WTA finals: Women's game set to grow

Angelique Kerber on her way to beating Petra Kvitova 6-2, 7-6 (7/3) at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on October 26, 2015.
PHOTO: The New Paper

Serena Williams' larger-than-life dominance of tennis over the last few years sparked a frenzy of prominence in the women's game, with commentators, former rivals and ex-players at various times discussing her prowess and longevity, and if she could be stopped.

There was intrigue at every Grand Slam as she chalked up her wins, the storyline for much of this year was if Williams could sweep it all in 2015 and it reached a peak at the US Open, and her stunning loss in the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows will forever be regarded as one of the biggest shocks in sport.

But, with the exciting "Big Four" rivalry of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray on the men's side accompanied by the decibel levels of their respective groups of fans all over the world, the women's game is seen as the poorer event, especially with Williams seemingly without a genuine rival.

Steve Simon, the new chief executive officer of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), disagrees with the notion, and believes the current "depth of talent" means the sport is set to grow.

"Well, I think that the women's game is actually in a good place right now," said the 60-year-old, who met the press yesterday at the Indoor Stadium in between the matches at the ongoing BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.

"We have a lot of depth, which I think the race (to be among the top eight to make the elite WTA Finals) reflected.

"I think we do have a lot of great matches... (and) I think that we have to continue presenting this game in a way that puts it in a premium position at all times."

Simon revealed that the WTA would look into how it could make changes to the annual calendar, aiming to speak to players over the week and after the final on Sunday to get their views.

Recently, players have complained that the current 10-month WTA calendar takes too much of a toll on their bodies.

After the final Gland Slam of the year in New York, the top players migrate for the WTA's Asian swing, but eight tournaments squeezed into less than two months across Japan, South Korea, China and Hong Kong have resulted in plenty of withdrawals.

Said Simon: "I think what you'll hear from the athletes is their focus will be on the calendar, and especially the calendar post-US Open.

"The players are tired coming out of the US Open.

"Then you exacerbate it when you have a compelling race that's forcing them to play even more to try and get here (to the WTA Finals).

"The good news is that the players want to be here and they were fighting to get here and very excited to be here. I think that that's very positive.

"But they would like to see something done with that part of the calendar, and I don't think they're wrong."

California-native Simon, who had been the tournament director at Indian Wells for the past 11 years, took over from Stacey Allaster as WTA CEO three weeks ago after the Canadian stepped down to spend more time with her family.

He knows any tweak to the calendar will stir controversy, as "schedules, investments...(and) traditions" will be affected, but says the WTA has to be "honest and have an open look" at the problem.

msazali@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on October 27, 2015.
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