ROME – SHAFTED AGAIN

I feel like I am beating a dead horse. A really dead horse.

Last week it was Madrid. A few weeks ago it was Miami. Before that Indian Wells and now we are in Rome. The paucity of women’s tennis on Tennis Channel is infuriating. Thanks to Eurosport and live streaming I was able to watch some of the women’s matches that were played in Rome today, but every single match today that was shown on Tennis Channel was all about the men’s game.

Professional Women Tennis Players Have a Responsibility to the Sport

A few years ago when Fox had the rights to broadcast Indian Wells and Miami, a reporter asked Roger Federer, then the NO. 1 player in the world as to whether he had seen his next opponent. His response was no, because there was no television coverage of the matches and he was unable to even watch any tennis from his hotel room. Since that time the tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami have discontinued their agreement with Fox and now coverage of these events is carried by Tennis Channel, ESPN and CBS/ABC.

I am wondering which of the many female players who are currently earning multi-million dollar endorsement contracts and who are being touted as the most searched face, body or whose very presence at a tournament brings in thousands of fans will have the gumption to say categorically when she is asked about her next opponent say that she has not seen her play because there is no televised coverage of women’s tennis.

We have 2 of the biggest names in women’s tennis who sit on the WTA Players Council. In addition the current No.1, Caroline Wozniacki also sits on the Players’ Council. One hopes that at some point in time the issue of lack of coverage of women’s tennis comes up in discussion when the Council meets to discuss the path that women’s tennis is taking.

More and more at even the Grand Slams, the women are scheduled on courts that have no television coverage and even worse, women who have been successful at these events have found themselves scheduled on courts that are notorious for pulling upsets.
At what point will the Sharapovas, Ivanovics, the Hot Shots, the Williams Sisters, Wozniacki, Azarenka and many others have their voices be heard and decide that this can no longer continue.

The ATP has its Masters Series tv. Fans can, and have paid numerous amounts of money to be able to watch tennis online. They have a feature where they can even go and watch archived matches. The ATP has ATP World Tour, a programme that showcases the ATP, from the NO. 1 player in the world, to the player not even ranked. It makes fans of men’s tennis be able to know their players and see who is coming and who is going. What does the WTA have? A stupid YouTube programme called Hot Shots. What does it do? It show cases players, some of whom have never won a singles title on how to become a marketer’s dream. It does not aid them in becoming better professional tennis players. It is showing them how to market themselves so that sponsors can see them and offer oodles of money to sell their products.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought the whole point of being a professional tennis player was to win titles and to be the best or one of the best at whatever you do, but apparently the WTA sees its mandate as somewhat differently.
Many years ago, 9 women took their future into their hands. They separated themselves from the archaic professional tennis circuit and formed a Tour for professional women. The money earned by those women is paltry compared to what today’s tennis players are earning. Has it ever crossed the minds of the women playing today that if they pool their resources together they could not form their own network.

Can you imagine if someone with the business sense of a Venus Williams, joins up with a media name like Sharapova and has someone with the background of a Lindsay Davenport and have people like Clijsters, Navratilova and many other women, both retired and active, coming together, that a network such as this would not be successful.

Tournament directors would pay a price to have their tournaments aired in conjunction with the WTA. There would be some form of profit sharing. All the money that is currently being spent by sponsors on individual players could go towards purchasing advertising space for these women.

Nike recently upped Sharapova’s contract and is reportedly paying her US$25M. Lord only knows what Serena Williams is getting. Ana Ivanovic has a lifetime contract with Adidas. Wozniacki is a marketer’s dream (or so we are being told) and there are many other women who are up and coming whose Federation will no doubt back them in this venture.

Perhaps it is time that women’s tennis starts looking outside the box in the way it promotes itself. For too long it has been riding on the coat-tails of the ATP. There was a time not so long ago when that was not the case.

Come on women. You now have more than the power. You have the money to go with that power. Make it happen.

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