I'm posting this about 10:30p East Coast USA time. I want to make sure my hypothesis holds. The above picture is from a day match during the WTA LA Women's Championship. There are a lot of empty seats. I can hear you all saying it's a day match in the hot sun. The fans must surely be on the grounds chowing down or browsing. Except that the stands look exactly the same at night. The face of the WTA, the Golden Girl, Maria Sharapova, has been playing in a near empty stadium as well. As one wit quipped there are ten people there for day matches and fifteen at night. Another fan made the statement that if Sharapova can't put butts in the seats the WTA has no chance of building the sport in Los Angeles.
Except that the empty seats have become the rule not the exception. During majors and combined events fans routinely head for the ATP match regardless of who is playing while the WTA matches are played in echo chambers. This is despite the fact that there are a lot of new players creating a buzz among fans.
The talk about more combined events has amped up again especially in light of this article posted online by the Globe & Mail regarding Tennis Canada's plans for the 2011 Rogers Cup.
Dramatic change is coming to Canada's premier tennis events in 2011, a year that will see the end of three decades of the men and women playing in separate weeks in the two cities.
Tennis Canada, mainly because of increased international pressure for more combined men's and women's tournaments, is going to have to squeeze its two marquee events into the same week. As a consequence, it has come up with what it is grandly calling the world's first ‘virtually-combined' tournament. The virtual refers to the melding of two events into one through the medium of television to produce images looking for all the world like those already coming from existing major men's and women's mixed tournaments in Miami and Madrid.
With its Stade Uniprix at Jarry Park in Montreal and Rexall Centre at York University in Toronto, Tennis Canada was not about to have the men and women play a customary combined event in one city. Both cities have been shown too much support for the events to be passed over every two years.
With Cincinnati securing the coveted date two weeks before the U.S. Open for its new mixed event in 2011, Canadian officials opted not to continue with two separate weeks if it meant stretching one of their tournaments back to four weeks before Flushing Meadows. That would have weakened player fields because it is too early for European players, the dominant force in tennis today, to come over to North America. So, Tennis Canada latched onto a date three weeks before the U.S. Open and hatched the idea of a ‘virtually-combined' tournament.
Tennis Canada officials are not eager to publicize it, but the men's tournament is significantly more marketable and popular than the women's. That is partly because of the greater strength of the men's fields from top to bottom, and partly because the men have proved much more dependable than the women in recent years at delivering the top stars for the Canadian events.
By splitting the draws, a men/women balance would be guaranteed in both cities every year, ending the underlying sense that the city featuring the men is getting the superior product. Montreal tournament director Eugene Lapierre is gung ho on the idea. “It would bring another dimension,” he said. “We'll have a winner in each place. It's like two 32-player draws.”
Whatever the distribution of players between cities, the image of one event, via television, will be reinforced whenever possible.
Please click the link above for the full article.
It's just my very humble opinion but the only ones who would allegedly benefit from this are the WTA head honchos and the players who will get to play in front of what I assume the bigwigs feel will be larger audiences. I use the word allegedly because as has been noted in this space if given the choice fans head to the ATP match. Unless one or both of those Williams Women are playing. While neither is the promotional face of the WTA in many fans minds they are the WTA, something no amount of magazine covers or cute dogs has been able to overcome.
Both Venus Williams and Serena Williams are approaching the time in their careers where, much like Pete Sampras did as he got older, they're rightly focusing on the majors and not every single tour event. This will extend their careers and enhance their already shining legacy.
The burden is on the shoulders of the WTA to come up with a marketing plan for the tour and not just one player. I've said this a zillion times and will keep saying it until something is done to rectify the horrible situation that exists now. The WTA, by hitching it's star to the ATP, is not solving it's problems. Instead it's making them worse. The women's tour doesn't seem to know how to market Dinara Safina, the current number one, let alone Victoria Azarenka or Sorana Cirstea and doesn't seem to be interested in marketing the likes of Melanie Oudin or Sloane Stephens. Instead all the talk is about the girls in the 14-16 age group and younger, many of whom may not be able to transition to the pro tour. If they can't market the Safina's and Azarenka's of the world what the hell are they going to do with someone like Noppawan Lertcheewakarn who has eclipsed her fellow junior Laura Robson?
It's been interesting listening to the commentators struggle to put a positive spin on the abysmal level of tennis coming out of Los Angeles this week. When the star player has more double faults than aces what can be said? They say that the match last night between Maria Sharapova and Urszula Radwanska was only two hours long. It was the second time I've watched Radwanska the younger play. It's not as if Sharapova's game plan is a mystery. It's not as if what an opponent has to do to throw her off her game. U-Rad just seemed not to have the will to push her opponent out of her comfort zone. That was a quarter final match. Once it was finished I was ready to turn in for the night.
I'll just close this out by saying that the ATP event in Washington DC, Legg Mason, has had to cope with sell out crowds. I'm just saying.
My Twitter account is frelled. I may have to open a new one if the problems don't clear up soon.
Re the Crowd in Los Angeles: There are more people but the empty seats still outnumber them.
Thoughts on the Maria Sharapova vs Flavia Pennetta semi final in Los Angeles
The seeding held. Flavia, the number 10 seed, defeated the number 61 ranked player. There is nothing else to say.