via Marilyn Chung The Desert Sun
The WTA announced this morning that its new CEO is Steve Simon, best known as the Tournament Director for the BNP Paribas Open Indian Wells.
In its official statement the WTA said the following:
“Steve Simon, with his successful career leading one of tennis’ most prestigious tournaments, is the perfect person to run the WTA,” the Board said in a statement. “Steve produced results, pursued excellence and he kept innovating, making the fan experience even better. He has a very clear vision for the sport and is held in high regard by all.”
Simon has run the Indian Wells tournament since 2004. Outside of the Grand Slams, it has become the largest two-week combined tournament and is the most attended WTA and ATP World Tour tennis tournament in the world.
“I am humbled and at the same time very excited about the opportunity that has been presented to me by the Board,” Simon said. “I will be focused on building upon the successful platforms that have been put in place by my predecessors, Stacey Allaster and Larry Scott, with a sole focus on driving excellence and innovation, while creating a premium experience for the fans.”
“Steve Simon is the right person for the job,” said WTA founder Billie Jean King. “His track record is marked by success. He is thoughtful, respectful and he has excellent business judgment.”
Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki each praised Simon.
Simon will begin his duties immediately as he also winds down his role at Indian Wells. It is anticipated he will be fulltime with the WTA effective November 30, 2015.
Simon is also a former collegiate tennis player and competed in 1981 in the Mixed Doubles at Wimbledon.
Ironically just before the announcement Micky Lawler, WTA President, said the following in an interview with blogger Peter Bodo re the Asian swing that has seen disturbingly high withdrawals from fatigued and brain dead playrs.
"We know, the Chinese know, the Singaporeans [hosts of the upcoming WTA championships] know that this part of the year -- it's just too much...
We need to look at spreading things out," Lawler added. "We don't need to call it a 'Road Map' [again] or anything like that, but we need to sit down and work out some significant changes, and we need to start on that soon."
...The Road Map to which Lawler referred was implemented in 2009, in response to concerns that the tennis "season" was too long and insufficiently streamlined. The result was, among other things, a tour featuring the current, post-US Open Asian swing, followed by the WTA Finals and an eight-week, year-ending offseason. The longer offseason was intended to mitigate the toll taken by injuries and the demands placed on the top players by a more rigorous commitment structure.
Simon will have a very difficult row to hoe. Outside of Serena Williams and Venus Williams the tour is dominated by Europeans, many of whom are from Eastern Europe including Russian Maria Sharapova, Romanian Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova from the Czech Republic and new member of the top five Garbiñe Muguruza, the only top player from Western Europe in that rarified air. Angelique Kerber of Germany and Flavia Pennetta of Italy are the other Western Europeans in the top ten, Ranked #10 and #7 respectively.
European fans, who feel disrespected by former CEO Stacey Allaster's focus on Asia were looking for someone who would be able to make sure efforts were made to reinstate many of the indoor European events that were sent to Asian cities, feel another North American, at a time when tennis in the US is at it's lowest point in many years, will not help them. Lost in this view is that many US tournaments have also disappeared. Simon will have a delicate balancing act to perform trying to reconcile the discontent on both sides of the Atlantic. How he handles the widespread discontent with Asian events held in mostly empty stadiums is going to require a lot of skill as well especially since the public doesn't know how binding the contracts with the Chinese government are.
For now all WTA fans can do is wait. Lawler clearly indicated that something has to be done about the post US Open WTA schedule especially since the ATP doesn't seem to be having similar issues.
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