic, at least not in the USA. Henin is barely noticed in the USA, still.

While it's important to have faith in future stars emerging, she was definitely right that the tennis hierarchy folded too quickly in negotiations. The WTA was a force in 2000; it commanded higher viewership than men's tennis matches in the USA. It could have done a lot more for its players, starting with getting more prize money at the lower level tournaments. There's not a huge difference in earnings at the Slams or Masters, but once you go down from there...

sammy01
Nov 30th, 2007, 02:08 AM
I think she was spot on that her generation was the most marketable, tennis-wise. If you adjust for inflation, the coverage and money tennis received in 1999-2001 (when Hingis, Williams x2, and Kournikova were all marketing dreams) was unprecedented. The only other time Americans who didn't follow tennis found tennis cool was during the Borg-McEnroe rivalry, and a little bit during the Evert-Navratilova rivalry.

Sharapova isn't the same marketing success that Kournikova was. Kournikova may never have done anything great (she's not going into the hall of fame, for example), but she did wonders for the sport's viewership. I don't think we're going to see that from Sharapova or Ivanovic, at least not in the USA. Henin is barely noticed in the USA, still.

While it's important to have faith in future stars emerging, she was definitely right that the tennis hierarchy folded too quickly in negotiations. The WTA was a force in 2000; it commanded higher viewership than men's tennis matches in the USA. It could have done a lot more for its players, starting with getting more prize money at the lower level tournaments. There's not a huge difference in earnings at the Slams or Masters, but once you go down from there...


i get what your saying but the players you mentioned in '00 and '01 didnt play low level events so why would anyone pump money into them? also this year 3 of the four mentioned players in your list won tier 1 titles or better so why cant the marketing happen now, when they also have henin and sharapova? the only thing we realy miss now on the tour is kournikova, she was the last player to realy transcend the sport and the tour realy does miss her. i think the tour next year could be amazing if we have williams x2, henin, davenport, sharapova, the russians and serbians all playing at least 13 tournaments each. though the added bit of glamour of kournikova will still be missing.

OsloErik
Nov 30th, 2007, 02:41 AM
i get what your saying but the players you mentioned in '00 and '01 didnt play low level events so why would anyone pump money into them? also this year 3 of the four mentioned players in your list won tier 1 titles or better so why cant the marketing happen now, when they also have henin and sharapova? the only thing we realy miss now on the tour is kournikova, she was the last player to realy transcend the sport and the tour realy does miss her. i think the tour next year could be amazing if we have williams x2, henin, davenport, sharapova, the russians and serbians all playing at least 13 tournaments each. though the added bit of glamour of kournikova will still be missing.

I'll grant you the first point, but I do think the WTA could have used its leverage a little more; the events bring profits to the sponsors, if the WTA had said "well screw you, we can find somebody else" they could have gotten better financial agreements.

As for the 2nd, It's primarily because they aren't as public as they were in '00. Back then, the Williams were ballsy and it was big news, beyond sports. Now, they're more mellow. Hingis was a celebrity in the late 90's and early 00's. This year, she was nowhere near the star she was. I really do think Kournikova was the ingredient that set everything off. Hingis, Venus, Serena, Ivanovic, Sharapova...they're attractive, but they wouldn't be making money off their looks if they weren't tennis players. Kournikova was downright hot in a transcendent manor. The general consensus among my friends, most of whom don't follow tennis, is that Sharapova is pretty and all, but why should we pay attention to her in the SI swimsuit edition when there are 15 more attractive models right there? Henin isn't a marketable player, really, and neither is Davenport. Personality only goes so far.

I'm sounding a little mulish now, so I'll stop, but suffice it to say I don't think the tour is anywhere near the level of public consciousness as it was back then, and the WTA could have taken more steps to keep it there, but didn't. So I'll agree to disagree.

sammy01
Nov 30th, 2007, 02:53 AM
I'll grant you the first point, but I do think the WTA could have used its leverage a little more; the events bring profits to the sponsors, if the WTA had said "well screw you, we can find somebody else" they could have gotten better financial agreements.

As for the 2nd, It's primarily because they aren't as public as they were in '00. Back then, the Williams were ballsy and it was big news, beyond sports. Now, they're more mellow. Hingis was a celebrity in the late 90's and early 00's. This year, she was nowhere near the star she was. I really do think Kournikova was the ingredient that set everything off. Hingis, Venus, Serena, Ivanovic, Sharapova...they're attractive, but they wouldn't be making money off their looks if they weren't tennis players. Kournikova was downright hot in a transcendent manor. The general consensus among my friends, most of whom don't follow tennis, is that Sharapova is pretty and all, but why should we pay attention to her in the SI swimsuit edition when there are 15 more attractive models right there? Henin isn't a marketable player, really, and neither is Davenport. Personality only goes so far.

I'm sounding a little mulish now, so I'll stop, but suffice it to say I don't think the tour is anywhere near the level of public consciousness as it was back then, and the WTA could have taken more steps to keep it there, but didn't. So I'll agree to disagree.

cool cool i think we will have to agree to disagree as i think the tours as strong as ever, the players just aren't marketed enough or properly. though i think we both agree the tour needs a new kournikova soon.

Leo_DFP
Nov 30th, 2007, 03:12 AM
I really agree with Oslo. Back in 2000, the Williams Sisters were brash, cocky, and fresh. The public liked their Compton streets/black athletic sisters/Richard Williams is a nut package that they presented and wanted to see if they could walk the walk to match the talk. Hingis was also much cockier and known for verbal catfights vs. Venus and Serena, which also got the public interested. Then there was Davenport, the All-American, So. Cal, girl next door; Monica Seles, the amazing comeback story; in 1999 for a while there was also Steffi Graf, the all-time great, featured in some amazing matches against Hingis and the sisters; plus Mary Pierce (practically American) and Jennifer Capriati making strides towards the top as well, and the public was always ready to accept JCap back into their hearts. And to top it all off, like the delicious cherry atop a giant ice cream sundae, was Anna Kournikova. No one will ever transcend the sport more while achieving so little on the court. Kournikova was raw sex, and both guys and girls couldn't help but watch.

Sharapova doesn't have anything like the persona or star power of Kournikova, despite the titles. Commentators in the US, esp. Mary Joe and Pam, like to advertise Maria as this amazingly popular sports figure and model, but the truth is no one in America knows her name. Everyone knew Kournikova's name, and could refer to her simply as "Anna," or sometimes Pornikova. ;) And I've seen Sharapova at the practice courts at the US Open, and she's not so well-liked. The public was not eating her up, and they were not afraid to boo her when she wouldn't sign. Serena attracted a much bigger crowd.

So no, the "product" right now doesn't compare to what the WTA Tour had in 2000. The players aren't as marketable. Having said that, of course the WTA can do a much better job. It's a shame they're all idiots. But Davenport was right - the WTA has an opportunity in 2000 to take a bolder step and pump up the money, the sponsorships, the tournament prize money, the TV coverage, the popularity in the US, etc. but it didn't fully capitalize.

AcesHigh
Nov 30th, 2007, 03:26 AM
Wow.. did she have a crystal ball or something??

Davenport is amazing and this just reminds me why I love her so much. We need more leaders like Davenport and Venus. Also more people who speak their mind like Hingis and Serena.

Henin is the only one in a position to assume this position right now and I hope she takes this opportunity. However, since she is not nearly as marketable as that select group was back in 2000, I dont know how much weight she will have.

joaco
Nov 30th, 2007, 10:05 AM
I agree with some of what you guys are saying... but I think tennis wise 2000-2001 was a much more entertaining sport. We'd have Hingis and Davenport agreeing to do everything in their power to beat the Williamses. We had the rise of Venus and Serena which I believe the sport had never encountered. In Slams (where people watch more matches than anywhere else) we'd had AMAZING matches (Not like this year where the scores where 6-1, 6-2; 6-1, 6-3, 6-4 6-1, 6-1, 6-3). We had classic Venus-Martina SF in GS, Capriati claiming an incredible Australian Open, 12-10 in the third of the French Open, new players (like REALLY good players) emerging.

I don't think there is much of that left today. Everyone is older (at least the great players), everyone is more respectful, back in the days people would talk their mind out, sometimes creating lots of controversies. I think nowadays the tour has grown a lot, but it isn't taken very seriously.

spiceboy
Nov 30th, 2007, 01:15 PM
What a :worship: thread

Is this really GM? :lol:

chuvack
Nov 30th, 2007, 01:36 PM
well, I disagree.

its not the former CEO's fault that Hingis and Kournikova turned out to be phoney's who cared more for being famous and living the life of stardom, than they did about taking care of business in their sport. If you base the popularity of your sport on such people like them, of course you going to suffer some big fluctuations of fortune.

In a way, the WTA is in a more secure position today than 7 years ago - because they have a wider and deeper variety of players in the game now. And also more committed to tennis I might add.

You could also argue that Bart McGuire did a good job because the WTA was great while he was in office and only went downhill after he quit.

Andrew..
Nov 30th, 2007, 02:30 PM
In a way, the WTA is in a more secure position today than 7 years ago - because they have a wider and deeper variety of players in the game now. And also more committed to tennis I might add.

You could also argue that Bart McGuire did a good job because the WTA was great while he was in office and only went downhill after he quit.
1. You contradict yourself right here.

2. The WTA is close to shambles right now. This "wider and deeper variety" that you talk about is who? You have a player who has won one title, who brings new meaning to brainless bashing, as your #2. Jankovic mixes it up, but she'd never be #3 if she was playing in 2000. Ditto Chakvetadze in the top five. What "variety" are Sharapova, Ivanovic, Hantuchova, etc. bringing to the table? None. And you have one dominant player in the game right now, who is 41-1 since RG.

3. How are players more committed to the game? Look back to 2000 when Venus and Serena were near the top of women's tennis. Are you going to argue that they're more committed now than they were then? Jankovic admits she doesn't train. Some top players are more concerned with their "other interests" than they are with their tennis. Red carpet here, Bahamas there, another "acting career"...

shap_half
Nov 30th, 2007, 05:44 PM
What I really like about Lindsay is that she loves this sport. It shows that she cares very deeply about it in all its aspects, which I really respect and admire. I don't think there's anyone else out there who understands and thinks about tennis outside of themselves in the same way Lindsay does.

Right now, out of the active players there are 5 major stars: the Williams, JH, Maria and Lindsay. And for the first four, it is incredibly difficult to manage a career and develop the tour at the same time, but I really hope that in some way, they are able to create something positive and worthwhile for the tour while they're playing.

serenus_2k8
Nov 30th, 2007, 06:14 PM
Interesting post! Thanks !

~Cherry*Blossom~
Nov 30th, 2007, 06:27 PM
This thread brought back the memories of the good old times. It was so exciting back then. *sigh*

hurricanejeanne
Nov 30th, 2007, 08:07 PM
What I love and admire about Lindsay has always been her honesty and pure love of this game. She certainly knew this sport and how it works a hell of a lot better than the people who were in charge of it in 2000, and I believe she knows it better then the people who are in charge of tennis today.

MisterQ
Nov 30th, 2007, 10:11 PM
Thanks for the article --- it is indeed interesting with hindsight.

Vlover
Nov 30th, 2007, 10:55 PM
[QUOTE=Leo_DFP;12054961]
Sharapova doesn't have anything like the persona or star power of Kournikova, despite the titles. Commentators in the US, esp. Mary Joe and Pam, like to advertise Maria as this amazingly popular sports figure and model, but the truth is no one in America knows her name. Everyone knew Kournikova's name, and could refer to her simply as "Anna," or sometimes Pornikova. ;) And I've seen Sharapova at the practice courts at the US Open, and she's not so well-liked. The public was not eating her up, and they were not afraid to boo her when she wouldn't sign. Serena attracted a much bigger crowd.

So no, the "product" right now doesn't compare to what the WTA Tour had in 2000.

I concur with both your post and Oslo. I think one of the key differences between Maria and Anna is that Anna has a certain warmth and spontaneity about her that you can connect with while Maria is too "manufactured" and cold. She represents this "package" that is being forced on you and I think most people resent that. The other players were allowed to develop their own personality freely without coaching.

Dave.
Nov 30th, 2007, 10:59 PM
This is why I love Lindsay and why she is my number 1. I love her tennis but her personality and love for the game is why she is my favourite.:worship:

I agree with most of the posts in this topic. I think 90's tennis was every way better than what we have now (especially the late 90's). Not only were there fantastic rivalries on court and competitive matches, but you also had so many great personalities aswell. Now, there is hardly anyone with personality and the tennis has gone way downhill.

hdfb
Nov 30th, 2007, 11:50 PM
Well Davenport DID finish high school. :angel:

Max565
Dec 1st, 2007, 12:21 AM
Well, imo, the reason for the waning popularity is the lack of personalities. It's really not the WTA's fault that players these days lack the image and personality to captivate the public. We need more one-named stars and household names, the Serena's, the Venus', the Hingis', the Kournikova's. They were all gems and true stars... With the current crop, I can't see anything too special. People barely know who Ivanovic, Kuznetsova, Vaidisova, Jankovic are... let alone Henin.

well, I disagree.

its not the former CEO's fault that Hingis and Kournikova turned out to be phoney's who cared more for being famous and living the life of stardom, than they did about taking care of business in their sport. If you base the popularity of your sport on such people like them, of course you going to suffer some big fluctuations of fortune.


How is Hingis a 'phoney' who cares more about 'being famous'? I can question her devotion for tennis but she's hardly falling out of night clubs or limos with Paris and Lindsay. She's not desperately seeking for an acting career either... :rolleyes: :o