I Watched WTA TV. My Thoughts

by Karen

After months of silence and fans sitting around and waiting to find out where they can watch the WTA product, they were rewarded for their patience with the announcement of the launch of WTA TV.  At the time of writing, I have subscribed to this online streaming service and I am currently watching Mertens and Krunic battle it out in Bastad, Sweden.

A few years ago I wrote a piece in which I called on the WTA to launch its own tv service.  I posited the view then that outlets like Tennis Channel were holding the WTA to ransom by neglecting to show its product and asking fans to pay extra to watch the WTA by subscribing to TC Plus, Tennis Channel’s online streaming platform.  Many tennis fans, especially those in the US not only had to pay extra on their cable or satellite network to get Tennis Channel, but then they had to pay more money just to get to see the women.  To compound matters even more

So as a public service to all the tennis fans out there, I have taken it upon myself to review WTATV.  As part of the review process, I have done the following:-

  • Checked App availability on iOS
  • Checked App availability on Android
  • Checked browsers (Chrome, Firefox and IE)
  • Reviewed the various features on the site itself

App Availability

As at the time of writing this piece (between 27 and 31 July), the WTATV app is not available as an app.  I have checked on my iPhone and my Samsung and it is not available as an App.  I have also asked the question of tennis fans on social media and I can confirm that as of now there is no app.  The WTA website indicates that WTA TV is available on your mobile phone, tablet and computer, however, when you click the images on the site it does not take you to an app. As a matter of fact it takes you nowhere.

Browsers

The big complaint that I have received from many fans is that the WTA TV site has been marked as a phishing site and that you should not plug in your credit card information as it will get stolen.  I have told folks that I got the website by clicking the WTATV link on the WTA website and it took me straight to the web page where I was able to sign up.  Unfortunately, over the weekend, I checked all three browsers and this is what I am getting.

Internet Explorer

 

Firefox

00749802.DOC

 

Google Chrome

00749800.DOC

I note that you cannot just input wtatv.com or https://wtatv.com in your browser window and get to WTATV.  You will either have to search for it and then either enter through the WTA website or scroll down to the site itself, as I did in this test.  Surely, there can’t be that many WTATV sites around.  The WTA should do more to ensure that the site is easily found on all search engines and that it is not blocked as a phishing site to most web blockers.

This leads me to the biggest issue that I have with the service so far, the fact that one cannot access the site via an app.  The WTA has had the better part of a year to get this done.  The WTA surely did not decide to drop TennisTV and launch its own web based service.  It must have had meetings with website designers as well as persons in the know about how to launch a product that would be the face of women’s tennis.  To not even have an app either in development or indeed ready to launch is yet another indictment on Steve Simon and the WTA and its intention regarding women’s tennis.

Features

One of the things that I was expecting to see more than anything on WTATV were historical matches.  It did not need to go back to the start of women’s tennis, but it would have been nice if the WTA had some of its classic matches.  On the TennisTV website, one can watch classic ATP tennis matches that go back all the way to 2001.  It would have been nice if the WTA TV site at least provided classic matches for the last 5 years of the WTA. Some quick pointers on what is available. Under the features tab, there are interviews with the players from various tournaments during the course of this year.

Live

I like the fact that under the matches that are going to be shown live, there is a count down clock which tells you how long until you can watch matches.  For those of us who live outside the US, it is sometimes hard to know when matches starts in the different US time zones.  This is quite helpful.

On Demand

Under the On Demand tab, you can find match highlights for most of the WTA events that have been held this year.

Tournaments

Under this tab is a Q&A on what tournaments are available.  If you have no idea of the various WTA events, this is as good a place as any to get started.

Verdict

All in all I am about 50% happy with the site.  I wish there was more in terms of classic matches, and more archival information.  The Q&A which is posted on the site is as unhelpful as anything I have ever come across.  It would bode the WTA well to look at the spelling errors on the website, especially in the Q&A section.

As one of those people who have always been of the view that the WTA should have its own dedicated television channel and streaming service, I am quite happy that it has finally done so. I know a lot of tennis fans are of the view that they should not be paying 2 different sums of money in order to watch either men’s or women’s tennis, unfortunately, that is the word that we now inhabit.  One can only hope that the powers that be in tennis will at some point get their lives together and realise that at no point should tennis fans have to spend at a minimum US$150.00 per annum just to be able to watch tennis.

Tournaments This Week

The Tour as most folks know kicks off the US Open Series which is apparently without a title sponsor this year.  This week we get to see for the first time matches from Day One at the Citi Open, which features Simona Halep as the top seed.  On the other side of the country, is the Premier level Bank of the West Classic, which sees Garbine Muguruza as the top seed.  Both tournaments have the requisite big names, some of whom will be looking to jump start their seasons with a much a much needed win.

Also returning to the Tour from a hip injury is Maria Sharapova, who will be competing at the BOTW courtesy of a wild card.

Victoria Azarenka who was also scheduled to compete at the BOTW has withdrawn due to a viral illness.

 

 

 

PARTING SHOTS FROM THE USO AND RIDING INTO ASIA

Just how great is Serena Williams these days?  She won her 17th Grand Slam title from 53 appearances. To show just how good she has been and still is, Martina Navratilova played 67 Grand Slam singles events and Chris Evert played 56.   They both have 18 singles titles.  Serena is one win away from tying them.  Most people think that it will happen at any of the 4 Grand Slams next year. 

For the second year in a row, Victoria Azarenka has shown that she is worthy to be called a rival of Serena Williams.  I am not minded to call her that having regard to their head to head, but Azarenka makes a very good case as to why she should be called a rival to the woman who now occupies the WTA Penthouse.  She has shown that she has the game and the mentality to stay with Serena come what may.  


Here are Spin’s and Ace’s Parting Shots.  As with most of the Majors, the Spin will focus on the women and in no particular order of their importance. 

  • How great is the WTA product looking these days?  With so many young women coming up from the juniors and so many of them making their names in the Majors this year, I think the WTA is putting itself in a position where it could very well be that they will again draw even bigger ratings than the men.  
  • Caroline Wozniacki.  It was just a few short years ago that she ruled the WTA. I have no idea what has happened but it is remarkably frustrating to see her not even make the second week of a Major. Believe this was her last chance to make a Slam semifinal as she was given a kind draw.
  • Welcome to prime time Camila Giorgi. 
  • What has happened to Julia Georges? 
  • Sabine Lisicki is becoming the next Tsevtana Pironkova and that is not a title that a player with the game of Lisicki should ever aspire to become. 
  • The non-retirement of Marion Bartoli.  Why not just take a break and savour the moment of fulfilling your life’s work?
  • I don’t know if I missed it but it was great to listen to the commentary on a women’s match and not ever hearing anything about the shrieks, grunts, howls etc.  The commentary was about the 2 women on the court giving their hearts and soul in order to capture a Major title.  I am happy. 
  • Venus Williams is a Legend.  She may not have the career of her little sister, but what she brings to women’s tennis cannot be measured in terms of titles or monetary value.  When you become a role model and mentor to young women without having to try very hard, then you know that you have come a long way baby.  
  • Victoria Duval is an amazing young woman, poised, articulate and so focused.  Lots of work needed on her game but taking out the 2011 USO champion, no matter how poorly Samantha Stosur played, says a lot about her mentality.  The fact that she aspires to become something other than a tennis player is remarkable as well. 
  • Sloane Stephens.  She played the first 4 games of her match against Serena like the Sloane that we all know can become the next big thing in tennis. She says that her aim is to finish the year in the top 10.  It seems that Sloane is more about rankings watch than she is about standing on the podium receiving the top prizes. Baby steps are required, but I would have preferred if she spoke about results, rather than the ranking.  If the results are there the ranking will come. 
  • Flavia Pennetta is not my favourite player but how awesome was it to see her playing again and doing so well.  Losing in the semifinals to the second best hard court player this year is nothing to sniff at. 
  • Simona Halep. I think she was very disappointed with her results at the USO.  Perhaps no New Haven and she could make a run for it next year. 
  • Petra Kvitova 😦
  • Andrea Hlavackova – She won the doubles title with her partner and fellow Fed Cup Czech mate Lucie Hradecka defeating Serena and Venus along the way. Also, she won the mixed doubles with Max Mirnyi, who won his first two with Serena and Vika. First player to win both in a Slam since Cara Black in 2008 (doubles with Liezel Huber) 
  • Daniela Hantuchova – She made the quarter-finals which is a good accomplishment after losing in the first round for five straight Slams even though her draw was not difficult.
  • Victoria Azarenka – Despite losing again in the final to Serena, she did well by making the final despite not playing her best tennis.
  • Alison Riske – She received a wild card and made the organizers proud by making the fourth round defeating Petra Kvitova in the process.
  • Until the final, the match of the tournament was between Carla Suarez Navarro and Angelique Kerber where a third set tiebreaker determined the winner and the raw emotion of Suarez Navarro after winning.

The WTA Tour now moves to Asia and already we have seen some surprising results.  Spin had a chance to watch a few matches from Korea as well as China.  I watched the semifinal match between  Zhang and Meusberger.  It was my first time watching Zhang, a WC recipient play and I was very impressed.  I am thinking from the little that I have seen, plus the fact that her opponent, Vania King, a qualifier had to go 3 sets to take out Jheng Jie in her semifinal, will have Zhang winning her first WTA title from as many starts. 

Ace’s preview of the Japan Open is below

Since the United States Open has concluded, the tour has moved on to the continent of Asia. This week the tour lands in Tokyo, which is hosting a Premier 5 event for the last time as it will move to Wuhan in 2014. Serena Williams was scheduled to play but withdrew due to fatigue. Also, Maria Sharapova, Sabine Lisicki, Nadia Petrova, 2012 champion, and Maria Kirilenko has withdrawn due to injury. Top seed is the reigning two-time Australian Open champion, Victoria Azarenka, who has defeated S Williams twice on hard courts in Doha and Cincinnati. Azarenka will be the favourite to win.

 
First quarter – Azarenka leads this quarter but her first opponent could be Venus Williams. Sloane Stephens will be trying to improve her record in WTA tour events in a push to finish 2013 in the Top 10 while Jelena Jankovic will be continuing her good play.
 
First round matchups to watch: Eugenie Bouchard vs Monica Puig
 
Second quarter – Sara Errani leads this quarter but admitted that the pressure of being a top seed got to her during the US Open. Petra Kvitova has the ability to win this title but she can be very inconsistent and will her love for Radek Stepanek, who won the US Open doubles with Leander Paes, linger on every match she plays.
 
First round matchup to watch: Julia Goerges vs Sorana Cirstea
 
Third quarter – Caroline Wozniacki leads this quarter and has won this title in 2010. She has a tough first round match playing the winner of Daniela Hantuchova/Flavia Pennetta. When the media thinks that Roberta Vinci will falter early in draws, she finds a way to make quarterfinals or semifinals.
 
First round matchup to watch: Daniela Hantuchova vs Flavia Pennetta
 
Fourth quarter – Agnieszka Radwanska leads this quarter. If A Radwanska, who won this title in 2011, is playing in Seoul on Sunday, she will have only one day to travel as her first match will be on Tuesday and the further she advances, she may feel the effects.
 
First round matchup to watch: Aleksandra Wozniak vs Francesca Schiavone 

Ace’s Tokyo Predictions
 
Q1: Azarenka vs Stephens
Q2: Cirstea vs Kvitova
Q3: Vinci vs Pennetta
Q4: Ivanovic vs A Radwanska
 
S1: Azarenka vs Kvitova
S2: Pennetta vs A Radwanska
 
F: Azarenka vs A Radwanska
 
W: Azarenka

SEMIFINAL PREVIEW

We started with 128 players. We had qualifiers, wild cards and direct entrants.  At the end we are left with 4 women who could walk away with the title of US Open Singles Champion 2013.

First up is Flavia Pennetta.  At this time last year Flavia was home in Italy recovering from wrist surgery.  At the beginning of the year she contemplated retirement at the end of this season because her results were so poor.  At 31 years young, Flavia is into her first Grand Slam semifinal.  Her road to the semifinal included wins over 2 time Major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, countrywoman Roberta  Vinci and the hottest player of the latter part of the season, Simona Halep.  Flavia goes up against the World No. 2 and 2 time Major champion and last year’s beaten finalist,  Victoria Azarenka.

Azarenka has not had an easy time of it.  She has struggled throughout this tournament, playing back to back 3 set matches against inspired opponents Alize  Cornet and Ana Ivanovic.  She had a routine win over Daniela Hantuchova in the quarterfinals but again her serve, which has never been her biggest weapon failed her when called upon to do duty.  Azarenka has got to the semifinals through grit and just plain cussedness.  She just refuses to lose.  She will have a battle on her hands with Pennetta who will be playing as if she has nothing to lose.

The head to head is 1-1 with Azarenka winning on clay and Flavia on hard courts.  They have not played since 2011.  I think this is going to be an exceptionally tough match for Azarenka just because Flavia did not know  she could get to this point in her career.  Now that she is here, she will want to go one step further.  If she is ever going to get to a Major final, now is her chance.  However, with the grit that Azarenka has shown this tournament, she will be battling long and hard to ensure that she makes another US Open final with hopes of walking away with the trophy.

Spin’s Pick – Azarenka in 3

The second semifinal features the No. 5 seed, Azarenka.  She looks fit and focused and her game has taken on a new dimension.  She is playing much closer to the baseline, her serve has improved and she has been coming to net on almost every point.  She battled hard in her match against Makarova and her lapses during that second set cannot happen against the player that she is going up against, that would be Serena Williams.

Na Li .  By all accounts Li has not had a successful season.   She made the final of the Australian Open and won a small tournament in her native China.  However, for most of the season she has been battling an ankle injury that she suffered during the Australian Open final against

Both ladies played recently in Cincinatti with Serena coming away with the win.  During that particular match Li showed off some of her serve and volleying skills but as the match wore on she abandoned that particular strategy and went back to basics.  Neither strategy worked effectively against Serena.

Serena Williams has looked unbeatable during this tournament.  However she is doing doubles duty this tournament and her play the last two times I have watched her in doubles seemed a tad lacklustre.  It could be that she was conserving energy, but Venus has looked the more formidable of the two on the doubles court.  That being said, in her round of 16 match against Sloane Stephens, especially the second set, as well as her quarterfinal match against Suarez-Navarro, we saw vintage Serena when her game is firing on all cylinders.

Serena does not underestimate any opponent and I am sure she will be reminded of her match against Li a few weeks ago.

Spin’s Pick – Serena Williams in straight sets

AO DAY 5 RESULTS AND DAY 6 PICKS

It has been incredibly hard to get up the fight to do a picks and results thread today.  Seeing Venus losing so miserably against Sharapova made my blood boil. I was even angrier at the post match celebration of Sharapova.  As someone said, clearly she  mistook beating Venus for beating Serena.  Onwards.
Of the 8 matches played yesterday, Spin had a win rate of 75%.  Bartoli served to stay in the match in the third set but got broken and Zheng, channelling her inner Stosur, served for the match at 5-4, got broken and would not win another game, losing 7-5 in the third.

PLAYER A
PLAYER B
SPIN’S PICKS
RESULTS
Na Li
Sorana Cirstea
Na Li – too much firepower from Li. Cirstea, if she plays well and cuts down on the UFEs could take a set, but I doubt it
Li
Julia Georges
Jie Zheng
Giant killer Zheng up against one of the most inconsistent players on Tour.  I take Zheng in 3.
Georges
Ana Ivanovic
Jelena Jankovic
Battle of the Serbians.  If this is not a pick em I don’t know what is.  Neither player is consistent.  Both ladies have struggled during this tournie.  I am going with Ivanovic, if only because she will have more crowd support
Ivanovic
Heather Watson
Agnieszka Radwanska
Radwanska – the 4th seed will have too much tricks in her arsenal to be swayed by Watson, who is coming off a brutal 3 setter
Radwanska
Angelique Kerber
Madison Keys
Kerber – this is where the journey ends for the young American.  While she has served and played well through her opening rounds, Kerber’s get the next ball back will prove to be too much for her to handle.
Kerber
Ekaterina Makarova
Marion Bartoli
This should be a very fun match to watch, if only to see Bartoli jumping around during Makarova’s serve.  Bartoli in straights
Makarova
Valeria Savinykh
Kirsten Flipkens
Flipkens – if only because Savinykh has to face reality.  She has played a lot of matches this AO, having qualified into the main draw. The journey ends here.
Flipkens
Venus Williams
Maria Sharapova
While this blog will sentimentally pick Williams to win this one, on form alone, I think Sharapova will win this one.  The Russian is on a no games lost win streak for 2013, but look for Williams to at least win a game each set.
Sharapova

Today’s picks are below.  Have fun
PLAYER A
PLAYER B
SPIN’S PICKS
RESULTS
Victoria Azarenka
Jamie Hampton
Azarenka – the World’s No. 1 will be too consistent for the youngster
Elena Vesnina
Roberta Vinci
Vesnina – I believe the euphoria of winning her first title will end here as the Italian veteran will work over Vesnina to frustration
Caroline Wozniacki
Lesia Tsurenko
Wozniacki – a pick em if I ever saw one.  Is Wozniacki on her way back or is she just reaping the fruits of her lucky escape from Lisicki?
Svetlana Kuznetsova
Carla Suarez Navarro
Navarro – Navarro will frustrate Kuznetsova into errors if Sveta cannot find a way to hit through her
Serena Williams
Ayumi Morita
Williams – a red flag has been raised.  Unless Williams has done something new to herself on her day off, I see this one being a beatdown
Yanina Wickmayer
Maria Kirilenko
Kirilenko – the consistent Kirilenko will frustrate Wickmayer. The 2 have never played before, which I find surprising.
Kimiko Date-Krumm
Bojana Jovanovski
Krumm – the veteran will give the youngster all she can handle. 
Sloane Stephens
Laura Robson
The battle of the young ones.  The 2 played a reasonably good match in Hobart with Stephens coming in straight sets.  Whether Robson has recovered from her long 3 set match against Kvitova will play a role.  Stephens has sailed through her first 2 rounds here.  Look for  Stephens to continue her march to the second week

Mutua Madrid Open – Another Nail in Women’s Tennis

The  screen up top is what greeted millions of fans of women’s tennis the world over today when Caroline Wozniacki took the court against rising German star Mona Barthel and Serena Williams started her match against Anastasia Pavlychenkova.

Fans were eager to see how Wozniacki, who injured her ankle on the first day of play would do against the big hitting German star. Pavlychenkova, even though she was currently in a slump, having only won 3 matches this season, pushed Serena hard at the 2011 US Open, so fans were understandably eager to see how these 2 matches would fare. Unfortunately, there was absolutely no coverage to be found of either of these matches.

 Prior to today’s debacle, yesterday, Venus Williams, she of the Sjorgen’s Syndrome, who is trying to raise her ranking to compete at this year’s Olympics at her favoured tennis site, Wimbledon, played another up and coming young German in Angelique Kerber. In addition to that match, 2011 US Open champion Sam Stosur was pushed to 3 sets by promising young American Christina McHale. Again, fans the world over were denied access to either of these matches. To compound the situation, I understand from veteran journalist, Matt Cronin that none of the journalists on site in Madrid chose to request an interview with Venus after her loss (but more on that in another post).

 I started this blog in 2009. Since I began writing, the majority of my posts have  been about the fact that the women’s matches at these combined events are usually sidelined in favour of some of the more mediocre men’s matches. It pains me to say this, but there are only 4 men in men’s tennis. The storylines are the same tournament in and out. It gets even worse  during clay season as apart from the anomaly that was Novak Djokovic in beating Nadal on clay last season, the story lines have remained the same. There are 9 Masters events, and no one outside of the top 4 have won any of them dating back to Soderling’s win in Paris, Bercy in 2010. Despite this, at every combined event, from here to eternity, the women are constantly pushed into the background or, even when their matches are scheduled for the tv viewing audience, it is early in the morning to empty stadiums.

 Many fans forget the heady days of the early 2000s when the men’s tour was headed  by a No. 1 who decided that the best way to go about the Tour’s business was to sue a body that was virtually his employer. In those days when Venus, Serena, Martina, Lindsay, Jennifer, Justine and Kim ruled women’s tennis, when ratings for the early rounds of the women’s matches were drawing big numbers, the ATP approached the women’s tour to try and ride on the coat-tails. Today, it is the WTA, who while not riding on the coat-tails of the ATP, seem to not understand that they have an audience of millions who are dying to spend money to watch the women of the Tour play.

 At last year’s Wimbledon, unless you were an ardent fan of women’s tennis, you had no idea who Petra Kvitova was. Commentators were at pains to try and find information about her to relay to viewers. Apart from her semifinal match against Azarenka, Kvitova never made it to ESPN2/NBC’s broadcasts of the early rounds of Wimbledon. Fans knew who she was and of what she is capable. Fast forward to this year’s Australian Open and the commentary that accompanied Azarenka’s her triumph  Melbourne Park had more to do with her emotional and injury meltdowns of the past and not with her maturity and the strength of her game and how she commanded the court in her first Grand Slam final.

 As a result of the negative commentary on women’s tennis, the shrieking, the fist pumping, the so-called WTA Rules as opined by Juan Ignacio Chela (more on that at another time), fans of the women’s game are not being given equal measure. We have been informed that the 4 top men of the ATP met with the organizers of the 4 Grand Slams to discuss prize money increases. They suggested and this was later adopted by all 4 Grand slams that any increase in prize money should be given to the lower ranked players. 

When Venus Williams met with the All England Club in 2007 she spoke eloquently to them in relation to her case for equal prize money. She would later go on to win the whole thing. I would really love if Venus, Serena, Sharapova and the many other women of the WTA who have millions of fans worldwide and who dominate social media with their presence could find a way to approach Tennis Channel, ESPN, Eurosport and any other media entity to have some form of partnership with the WTA in terms of media coverage for matches. Perhaps, like the ATP, the top women, whose matches already receive lots of media attention, could perhaps allow fans to see lower ranked players or even to have some kind of partnership where fans would pay to see the women at these combined events.

 Fans of the women’s game are disgruntled. There were many tweets from journalists, coaches and many others complaining about the lack of coverage of the women at this year’s Madrid tournament. As I said on twitter, it makes no sense for the Darren Cahills of this world to tweet their displeasure at the likes of me. Cahill and others are  in a position to bring their views to the powers that be. I am sure that he, and many others like him were inundated with tweets from many fans today expressing their displeasure at the fact that only 2 matches for the women were shown.

 As to Tennis Channel, why I continue to spend  money to have this channel is beyond me. On some level it is the only way that I get to watch tennis, especially where I am located. As I subscribe via Dish Network, and as I had to install an extra satellite dish just to get the damned thing, I am stuck like chuck.

 I, as an ardent fan of the women’s game am sick and tired of not being able to watch the matches that I know can be shown. It is time for fans of the women’s game to stand up. Perhaps a twition to the players on twitter as well as the media houses on twitter to let them know just how unhappy we are with the lack of coverage of the women’s events at these combined events. Lest anyone forget, women’s tennis is the largest global sport for women. It is time that the women of the WTA recognize their power and start wielding it. In another 2 weeks we will head to Rome, another combined event. Something tells me that if we stand up and fight, maybe, just maybe, things will change. Until then …