Forbes just published its list of celebrity sports personality. At the top of the list was the reigning No. 1 women’s player in the world, Serena Williams.
Forbes also published a list of the biggest earners in professional sports marketing. At the top of the list was Maria Sharapova, currently the WTA No. 3, right behind her were Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Li Na.
The WTA, at the Championships, Wimbledon this year patted itself on the back as it celebrated 40 years of its existence.
During this USO hard court season, a time when fans and casual fans of the sport are being bombarded with the Emirates USO Series, the WTA announced a new partnership with SAP as it relates to delivering up to the minute stats on women’s tennis.
Earlier this year, the WTA announced that it was partnering with BT Sport to showcase women’s tennis around the globe. Indeed, during this particular announcement, the WTA also announced that come 2014 its WTA Tour Championships will be moving from Istanbul, Turkey, where it has enjoyed exceptional crowd support to Singapore, not exactly a hot bed of professional tennis, but the word is that Asia is the new black, so everyone and their mother seems to be packing up to head to the Far East. Does not matter that empty stands seems to be a feature of tennis in Asia.
The above announcements shows that women’s tennis is popular. They seem able to secure partnerships and sponsors and their leading ladies are pulling in the money and getting their names in the news and making money. Why then is it that whenever there is a combined event, which seems to be happening all over these days, do the women get shoved aside for mediocre men’s matches. A case in point. Today, 13 August 2013, during the W&S Open, there were 5 matches featured on Centre Court, 2 of those matches were women’s matches. On the Grand Stand Court, there were 5 matches scheduled, the lone female singles match, featured former No.1 and French Open champion Ana Ivanovic. It was not even televised. I am assuming that the only courts that are televised are Centre Court and the Grand Stand. The men’s matches which were played on the Grand Stand courts were televised.
The recently concluded Rogers Cup, which is a combined event held in separate cities (women in Toronto, men in Montreal) featured more men’s matches on tv, rather than women. To show how bad things were, the current WTA No.1, a crowd pleaser if ever there was one, had her match livestreamed for those living in the US. Meanwhile, Tennis Channel, that bastion of quality programming, featured the US Davis Cup effort and in case you missed it the first time around, the Dubai Duty Free Championships, because frankly that is what people pay good money to see.
I do not reside in the United States. I reside in the Cayman Islands and I subscribe to the Tennis Channel via Dish Network. I had to install a 6 foot dish in order to get that particular channel, so I invested a pretty penny to get this channel and it has been the most disappointing investment of my life.
However, what is even more disappointing is the dreadful coverage for women’s tennis, not only at these combined events, but especially when the women’s tour hits the United States. Fans on Twitter and other social media complain daily of the lack of coverage of women’s tennis. The powers that be would have us think that it is only men’s tennis that fans wish to see, but a quick survey taken today showed that the discussion surrounding the lack of coverage of the women’s event far outweighed the coverage of the men’s matches that were being shown.
Surely Stacey Allaster must be aware of the fact that women’s tennis is dying not because of lack of attendance at Tour events but because there is a lack of recognition of the needs of fans. How can anyone become involved in women’s tennis if they never get to see the sport being played? How can you become engaged with the women of the Tour if you never get to see them display their skill at this and other events on Tour? What is happening now to women’s tennis is akin to what happened prior to the formation of the WTA. The women are being treated as if their Tour is not as important as the men’s tour and this is not right.
It is bad enough when at a women’s event there are men who are being paid to do exhibitions at these events and nothing is being said about this by the head of the WTA. How is it possible that this is allowed to happen? How is it that on the one hand fans of women’s tennis are being bombarded about how much the sport has grown, when in actuality, unless you are a dedicated fan, you are hardly pressed to try and find young and upcoming players for which to root?
I know I have said this a million times, and I suspect that I will continue to do so, but surely, at some point in time, the WTA has to take stock of its product and realize that it is losing out on a massive audience that is just dying to engage with the women of this wonderful sport, the way they are supposed to.