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.

 

 

 

I HAVE A SADZ

It has been sometime since I wrote about tennis.  I have tried writing a few times but there seems to be a bit of a writer’s block  that is happening to me.  I think this has to do with the fact that I am disgusted by the sport and the efforts that seem to be at play  in making women’s tennis seem like a second class citizen to the men’s game.
The Australian Open women’s final gained its highest viewership in quite some time with the final featuring Venus and Serena Williams.  While I was giddy at Venus making the final, I did become a bit disappointed that she was not able to cross the finish line ahead of her sister, but as some of my tennis buddies have said, a Williams won, so that is all that matters.
The WTA should have been riding that euphoric high all throughout the season, but then we recalled the news that the online streaming platform TennisTV would no longer be broadcasting women’s tennis.  There began a fight amongst tennis watchers to figure out how to watch the women’s game.  Some of us have figured it out but it has been like seeking for gold in them there mountains.
As I am writing this we are in the midst of the BNP Paribas Open (Indian Wells) and while I have barely watched any of the women’s matches, from my social media timeline I can see that folks both in the US and outside the US are experiencing problems in watching the women’s portion of this event.  I live outside the US and I have ESPN Play.  While that platform does have Indian Wells on, there are no women’s matches being shown.  As part of my Dish Network package, I do have Tennis Channel, but as the only women’s matches they are showing are American women, I have decided to not tune in (except for Venus from time to time).
When someone is unable to view your sport, it decreases interest.  I was out of the office on Monday and Tuesday of this week and rather than sit at a computer screen watching tennis, I chose to sit in front of my 55” Samsung Smart TV and binge watch Bones on Netflix.  I am a diehard supporter of the women’s game, if I prefer to watch Netflix rather than find a livestream which may be dodgy at best to watch women’s tennis, then I can’t imagine  how those fans who only have a passing interest in the women’s game are faring. Why are we still struggling to watch the women’s game in 2017?
The other issue that has left me repeatedly angry and depressed is the return of Maria Sharapova to professional tennis.  For those who have been living under a rock, Ms. Sharapova will be coming off a 15 month ban for a doping offence.  As a result of this doping ban she will not have a ranking when she returns next month.  The issue that has stirred up quite a bit of controversy is Stuttgart granting Sharapova a wild card while she is banned for a doping offence. In order to facilitate the wildcard, the event has scheduled her first match at the tournament a day after her doping ban ends.   As we say in the legal field, the Stuttgart organisers have endured the letter of the law, if not the spirit.

Angelique Kerber, the current No. 1 has taken the view that awarding Sharapova a wild card has taken away the opportunity from a German who could perhaps use that wild card to advance her career.  I agree.  Following Stuttgart’s lead, both Madrid and Rome announced that they have awarded Ms. Sharapova a wild card into their events.  In addition, the French Tennis Federation has announced that Ms. Sharapova has reached out to them and has met with that organisation to secure a wildcard into the French Open this year.  Both the FFT and the AELTC have adopted a wait and see approach regarding requests for a wild card from the Sharapova camp.

Many may have forgotten that at the ITF hearing, Ms. Sharapova’s team stated that:

“It is argued that any period of ineligibility would disproportionately affect Ms Sharapova in causing her a very substantial loss of earnings and sponsorships, exclusion from the 2016 Olympics, and irreparable damage to her reputation. There is nothing unfair in the rules being fairly and equitably applied to this player as to any other athlete subject to the WADA Code, whether professional or amateur. The rules are clear in stating:  “ … the fact that a Player would lose the opportunity to earn large sums of money during a period of Ineligibility, or the fact that the Player only has a short time left in his or her career, or the timing of the sporting calendar, would not be relevant factors to be considered in reducing the period of Ineligibility under Article 10.5.1 or 10.5.2.” The rules cannot be circumvented by invoking the principle of proportionality. It would be contrary to the principles underlying the code, in particular respect for the rules which must apply equally to all, to allow an unprincipled exception to or waiver from the rules on the grounds of proportionality of sanction as it affects the particular circumstances of this player.”

I know that many people have taken exception to the ITF’s ruling and it would seem as if Ms. Sharapova and her team are more determined to pick up where they left off in terms of the money that can be made by Ms. Sharapova.

For years we have heard about Ms. Sharapova’s fighting spirit.  We have heard about her capacity for hard work and her mental toughness.  We have also heard about her ability to come back from adversity and how important it is for her to play tennis.  I therefore have a few thoughts on a comeback that would be so much better for her image (which seems to be everything) and would be a guaranteed path to Hall of Fame glory.

·         Play the ITF Challenger/Futures circuit – how fitting would it be for an icon of the sport to highlight the plight of players who play the Challenger/Futures circuit? I recall watching Challenger tennis when Nicole Vaidisova was staging her comeback to tennis.

·         Play qualifying events.  It would show Ms. Sharapova’s capacity for hard work.  If she fails to make it through qualifying, try and go in as a lucky loser.  With her skill set she would be able to vanquish her opponents.  Recall 2007 when Serena Williams who was ranked 81 when won the Australian Open

·         Recently, Francesca Schiavone, a decorated athlete who has made her mark on the sport in more ways than one played qualifying at the Australian Open.  Schiavone has represented herself and her country and has been at the forefront of one of the most dynamic Fed Cup teams in history.  She will probably need a wild card to play in her home tournament in Rome later this year.  Why not take a page from that book?

I, like many tennis fans, love to hear and see a comeback story.  One of the reasons why  most people hate on court coaching is that it seems to give an unfair advantage to the player who calls their coach down mid match.  This is how I and I know many others view this wild card situation with Ms. Sharapova.  We view it as her being given an unfair advantage, in much the same way that her use of meldonium gave her an unfair advantage.

It is a smack in the face of other players who have played fairly for all their careers, to now be tasked with competing against a player who is being given a leg up because of who she is or who she used to be.  How Sharapova returns to the sport she claims to love can either elevate or damage its reputation. It would do the tennis a world of good if they helped Sharapova do the former rather than the latter. However, I suspect that like Sharapova, they will let money rather than integrity guide their decisions.

US Open Series

Hello fans of tennis. It is that time of year again when the women of the WTA begin competing in the US Open Series, culminating in the last major of the year, the US Open.

To those who do not know, the USO Series is a series of events during the US hard court season which traverses the United States. There are usually 4 events, Stanford, Los Angeles, Cincinatti and Toronto/Montreal. The winner of the USO Series gets US$1M and if said winner wins both the USO Series and the US Open, they are guaranteed to double their prize money. Financially it is an incentive to players to play these events. The problem though is that these events happen at the tough end of the tennis season and it usually finds the top players all banged up and bruised. Withdrawals are a part of this time of the season.

In checking the preliminary tv schedules for both Tennis Channel and ESPN, we find that most of the events that feature the women will start airing at the quarter final stage. I believe the same will obtain for the men, save and except for their Masters Series events in Montreal and Cincinatti.

I am aware that there is not a lot of sponsorship going on right now in tennis, and usually when tennis gets to the States for some reason that is when all live streams on the internet go dark. Someone needs to tell tournament directors that whether they live stream their events or not, if people want to come to these events they will come regardless. Nobody likes sitting in front of a computer screen watching tennis, but for those of us who do not reside in the US, would it kill these people to provide live streams for those of us outside the US?

This week, (16 July) I have been fortunate to watch some matches in places like Portoroz (Slovenia Open) and Bad Gastein. Bad Gastein is a clay court event and while I was quite happy to watch the live stream, my experience was not pleasant as the camera angles were set in such a way that it made for poor viewing. Portoroz was a very good event and I now have a new fave in Polono Hercog.

One thing that I noticed from those 2 events that I have been watching this week is the lack of grunting/screaming. However, would it kill the announcers to stop referring to these grown women as girls. I cannot recall hearing the men being described as boys. It kind of galls me to hear them talking about married women who are currently on Tour and playing as girls.

There are some intriguing story lines coming up during this summer hard court season and I will have a post about that showing my list contenders and floaters.

2010 – New Year – Same Crap

Hello All. It is a new year and I am back. I promise that this year I will be blogging more than ever to bring to the eyes of the world all things tennis all the time, at least that which I can get on tv. I have now relocated to Jamaica and one of the things I do not have is Tennis Channel. Now that may be a good thing or it may be a bad thing. For right now it is a bad thing as Tennis Channel usually has good coverage of MS events, but little or no coverage of the women’s events, you know the ones, Mandatories, Premiers etc. Anyway, I now have TSN (that is Canada’s response to ESPN). I also have a ESPNI as well as a host of other ESPNs. The only problem is that because I am in Jamaica all of these channels are geared towards the Latin American market. Now I have nothing against that if but for the fact that I get to watch football (soccer to you North Americans) all the time. That would have been great except I do not particularly like soccer, so there you go.

Anyway, the new year has started and already message boards are abuzz with tennis being played. Live streams seem very hard to come by these days as folks over at tennis.com were visibly frustrated last night and early this morning with the Hopman Cup streams. I see from the tv schedule that Hopman Cup should be up on the tv by 4 January so I will be looking out for that. Oh, I am in Cayman now and back in front of my HDTV and Tennis Channel, so hopefully I will catch a little bit of it before I have to head back to Jamaica.

In December I watched via a livestream the playoffs for the Australian Open wildcard. I have to say that I am sorry a player that I had never seen much except for that one match against Dinara at the USO (Olivia Rogoskwa) but I like the mentality that she displays on court. In addition there was no drama to her, no fist pumps, no grunting, no smashed racquets. She just stepped up to the line and did her thing. What I liked about this match was not the play of the players themselves but that a Federation thought it would be a good thing to livestream their wildcard playoffs for all the world to see. Kudos to you Tennis Australia. I hope that other Federations take a leaf out of that book as it would be good to see the up and coming talent before it hits the big time.

Brisbane is on right now. I have not seen a ball being hit just yet but this is only the third day of the year. Tennis Channel is showing Davis Cup and WITC matches from days gone by. I would have thought they would have shown Classic AO matches in order to generate interest in the upcoming AO, but that would have been too easy. Anyway, maybe there are plans to do so. I will write them and enquire as to whether fans of tennis will be able to see Classic AO matches. Will keep you informed if I get a response but please do not hold your breath.

Until then have a happy new year and all the best for 2010 and beyond for tennis.