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Best of Three: WTA Championships kick off; mourning Ken Meyerson


1. WTA's grand finale: The WTA has come in for a lot of criticism lately. Player injuries. Grunting. A top-ranked player who hasn't won a major. (Aside: Man, does Larry Scott have this whole "buy low, sell high" drill down or what?) We mentioned this last week, but the WTA hasn't gotten nearly enough credit for dealing with its calendar issues.

The top eight players just arrived in Istanbul for the year-end soiree. If Serena, Venus and Kim Clijsters are absent, there's still plenty of reason to care. A world-class city will be hosting the event for the first time. Tennis Channel is on hand to broadcast. (Check your listings.) One winner from among Caroline Wozniacki, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka, Li Na, Vera Zvonareva, Samantha Stosur and Agnieszka Radwanska will pick up a fat check and momentum to take into 2012. And then it's curtains. Two full months off before the start of a new season. Players can rest. They can tinker with their games. If they're so inclined, they can watch the ATP action, which, inexcusably, goes past Thanksgiving.

And the WTA is clearly pleased with how CEO Stacey Allaster has handled criticism of the Tour. The WTA board of directors voted unanimously to extend Allaster's contract through 2017.

"Stacey has done a tremendous job in leading the WTA through a very difficult and challenging economic environment," tournament board representative Steve Simon said in the WTA press release.

2. Capitalism in tennis: It's an annual rite in tennis. A new year begins, casual fans peruse the rankings and invariably they do a double-take when they see certain names in certain vaunted positions. "How the heck did they move up that high?" Well, one reason is that "they" opportunistically foraged for points during the fall. Yes, in these autumn months when so many top players are in hibernation, others happily pick up the slack.

Last week's WTA winners were Victoria Azarenka (who beat player-to-watch Monica Niculescu of Romania in the Luxembourg final) and Dominika Cibulkova (who made the Kremlin Cup her first career title and moved up three spots to No. 17 in the rankings).

The ATP winners: Janko Tipsarevic in Moscow (beating fellow Serb Viktor Troicki in the final for his second title since the U.S. Open) and Gael Monfils in Stockholm (a three-setter over Jarkko Nieminen). Nice to see the "Indo-Pak Express," Rohan Bopanna and Aisam Qureshi, take the doubles in Sweden.

3. Tennis mourns Ken Meyerson's passing: As if discovering a new species, both ESPN and CBS devoted significant recent programming to sports agents. There was a surprisingly lame Morgan Spurlock documentary on the WWL, and a 60 Minutes feature on Drew Rosenhaus, who graced Sports Illustrated's cover in 1996. Watching slicksters and hucksters sweet-talk kids, slither on college campuses and sling their baloney reinforced how blessedly absent this species is in tennis. There are agents in the sport, true. But, overall, it's an honorable group.

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Tennis, though, lost one of the good guys last week. Ken Meyerson died in his sleep of an apparent heart attack. He was 48. "Kenny" may have looked like an agent from central casting -- slicked hair, a permanent tan, an unbuttoned shirt under a blazer, a deep, rolling voice. But he was epitome of a "mensch," a thoroughly decent guy, who genuinely cared not just about his clients but about the overall health and well-being of the game. Charlie Bricker, who called Meyerson "the best agent in professional tennis," nailed it here.

But the real testimonial came from Andy Roddick, his star client. That Roddick -- not one to suffer fools gladly -- stayed with him for his entire career tells you all you need to know.

Here's the release from Meyerson's agency, Lagardere Unlimited:

Ken Meyerson, President of Tennis for Lagardere Unlimited, passed away late Wednesday at his home in Florida at the age of 48. Meyerson began his career in tennis 25 years ago working with Donald Dell at ProServ in 1987. He managed ProServ's international tennis business and worked with high-profile players including Stefan Edberg, Jimmy Connors and Yannick Noah. In 1990, Meyerson left ProServ to run MBD's tennis representation business in Switzerland. While there, he signed Michael Stich, who won Wimbledon in 1991.

In 1991, Meyerson established a partnership called MS Consulting, which was based in Salzburg, Austria. It was a successful tennis representation business that primarily represented German tennis players. In addition, MS consulting represented five of the top 100 players. MS Consulting also operated tennis events throughout Germany.

Meyerson founded Sports Advisor Services in Miami in 1997, where he continued to represent tennis players and provide consulting services to manufacturers, including Puma.

In 1999, Meyerson joined SFX Sports Group to become the President of SFX's tennis division. Meyerson grew this division from a handful of noteworthy clients to include marquee players such as Andy Roddick, Justine Henin, Fernando Gonzalez, Mardy Fish and Bob and Mike Bryan. He played a pivotal role in the company representing such top young talent as Sam Querrey, Victoria Azarenka, John Isner, and Caroline Wozniacki. In 2006, Meyerson united with Blue Equity, LLC and continued as the President of BEST Tennis. In 2009, Meyerson joined Lagardere, where he was named President of Lagardere Unlimited Tennis Meyerson graduated from the American University in Paris with a BA in Business Administration.

"Ken was a very hard worker and was always determined to do his best, both for his clients and for the company." said Lagardere Chairman Arnaud Lagardère. "His clients were his extended family and there was nothing he wouldn't, or couldn't, accomplish on their behalf. Ken is, and will remain, an inspiration to all of our agents. We were proud that we chose him to start our US sports operation. He became, and will always be, one of my closest friends and I will miss him dearly. At this time, I think of his family, Claudia and his two girls."

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ken's family during this difficult time." said Kevin O'Connor, COO of Lagardere Unlimited. "Words cannot describe how wonderful, loving and caring Ken was. He lit up every room he walked in, and treated every client like family; in fact they were family. The tennis and sports community lost a great friend and leader. Let's all take a moment to reflect on loved ones and remember Ken for the love and passion he shared with so many."

Ken is survived by his wife, Claudia, and daughters Charlotte and Emily.