View Full Version : WTA Looks to New Format to Boost Sagging Interest

Nov 12th, 2002, 01:05 PM
Great day in the morning all. Wow - what a night. Congrats to Kimmie again. And restt up Serena.

I wouldn't mind some changes in the format as long as it's all good.


Posted on Tue, Nov. 12, 2002

WTA Looks to New Format to Boost Sagging Interest

LOS ANGELES - The Women's Tennis Association is considering overhauling the format of the Tour Championships to help boost sagging interest in its showcase event.

Kim Clijsters's 7-5, 6-3 upset win over world No. 1 Serena Williams brought the curtain down on the year and a tournament plagued by poor attendance and limited interest.

As result, the WTA admitted that there was a need for improvement and was looking at adopting the eight-player round-robin format the ATP has developed instead of the women's equivalent 16-strong field.

"We know we have format problems," said Kevin Wulff, chief executive of the WTA Tour. "I think it's safe to say we've never had extremely well-attended events on any Wednesday or Thursday whether it be New York, Munich or here.

"It is something the WTA intends to address in the upcoming month or so.

"There has been a lot of talk about an eight-or-12 player round-robin, which is something the ATP has used effectively.

"I'm not going to say exactly what we'll do but we'll come up with a concept that really sets these championships apart from the balance of our season."


The $3 million season-ending extravaganza billed by the WTA as their world championships and touted as the sport's fifth grand slam unfolded more like a challenger tournament receiving scant attention from the fans and media.

"A lot of my friends had no idea why I was in town," said Monica Seles, the sixth seed and three-time winner of the event.

"The first year is always hard but I think if they tough it out, they can build it up to what it was in New York at the Gardens."

After a 23-year, mostly successful, run in New York the tournament was taken from Madison Square Garden and moved to Munich last year where it flopped miserably.

But the move back to the United States was greeted with an even bigger yawn, the vast majority of matches played out in front of a few hundred spectators sprinkled across the cavernous Staples Center, home of the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers and NHL's Kings.

"It doesn't feel like it does it," said Bulgaria's Magdalena Maleeva, when asked if the event was the world championships of women's tennis.

"We were all excited about being here and we all fought very hard to make the top 16. It's really unfortunate that we have to play in front of those small crowds.

"It's just unfortunate that you have Henin and Clijsters playing, two of the world's best players, and there was just a few people.

"I guess LA is a very big city and the promotion wasn't very good.

"It's obvious that for such a competition there are too few people.

"It feels like the end of the year and I want to go home."

While the tournament featured an elite 16-player field, play for the most part was as uninspiring as the atmosphere inside the vacant arena with only three matches stretching beyond the minimum two sets.

After each loss, weary players trudged into press briefings complaining of fatigue before racing off for a brief vacation.


The wear and tear of a grueling 11-month season has also manifested itself in injuries at the last two Championships further denting the event's prestige.

In front of the largest crowd of the week, world number two Venus Williams was forced to retire from her semi-final against Kim Clijsters after just 13 minutes with a left leg injury.

The previous year in Germany, Serena Williams claimed the title in a walkover when Lindsay Davenport could not play because of an ankle injury.

The players' pleas for a longer off-season, however, were dismissed by Wulff, saying tennis was no different any other sport.

"You know covering sports that a lot of championships, like the Super Bowl, players are hurt and tired," said Wulff. "But the players always step up when you have a championship on the line.

"I think it's safe to say that every player that came in here gave it their best.

"I think the winners didn't talk about the fatigue quite as much as some people who didn't make it into the finals today.

"It's safe to say every sport has fatigued players."

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Nov 12th, 2002, 01:13 PM
I think they should go for the ATP format. A 12-players-system (4 groups) is more complicated and doesn't guarantee the really big match-ups for the early round.

Nov 12th, 2002, 01:33 PM
Oh well whatever they are doing at least they are addressing the issue, I am happy about that

King Aaron
Nov 12th, 2002, 02:05 PM
yeah, I agree with quentin

Nov 12th, 2002, 04:35 PM
I think a round robin would be good and the top 8 should play to make the whole thing more competative.

Nov 12th, 2002, 04:45 PM
the top 8 is a great idea, and they should combine with the men, make it an 8 day event wherever.

Nov 12th, 2002, 04:54 PM
Why not top 10. Have two groups of five. I think that's better then 8 & everyone likes to hear TOP 10, when they go to an event, it's a nice round number :)

Nov 12th, 2002, 04:56 PM
move it to Boston... money is here, huge interest is here and not even a small challenger here... success will be instant!

auntie janie
Nov 12th, 2002, 05:01 PM
The "top 8" in women's tennis is a very, very high-level and extremely competitive group of players nowadays, so this is an exciting idea whose time may have come.

But sometimes the way the round-robin field is divided up, you get 2, often lopsided halves. I can already imagine the harping, whining, crying, and conspiracy theories that will go on around here the first time people see the 8 names placed into the 2 groups! ;)

Nov 12th, 2002, 07:29 PM
Originally posted by Freefall
Why not top 10. Have two groups of five. I think that's better then 8 & everyone likes to hear TOP 10, when they go to an event, it's a nice round number :)

if you have two gorup of 5 you are potentailly playing :

10 matches per group and added semifianls and final that will be 23 matches and player need to play 6 quality match to win, that is crazy, and one week schedule cannot accomodate

if we have top 8 and play 2 groups of 4 we will have
12 round robin match and 2 semis,one final that will be 15 matches and player only need to play 5 quality match to win that is more reasonable

The only reason they may consider top 12 is because they would have 4 groups of 3 so therefore each player only need to win 4 matches to win the championship and it is less exahusting plus they play the same amount of matches in total as 2 groups of 4 and player get to play one match less, that will be ideal if the player is to vote on this issue

But then if they are accomdating this, there is no way they can fit into a week unless the sacrifice the dubs event which I highly doubt.
I also highly doubt that they would put some of those matches in day time either, how embarrassing will that be if we see 200 people watching a world no. 4 against a world no. 5 :o

So WTA has a lot to think about

Brian Stewart
Nov 13th, 2002, 06:45 AM
I think the format is fine. If they want to tinker with something, tinker with the scheduling. I've already pointed out in a couple of threads how they could do the same number of matches and have just evening sessions during the week. If all they do is switch to 8-player RR, they still have 12 matches in 4 days, leaving them with 3 weekday day sessions (and the attendant smaller crowds).

And this article misses the mark. This tournament didn't reflect "sagging interest", it reflected piss-poor promotion. It doesn't matter how good an event is, if you just stick it somewhere and don't tell anybody, you're not going to draw respectable crowds. Whoever was responsible for promoting the event should be fired. From a cannon. If an outside firm was hired to do it, they should be sued.

As far as scant press coverage, well if they're too lazy to travel to LA, there isn't much the tournament can do about that.

Nov 13th, 2002, 06:49 AM
They are NOT addressing the issue. If they do an 8 player round robin next year, and still don't tell anyone, do you seriously think people will show up?

Williams Rulez
Nov 13th, 2002, 07:03 AM
lol... maybe it'll hit them in a few years time

Nov 13th, 2002, 07:08 AM
Originally posted by Brian Stewart

As far as scant press coverage, well if they're too lazy to travel to LA, there isn't much the tournament can do about that.

Brian, its not laziness. If people in LA didn't know there was a tournament, how can you expect the East Coast Press to know about it?

Nov 13th, 2002, 07:30 AM
It's best if they adapt the ATP format excluding of course the best of five format (just too much for the ladies). On the women's tour, you could still expect a mismatch on a TOP 16 format.

Seeing for example a Serena vs JenCap on an opening game could already draw great interest among tennis fans. I find the round robin format also exciting because opening losers could still be motivated to fight back.

Nov 13th, 2002, 07:30 AM
You would think that friends of Monica's would have at least a passing interest in tennis.

And if they live in LA and had no idea why she was in town, that REALLY tells you something about the shoddy promotion.:(

Mateo Mathieu
Nov 13th, 2002, 07:45 AM
Excatly, BigTennisFan! :(

Mateo Mathieu
Nov 13th, 2002, 07:51 AM
And bring it back to Madison Square Garden!! :fiery:

Nov 13th, 2002, 08:24 AM
BrianStewart - a good response....

In essence why change a format that has worked well for the last 20 years.... it is not the format that is wrong,but the venue, possibly the city, the scheduling and the promotion.

The top 16 have been going to the Championships since the March 1983 event in Mad Sq Garden - and all of them until Munich last year have been a success.

If you have a race to last 16 - it makes it more interesting than top 8 as more players have the chance to fight it our and qualify and it inspires more players. Plus it ensures strong entries in all of the European Indoor events, as players are trying to qualify - otherwise entries there would be much weaker.

Changing the format doesnt address the problem - looking at how to promote the event is the issue they should be addressing...