Looking for a savior in a skirt. Women’s tennis is at a critical crossroads

Looking for a savior in a skirt. Women’s tennis is at a critical crossroads
Looking for a savior in a skirt. Women’s tennis is at a critical crossroads

The WTA’s decision to hold a five-minute-twelve tournament in a location like Cancun was absolutely critical. It was legitimately accompanied by below-average conditions and infrastructure problems. The players, and not only them, expressed their dissatisfaction with the hastily assembled and put together equipment and especially with the inconsistent and dangerous surface of the court.

However, it was far from just Cancun, but a very unfavorable timing and geographical coincidence of the tournaments. It was played in a short span on three continents. In China, the players then moved to Mexico for the Tournament of Champions (in addition, Cancun was decided at the end of September) and immediately had to head to Seville, Spain, for the Billie Jean King Cup. Anyone who has ever traveled will understand that this is an almost killer combination, especially for someone who has to perform at peak physical performance in each place.

All of this would indicate ill-conceived and poor management of the organization. The anger of world players, as well as legends such as Martina Navrátilová, understandably falls on the head of WTA chairman Steve Simon when he talks about disrespect for top women’s tennis.

He certainly bears a great responsibility. In addition, his problem is that he does not communicate sufficiently not only with the players, but also does not explain the situation to the public. In Cancún alone, he refused an interview for television twice.

“Steve Simon has been running the (WTA) organization for nine years and look where we’ve come. We play the most important tournament of the year during hurricane season in Cancun. There have been a number of bad decisions and he hasn’t even been able to talk openly about it yet,” world tennis legend Navrátilová commented on the situation for Amazon Prime Video directly from the center court of the unsuccessful tournament.

WTA problems – how to snowball

But Cancun showed something else. That Simon is extinguishing deep structural problems and is not directly responsible for all of them. The tournament of the champions was only the tip of the iceberg of various problems that have plagued women’s tennis for a long time. It is reeling in a marketing crisis with declining viewership and waning sponsor interest. It is not surprising that it also affects the existential interests of female players.

They have already hired a lawyer and communicated their concerns in a letter to the WTA headquarters. They met twice with tour management to discuss things like guaranteed income, maternity leave coverage and injury absences. About changes that would prioritize their well-being and address their concerns without affecting tournaments.

It’s like a snowball that wraps around the WTA, Steve Simon and the whole world of women’s tennis. Dissatisfaction increases, for example, with the increase in mandatory tournaments, which threatens the health and well-being of female players.

Chairman Simon out, but…

They say that the problem is always money, which always comes first. This is absolutely true for women’s tennis. Their lack thus results in, for example, not very dignified spectator visits to some places, including Cancún.

But there are already hundreds of those problems today. Revision of schedule and tournament standards, night matches, inconsistency in tennis balls, anti-doping rules, integrity, marketing or social media is required. It no longer seems that the current management of the WTA can fix this huge pile of problems. Navrátilová is probably right to call for Simon’s dismissal.

At the same time, she proposes a solution: “I personally have been involved with the WTA for so long and I see that in history we have only had three women at the head. I hope that when the new leader comes, it will be a woman. There are plenty of qualified people who would be suitable for this job.’

So far, no one has commented much on it, because it is a hot topic that interested parties don’t like to get into today. Let’s hypothetically imagine that a male legend of world sport said that only men can understand male athletes better… Unacceptable.

Potential bankruptcy by 2026

But it makes no sense to blame the Czech legend, because he is trying to find a solution and Simon’s departure probably belongs to him. There is probably an experienced woman who would do better than Simon at the top of the WTA. But that probably won’t be a problem. At the head of the WTA today, anyone would break their teeth. Regardless of whether it is a man or a woman, it needs an entire professional organization to make deep structural changes.

Projections of the WTA’s financial situation, according to Bnn.network, indicate potential bankruptcy by 2026 not only due to poor management, but also the lack of lucrative Asian tournaments. A commercial and logistical merger with ATP was therefore suggested as a potential solution.

That would make sense. The whole thing will need to be looked at from new angles. There is an increasing consensus that the sports business in its current state prefers men’s tennis to women’s.

Serena is missing

Despite the excellent performances of Iga Swiateková, Aryna Sabalenková and the talented Czechs, women’s tennis lacks an absolute global star from key countries such as Serena Williams. The mentioned Sabalenkova could possibly be such a star, unfortunately she is from Belarus, a country which today is unacceptable for world business due to its policy towards Russia and Ukraine. Time is extremely complex.

It seems that the WTA is facing a difficult period. In order for it to go well, the smartest and fittest in the entire sports business will have to put their heads together.

The article is in Czech

Tags: savior skirt Womens tennis critical crossroads


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