• Um ... did we mention
I spoke to Scott on Tuesday night and he asserts that this was a difficult and personal decision. Unlike other execs, he is a "tennis guy" who played in college and briefly on tour and has a passion for the sport. Yet, he spent nearly half his nights on the road last year -- often in a foreign country -- away from his wife and three kids. As he told the WTA players Wednesday in Miami when he broke the news, "I love you guys. But I love my family more."
By accident or design, he picked a critical time to leave. True, the WTA has come a long way in recent years. But this is a precarious period. The global economy is in the commode -- Scott himself recently speculated that revenues could be down 20 percent in 2009. It's no secret that the main sponsor, Sony Ericsson, is not the Sony Ericsson that hurled big bucks at women's tennis several years ago. The WTA's Shangri-la of Dubai is a changed place. The amazing Williams sisters aren't getting younger,
Already some of you have asked where the WTA goes from here. When it looked as though Scott would return to the ATP had he been offered the job last fall, the WTA board gave a vote of confidence to his No. 2,
• Amen. In a word, this situation is unacceptable. Indian Wells is a world-class event with record attendance and a top-tier sponsor.....and television coverage unfit for a high school jiu-jitsu tournament. How do you call your tournament the "Fifth Slam" and have your coverage get pre-empted for fishing? This is like owning a sweet new Macbook and then having dial-up Internet access. You may as well cut bait entirely and stream matches online than alienate fans like this.
I see this from the tournament's perspective. ESPN was unwilling to give them enough hours of coverage. And much as we all love Tennis Channel, it's still --thanks, Dolans! -- unavailable in so many markets. It also bears mentioning that the international coverage draws high marks. If you want it straight from the directors' mouths,
Still, the current situation is untenable and here's what I don't get: In recent years, the USTA was negotiating with ESPN for broadcast rights of the U.S. Open and, presumably, negotiating from a position of some strength. Why not say, "As part of the deal, you have to guarantee X hours of coverage of the Indian Wells and Key Biscayne events. Our organization, after all, is based on promoting and growing tennis in the U.S., and when the second- and third-biggest Americans event are, for all intents, not televised, it's a real problem. What's that? The ratings would rival those for bull riding and bass fishing? Fine, throw it on ESPN Classic or ESPNU or ESPN Reject Bin. Just somewhere so there's a distinct time and place and the viewers can watch without having to worry that the matches will be pre-empted for the saltwater taffy pull." Then the USTA could either turn around and charge a fee to IW and KB for using its leverage, or even get some sort of equity stake. Anything to avoid the current situation, which has the effect of chilling interest in the sport.
Just to be clear: This has nothing to do with the quality of the broadcasters --
• The civil libertarian in me (whose profile diminishes as I get older) thinks the testing is unduly invasive. When players, such as
The pragmatist in me, however, sees how other sports -- track, cycling, baseball -- have been damaged (irreparably?) by spotty testing and drug scandals. The inner pragmatist also recognizes that unannounced, out-of-competition testing is the best way to catch the cheaters. If this burdensome testing is the price for keeping tennis out of trouble and upholding the dignity of the competition, it's a small price to pay. I don't like standing in the security line or being unable to pack shampoo in my carry-on. But if that's the price to pay for not getting my plane blown up, so be it.
My real gripe is not with the testing procedure but what happens in the aftermath of a positive result. I wrote a column in the current
• Agree and disagree. Sure, Nadal presents some unique challenges to Federer: the lefty look, the high-bouncers to the one-handed backhand, the unextinguishable competitive flame. (The unforgettable fire? One of you even raised the valid question: Is Nadal the best pure competitor in the history of the sport?) But I do think there is a huge mental component here. Note how Federer's otherwise reliable forehand deserts him on big points. Note his uncharacteristic body language. Note his crying jag in Australia. Not to enrage my publisher by giving away too much of my forthcoming book, but even Federer's facial expressions are different against Nadal than they are when he plays everyone else. Surely there is more going on here than high-bouncing topspin.
• The Indian Wells facility is a short drive from both a Dairy Queen and a world-class outlet mall. (Hugo Boss suits for $199?) With lures like that, who has time for reindeer games?
• As we've said before, the plots change quickly in this sport. So far in 2009, you could make the case the Big Five is: Nadal, Murray, Federer, Roddick and
• But I'm talking
• Let's hope not. We all love
• Sadly, I think A-Rad is one of those players who was simply born a generation or two too late. She plays with creativity and craft, but often is simply incapable of matching her opponent's power.
• You just did it for me. (Though, in fairness, the shotgun marriage team of Roddick/
• Good question. This is the
• Jerry also raised an excellent point: When Murray beat Federer he reacted as though it had simply been another day at the office. Maybe Murray's decision to go all-out against Federer in Shanghai -- dismissed by many as a Pyrric victory -- paid off after all.
• A reminder that we are doing a tennis-themed
• Just when you thought "positive business news" was becoming an oxymoron ...(
• This had to be the
• Thanks to M. NG for passing on this link to a
• This should be
• Nadal versus ...
• Live! For one night only! It's the
• And speaking of comedians ...
• Long lost siblings from
Have a great week everyone and enjoy the first week of Key Biscayne!