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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This question must be asked. The year ended terribly for women's tennis. No one could dispute that. Injuries and withdrawals all over the place have crippled the tour this year. And Venus and Serena Williams only being part time players has hurt the tour, too. Venus and Serena are talented, hard working and spectacular. They should carry women's tennis on their shoulders the way Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert did. But they don't. Has the WTA tour reached its apex? This question must be asked, too. I think women's tennis has already reached it's peak, and now it's coming back down to earth. Something is missing. The pizzaz isn't what it used to be, too. That probably has to do with the problems of Anna Kournikova and Martina Hingis. Anna is always injured, and Martina's great play has slipped badly. I hope the WTA still has a bright future. But I'm not so sure.

P.S. - I hope Davenport makes a full recovery from her knee injury. But can you imagine the reaction if either one of the Williams sisters would have withdrawn from such a big final with a knee injury? Venus or Serena would have had venom spewed at them from all over the place. When I was told this morning that the final was cancelled due to injury. I immediately hoped it wasn't Serena withdrawing. Because she never would have heard the end of it. That said, I hope Lindsay makes a full recovery.
 

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Yes, these injuries are a bit troubling. I don't think it's all that different from other sports because players keep raising the level. It's pretty bad in figure skating too...with guys trying to pull off the quint (or whatever number of rotations they're on now) and injuring themselves...or the increased number of events they have to play in. I don't know of any other individual sports that take such a toll on its athletes.

I think what's really missing from the WTA Tour is a real rivalry. (I had hopes for Hingis vs. Venus...but then Capriati came along and Hingis forgot how to play tennis.) Right now, it's all "Williams Domination" and, frankly, I'm already sick of it. And there's no real "opposition" to really get behind and cheer on like there was when Graf was dominating and ASV scurried to try to beat her.

It reminds me of men's tennis when Sampras was on top of everyone else. Some people seemed satisfied with the brief moments when Agassi played up to his potential but I felt a big let-down when Agassi all of sudden slumped again. (I was more a fan of Edberg/Chang matches anyway.) The people who won at Roland Garros often couldn't play all that well on other surfaces...and when I thought that Muster could he got into a car accident.

*sigh*

I'll just stay optimistic. Looks like the field for the Australian Open is wide open. (I think Rebound Ace is the REAL equalizer surface.) Too bad coverage in the USA is horrible.
 

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I donot think the WTA is headed for a downfall. Quite the contrary it will continue to soar due to the exciting young talent now on the scene. As far as Venus and Serena carrying the WTA they are doing that now. Just look at the TV ratings. But to play themselves into oblivion would be stupid. Why should they?
 

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No downfall -- tournaments had record attendence this year, and record tv ratings -- but I hope we will see a change in marketing strategy. The WTA has to promote its wonderful athletes and champions and back off on promoting sex; it degrades the years of hard work of these professionals.

The nadir of this promotional concept was the unprecedented appearance on center court at the US Open of Ashley Harkleroad in a 3rd-round Junior match! Of course her looks and skimpy outfit were the big story. Allowing this "story" to take center stage while the real stars were battling in the real competiton, emphasized to me that the WTA does not feel like it has a real sports product to sell, therefore they must resort to selling sex.

I hope the new CEO of the Tour will turn the spotlight back where it belongs, on the game itself and the athletes who play it. Rising young stars and aging but wily veterans, there are a million great stories that have been neglected while the WTA insists instead on producing "glamour" photos of the players in thick layers of make-up and gaudy outfits.

Let's see if 2002 will be the year the Tour comes back to its senses and recognizes that women's tennis is a great product in itself -- and it needs promoting in all its athletic -- not sexual -- glory.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
You cats make some good points! Janie, you are the wise one today. I would like to see the WTA cut back on promoting baby bomshells and sex appeal. But I wouldn't count on it.
 

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Downfall-no. A decline in events or prestiege-probably. Some of the factors are beyond the control of the WTA. 9-11 and a worldwide weak economy cannot be helped.

Some of this WAS preventable though. The change in 1997 from an average ranking sytem was a short term gain(the top 10 entering more events) with long-term consequences(lots of injuries, many in top 10 now playing less despite the ranking system).

<br /> Adding too many events with fields that don't measure up is a situation that the WTA has faced before. From 1979 to 1980 the tour was red hot-with Evert, Navratilova, and Austin playing a ton of events. Then Evert bagged the indoor season(much like Venus has), Navratilova never did support the European clay season til later in her career, and Austin was injured. Evert and Navratilova cut back their schedules , and events were dropped, but the tour rolled on.

So the tour may lose some events.<br />The European indoor tournamnets look weak, but maybe attendence was ok this year. It's just like a business cycle, only now this may be a down trend. <br />No doubt it will survive though.<br />History repeats itself.
 

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Let's hope the world is in peace , and the players are healthy!!! <img src="graemlins/angel.gif" border="0" alt="[Angel]" />
 

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Record attendence and TV ratings WHERE Janie?<br />That's the important question. The US hard court season events may have had record attendence, but then again they had all or most the top women entered. I have a feeling many European events are having tough times. If next years fall indoor season is as poor as the last couple years then they will start to lose events.

Beyond that, perception often creates reality. Right now, the perception among many is that the WTA can't get a ranking system without controversy, can't get equal prize money with men, and worst of all, can't get it's top stars to play. None of these are new, but the media is starting to go negative on the women. Next year may be rough.
 

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The tour misses Anna.<br />The tour misses Venus.<br />The tour misses Martina Hingis, circa 1999.

There's no story, no rivalry, no subtext.

Things the tour could do

One major problem is that Henin and Clijsters aren't marketed well enough. They will equal the Williams sisters. (If they get RELIABLE serves. Both saw their nerves betray them at Sanex.) They put on a really good show. Fast, athletic, high paced, ocassionally acrobatic.

Have their website up during the USOpen. That was amateurish.

Put more focus Year End championship ranking. It's more accessible to people.
 

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I think it will be OK. There were some major disappointments at the end of this year obviously, but I think it will go better starting fresh in 2002. Hopefully all the top players will be back fighting it out. There are SO many talented players going for the top 5, especially Americans...<br />Lindsay Davenport<br />Jennifer Capriati<br />Venus Williams<br />Serena Williams<br />Martina Hingis<br />Monica Seles<br />Kim Clijsters<br />Justine Henin<br />etc...<br />I am looking forward to the new season. Hopefully everyone's health will be 100% and we can see some great play.
 

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Rollo,<br />Throughout the spring and summer, and right through the US Open, WTA tournaments boasted record attendance and tv ratings (at least USA tv ratings). This was the case even though many of the top draws on Tour (Anna K., Monica Seles, Mary Pierce) were out of action for very long periods of time.

The fall season cannot be regarded as typical of the year, with the fears, somber mood, and missing players that followed 9-11.

I agree that Kim and Justine, and also Jelena Dokic, Iroda and other promising youngsters, need to be promoted to show the world what a varied and exciting group of players have joined the more-familiar faces in the top ranks.
 

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Thank god for Clijsters and Henin this year <img src="smile.gif" border="0"> <br />I agree Janie-the tour is healthy here in the US. Problem is, it's a world tour, with a European sponsor. <br />Yes, the situation with 9-11 is unusual, but the top players have been rare at the fall indoor events-even last year. Leipzig has gone at least 3 years without a quality field. Moscow is a disaster as far as attracting a tier 1 group. Lets not even discuss how bad attendence was at Munich.

The tour will on of course. Lets just pray all the women stay fit gor 2002 <img src="smile.gif" border="0">
 

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I would say headed toward a downfall but they need to revamp some areas.

1. I think the ranking system needs a complete overhaul. The fiasco with Jen/Lindsay switiching #1 is silly. Sure to us we can understand it but to the people who pay and watch tennis but don't follow up on ranks think "what is going on"? Even the announcers are questioning.

2. They need to show talent instead of showing ass. Excuse my tone and language. But really! This Ashley girl is Anna K prt2. ENOUGH!

3. Why can't they own a magazine that reflects the wta tour? Not sex. Not bias. Not all Venus/Jennifer/hingis but All players. Wouldn't this get more interest in the other ladies?

4. Take Wimby back to HBO. When it was on HBO it had a spark. It was exciting. it was tennis.

5. Get John Mcenroe the hell away from commentating the WTA. ENOUGH! I wanna see Billie Jean King already!

<br />Cat in the hat.. I gotta say.. Venus and Serena not playing alot of tourneys is good for them and at that given time. Venus is aware of her body she knows she is prone to injury. Maybe if Venus played 22 tourneys she wouldn't have what is important to her. 4 slams. Maybe in order for her to get 4 slams she had to play few tourneys. Who knows? But they are popular players but not the only one's. I mean what about Anna? If she wouldn't be so stubborn maybe she could keep transcending tennis too? She went and played and reinjured herself. Walking around in highheel shoes with a foot injury. Also she plays to much for her injury prone body. If you can use Williams sisters than Anna can be mentioned too. See how it goes.. my lil knuckle head. <img src="smile.gif" border="0"> Bottom line to me is I dont agree with you about Williams sisters hurting the WTA tour. The WTA tour imho is doing it to themselves.
 

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Dawn Marie,<br />I like your 5 suggestions a LOT. <img src="graemlins/kiss.gif" border="0" alt="[Kiss]" />

(But I am staying out of your final-paragraph issues with a ten-foot pole!) <img src="eek.gif" border="0"> <img src="cool.gif" border="0">
 

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Yes, janie, Nike's pimping of Ashley Harkleroad was a very bad thing. During the U.S. Open, while Johnny Mac, Tracey Austin and some other guy were putting up with the mixed doubles final and the two guys kept complaining about it, Austin said something like, "Well, I had to cover a junior girls match earlier today. This is MUCH better."

Let's hope that Mr. Wulff notices that there is more to women's tennis than skimpy outfits. My fear is that he'll focus on the domination of one player (his constant reference to Michael Jordan...who just happened to turn out being the best basketball player of all time).

And though people watched, the TV coverage in the U.S. is still lousy for anything that isn't Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and possibly some of the FO coverage. I'm pretty sure that a lot of the renewed interest in tennis this year was curiousity about Jennifer Capriati's comeback since she had been inculcated in some minds as some sort of new Chris Evert/American Sweetheart over ten years ago. And the high numbers for the U.S. Open ladies final was due to the much hyped "All Williams Final." A lot of new viewers tuned in to that one...and the tennis quality was not so good (but, in all fairness, a lot of tennis wasn't good this year).

And maybe some of the U.S. tournaments did so well because Anna K did show up. I used to live in Palo Alto and everyone (mostly guys) were making a big deal about Anna K. being scheduled to play Stanford.

Oh, I just rambled there. Oh well.
 

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I agree that a lot of the increased interest in tennis this year in the US was from jennifer's resurgence. But Jennifer is still around, so that should help next year, too.

I disagree that the record attendance at WTA event this spring and summer had anything to do with Anna K, who played in only ONE tournament in all that time. She was not at Lipton or Indian Wells or any of the other places that set records. And in fact, even the places Jennifer didn't play (Indian Wells) did extremely well.

But even in Europe, the early season events were doing well -- Kim and Justine are big stars as is Amelie --- so I think the WTA is MUCH less dependent on two or three big names now than it used to be. This bodes well for the future. <img src="smile.gif" border="0">
 

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I like Dawn's suggestions, but like janie am staying firmly out of that last paragraph! <img src="graemlins/angel.gif" border="0" alt="[Angel]" /> <br />The WTA should market a wider range of players. Clijsters, Henin, Tulyaganova are not well known enough. They should stop being so America-centric and maybe acknowledge that there are talented players out there who a) are not American, b) have no wish to live in America and c) maybe have names that Americans can't pronounce. (Elena Dementieva, Lina Krasnoroutskaya.)<br />(DISCLAIMER: I obviously don't mean ALL Americans.)<br />They should DEFINITELY pick up on Dawn's magazine suggestion. I'd buy it, anyway. Most tennis mags around now are really rather bad.<br />In that magazine, they should market characters, maybe some of the lower-ranked girls who are interesting. Maleeva's anti-communism activism, for instance. Even focus on some of the journeywomen - Jana Kandarr's interest in human rights. I refuse to believe that there are only 5 interesting women in the top 100. (This is not the same as selling sex. This is about selling character. Anyway, if the player herself wants to flaunt her assets, I have no problem with that; it's when Nike (bastards) suggests it to the player - a 16 yr old junior - that that is how they should work on their career that it becomes unpalatable.) Americans may only be interested in winners, but I'd contend that a girl who goes out in R1 or R2 constantly can be just as interesting to read about as Hingis or Venus. Maybe more. And, once you get to know more about a player's personality, you start to support them. You'll then become more knowledgeable about how the Tour works, and then it won't seem so complicated.
 

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One thing Mr. Wulff should continue that McGuire started is taking women's tennis outside the tennis media to the mainstream. The tennis press hates women's tennis, and they're particularly peeved that women's tennis has surpassed the men's in popularity. So they've launched a smear campaign. Notice how the attacks on the women's ranking system didn't escalate until the men's system had gotten panned. For the tennis press, who are supposed to be covering the sport as journalists, to say some of the things they did exposed that they don't follow women's tennis at all, except for a few matches involving top players at slams. If you asked a typical tennis journalist to name the top 10 women, or merely to identify the Tier I events, they couldn't. But it's their job to know. For them to not know even the simplest things about the women's tour completely invalidates their opinions of it.

The tennis press always tries to cast a negative over the women's tour, and ignores the positive. And one of them seemed surprised as he commented how "everyone" (tennis media) expected the buzz around the women's tour to dissipate, but it hasn't. It's sustained itself. Attendances have gone up. TV numbers are up overall, not just in the US. When Eurosport telecast the finals of the Family Circle Cup, it drew the highest ratings of the year on that network. Not the highest tennis ratings, the highest ratings.

The tennis press better hope they don't succeed in tearing the women down. The men aren't doing as well in the ratings, even with Agassi and Sampras among the elite. What happens when they go?

And if the women were in as rough a shape as they wanted us to believe, why is the ATP trying to get more combined events? And it <u>is</u> the ATP that is pursuing the combined events.

Far from slipping, I think the women are poised for a boom, if they can get proper marketing. Rather than looking at who isn't playing an event, look at who is. The WTA has enough star power to have half of it's top players skip an event and still do great. There were more women's tennis players on the Forbes celebrity 100 list than an other sport. And far from players such as Venus, Serena, Anna, etc. losing luster, others such as Jennifer and Lindsay have seen their star rise.
 

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This is a very interesting thread. I don't think the WTA Tour is in nearly as much trouble as some would have people believe. The American part of it might be in some trouble, but I don't think it's in trouble overall. With new stars such as Clijsters, Hénin, Dokic, Tulyaganova, and Bedanova coming down the pike, there could be some great rivalries and matches in the years to come.

I fully agree with the suggestion that McEnroe shouldn't be covering women's tennis. I was disgusted by his question at the US Open (during the V. Williams-Capriati semifinal) of whether Venus would take over at #1 should she win the semifinal. Surely a former player should know that all of the tennis ranking systems are based on 52-week rolling rankings (with the exception of the truly stupid ATP Race system which they wish to have people believe are the Only True ATP Rankings).

And the English-speaking announcers can't get any of the foreign names correct, it seems. I want to slug every announcer who talks about "Justine Enna". How much effort would it take them to go up to the players, ask them how their names are pronounced, and then repeat it in front of the player to see that they're actually getting it right? At least, that's what I'd do if I were an announcer.

As for the question of whether the Williams sisters' relative lack of playing is hurting the tour, I'd say yes and no. If something awful were to happen that ended their careers, the European events would continue to roll along just fine. After all, how many events has Serena played on clay the past two years? There is a problem, however, in that these are two very high-profile players who play well when they play, but play very infrequently compared to everybody else. Seriously! Other than Serena Williams, the first player on the list not to have played more than Venus is #90 Barbara Schwartz. And many of the players have had injuries of their own that kept them out for several weeks. So, fans who only get to see a few events a year (and don't have any clue as to the low number of events the Williams sisters play) don't understand why other players are #1. And I'd bet 98% or more of these fans also don't know that Slams are already weighted twice as much as any other event on Tour. (Trivia: Hingis would still have been #1 following Wimbledon '01 even counting Slams four times as much as the Tier 1s.)

I personally think the ranking system needs to be changed to something divisor based, but with a higher divisor than it was before (15 or 16 as a minimum), punishment for not playing enough on each surface (require, say, three events on clay, four on outdoor hardcourts, and three either on grass or indoors), but getting rid of a fraction of bad events if you play more then the minimum. (Eg. if the minimum is 15, you can get rid of your one worst result if you've played 16-18 events; two if you've played 19-21 events, and one extra for each two events greater than 21 you've played.) This makes losses count more, but doesn't bring as big a penalty for playing more frequently. After all, the Tour *does* need to have its top players playing often enough to be seen.

Finally, at the risk of offending fans of a certain player <img src="smile.gif" border="0"> , I'd like to say that I'll have no sympathy for Capriati if she says she wants to get back to #1, but plays the Hong Kong exhibition or the Hopman Cup instead of Gold Coast. It would be one thing if she didn't play anything that week, but any player (especially the high-ranked ones!) who complains about the minimum number of events they expect you to play, or the length of the season, and then goes out and plays meaningless exhibitions, deserves to be called on it.
 

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Good ideas, everyone.

I was flipping through Tennis Magazine at the library the other day and saw a selection of photos of the players...all playing tennis and dressed in tennis clothes. Boring and poor quality-looking shots!

I don't see why someone doesn't press to have these girls in publications like Vanity Fair wearing casual wear or doing interesting things...you know, like in Liebowitz (sp?) photos. (Capriati smiling with her family, Hingis skiing, Kournikova sitting in a make-up chair, Venus studying, Serena playing with her dog, etc.) Accompany the tasteful and beautiful photos with nice descriptions of them and what they do. Make the Tour appear classy and interesting rather than a collection or girls who bash eachother off the court.

Nothing too glamourous...but enough to make non-fans notice and possibly identify with the personalities, thus leading them towards the sport.

The sport needs more positive representation. I think we all agree on that.
 
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