It’s almost mid January. There’s a cold snap in the area of the north east United States where I live and it’s summer in Melbourne, Australia. I haven’t written about tennis since the 2018 US Open. It’s not that I haven’t been following tennis it’s just that when your day to day life is lived in existential dread why pile more angst onto the pile of stuff on the bed? The official end of the tennis calendar year has come and gone and the new calendar has started. The people who run tennis want all of us who love the sport to focus on the Australian Open and I will but right now I’m going to start sorting through the pile of stuff and get to what “they” don’t want you to focus on.
Let’s start with the newly unveiled ATP Cup that will be taking the place of Hopman Cup. I admit I never used to pay attention to the Hopman Cup because in my mind it was an exhibition and all exhibitions are hit and giggle events no? If what I saw this year was what usually goes on at Hopman Cup I’ve been mistaken about what it was and missed out on some great tennis. The powers that be have decided that the ATP Cup is a much more exciting venture and will bring more fans to the sport. I read the announcement by TD Craig Tiley – there will be more on him later – and read it again. I mean it’s called the ATP Cup. What will the WTA players be doing while this fabulous new event is taking place? Tiley said in passing that they would figure something out with the WTA. Figure something out.
Steve Simon has proven himself worse than the person who preceded him Stacey Allaster. She played her favorites – Genie’s Army anyone? – but nothing much got past her on the business side. Yeah I know the whole Asian thing is looking like a bust but I don’t think the ATP Cup would’ve gone right by her. Lindsay Davenport on Tennis Channel the other day went on a mini rant about how reactive and not proactive the WTA has become. I know that there is a WTA Player’s Council but have they spoken up? Then again why should the players have to carry their own water when there are men and women making pretty decent salaries swanning around the world (I love British expressions. They somehow get right to the heart of things) taking pictures and giving each other awards while the women’s tour sinks into oblivion. The WTA has two marketable stars, neither of whom is a doper, and they treat them like stepchildren with red hair. When they retire who is going to bring the fans to the yard so to speak? (Sorry Kelis). Are people lining up to see the current top ten with one or two exceptions? Is there any player people will line up for the way fans line up for someone like Stefanos Tsitsipas or Denis Shapovalov?
One of the reasons I haven’t written about tennis is because I feel like I’ve been saying the same thing for over ten years. The WTA does not know how to market women’s tennis. I could spend an hour or more talking about why there are no Shapovalov’s or Tsitsipas’ in the WTA but when it all comes down to it it’s poor marketing and homogenization of the sport and the lack of coherent plans to market players people may want to see like Aryna Sabalenka or Maria Sakkari. Who outside of tennis fanatics even knows who they are? Who outside of tennis fanatics knows who Simona Halep is? Someone called Halep a media darling the other day. Really? Not in my neck of the woods. The latest issue of Tennis magazine doesn’t have her as part of its photo montage cover. Instead of promoting these young women they’re spending all their time promoting a doper who should’ve had her Slam wins taken away from her as some advocated for. It’s painfully obvious that without her special medicine she wouldn’t have been able to win them.
When professional basketball became a majority African American sport there were whispers that it’s days were numbered. Instead it became a world wide phenomenon that has players from all over the world clamoring to play. The people behind the marketing of the NBA showed how to turn a potentially bad situation into one that is making money hand over fist. It did not become a league of Harlem Globetrotters, sports entertainment. It became a one of the pre eminent sports leagues in the world right up there with pro soccer and the NFL. Right now it seems that once the older generation of women tennis players retires the WTA will turn into a sports entertainment outfit, an afterthought. I don’t think that’s what the pioneers had in mind when the WTA was created.
A Malign Influence
Justin Gimelstob has been a malignancy on tennis for many years now. From the time he suggested that his brother should sexually assault -rape – Anna Kournikova to now when he faces serious assault charges and will be in court on January 31 after the Australian Open professional tennis has looked the other way. It’s only now coming to light that he’s been a one man crime spree for many of the years he’s spent climbing the ranks from a mediocre, forgettable player to a power behind the scenes. If it weren’t for Simon Briggs of the British newspaper the Telegraph tennis fans would have no way of knowing the role Gimelstob is about to play in controlling who runs the ATP. Briggs article lays out exactly why this dangerous individual should’ve been expunged from professional tennis years ago. Here is a LINK to Briggs update. If you live in the States the so called tennis journalists have been almost completely silent. If they have spoken out they’ve said “let’s wait and see”. These same people have no qualms about trying to destroy the career of the most dominant player in tennis, male or female, though.
While Lindsay Davenport deserves praise for calling out her own Association fans should not forget she defended Gimelstob when he made the comments about Ms Kournikova.
This And That
What does it mean when a man who runs his nation’s tennis association, is tournament director of it’s Slam, is so closely tied to a player and his agent that it’s hard to separate his actions from the wants and needs of said player and that player’s agent? Once again tennis “journalists” are standing on the sidelines while fans are exposing the situation and asking the questions that need to be asked. Yes I’m talking about Craig Tiley. I don’t think he’s the only one but he’s the one who hasn’t bothered to try and cover his tracks. It doesn’t matter that the fans exposing this situation represent a particular fandom. It matters that nothing they have said has been denied or proven wrong. If we had better journalists working the tennis beat fans wouldn’t have to do their own digging.
Remember quality points? Several years ago now it mattered not that you won but who you defeated. Beating someone ranked #150 in the world didn’t count as much as beating someone ranked #5. I know people will dispute this but the rules changed when Venus Williams and Serena Williams began beating everyone regardless of rank and rocketed up the rankings. The then powers that be decided that a point system based on number of tournaments played and how many matches you won minus quality points would benefit players. The dropping of quality points resulted in the slew of slamless number one players on the women’s tour. I have advocated in this space for some time that quality points need to be reinstated and was pleasantly surprised to see a fan make the same observation a few days ago. Then again if women’s tennis is practically invisible I guess reinstating quality points isn’t the top priority now.
The Australian Open – 2019 Edition
The draws have been released. Warm up events have been played and Sunday night here in the US tennis fans will be glued to televisions, PC’s, and mobile devices watching the sport we love.
The draws are pretty much as expected. Yes Venus and Serena are in the same part of the draw. Yes there are joke sections of the draw. It’s crazy that the bottom of the top half and the top of the bottom half are where the knife fights will take place for the men and that the bottom half of the women’s draw is pretty soft but hey, it’s Grand Slam tennis and given the circumstances none of the above should surprise anyone.
I for one will be paying close attention to the daily schedules and see if any sense of fairness exists after all that’s been said about scheduling here. I doubt it but it’s nice to dream.
My windshield is pretty messed up at the moment though and the windshield wipers aren’t getting all the crap off.
© 2019 Savannahs World Tennis unless otherwise indicated