Women’s tennis doesn’t need more storms – Analysis
You don’t need a PhD in meteorology to understand that it is not advisable to organize an outdoor women’s tennis tournament in the Mexican Caribbean during November. It is enough to google a couple of sentences to understand that the hurricane season in Quintana Roo lasts until the penultimate month of the year, and that with rains and winds of several kilometers per hour, it is not easy to carry out a sport that cannot take place when the weather is wild.
All good with Cancún as the city chosen for the WTA Finals: we should always applaud when big events are held outside the borders of Europe and the United States. Another great little detail that most women in tennis celebrated was having ruled out, for now, Saudi Arabia as the host of the most important tournament of the Women’s Tennis Association, a country where women have far fewer rights than men.
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Cancun is a long way from Seville, the last stop on the tour in 2024, where the Billie Jean King Cup finals will be played. There are no direct flights! But let no one complain, because no top ten player would cross the Atlantic flying cramped in economy class without being able to put the seat in 180 degrees. By the way, adapting to tournaments on short notice and overcoming jet lag is a minimum requirement to be a professional tennis player. Similarly, four of the six “masters” whose country will compete in the most important team tournament in tennis refused to represent their flag in the former Fed Cup. Surely the main excuse was not relocation.
Prague was an option. Details journalist Tumaini Carayol in The Guardian that the Czechs offered a much better deal, with $15 million in prize money for the players and a $6 million fee for the WTA in a contract that would last four seasons. Instead, the organization opted for a higher financial burden by going to Cancun, and the athletes were left with “only” $9 million dollars. Thus, there is speculation that Mexico serves as a pause to tap into the glowing petrodollars in the near future.
In Cancun, the organization responded well by raising a venue in six weeks. But there is no doubt that the choice should have been indoors, where hurricanes did not cause the event to end on a Monday and rain to chase away audiences for most of the week.
The short notice with which the WTA announced the event, with little time to advertise and sell tickets was a clear attack on the show. It angered one of the greatest tennis players in history, who aimed darts at Steve Simon, CEO of the governing body of women’s tennis.
“Maybe it’s time for new leadership and I think it’s time for a woman. Steve Simon has been there for nine years and look where we have ended up, playing the most important tournament of the year in Cancun in the rainy season. The venue should not have been decided at such short notice. There has been a sequence of bad decisions and he hasn’t even been able to talk openly about it,” Navratilova said in Mexico while commentating live for Prime Video.
Simon declined twice to give an interview to the U.S. television network that owned the broadcasting rights, in addition to appearing for the ceremony awards where he did not use the microphone and received some boos when he was introduced, only his words were read on the official WTA website through a statement. The North American said he took responsibility for the dissatisfaction of the players and understood that the event was not perfect.
The champion of 18 Grand Slams also slapped the players who complained. Marketa Vondrousova posted a meme on her instagram with the competitors dressed as workers because days before the start of the tournament the facilities were not finished; Ons Jabeur and Elena Rybakina complained about not being able to train on the main court; and Sabalenka alleged disrespect for the few courts available and because in the center court the ball did not bounced well.
“I would like the players to be more positive, to complain behind closed doors. If the court is not good enough to play on because there are holes, that would be another situation. It actually looks pretty good to me. I have no patience for those complaints,” Navratilova said, when she also recalled the time in her tennis years when she and her rivals played the tournament at Madison Square Garden with a court that was raised only a few hours earlier.
“I think they only started paying attention when they were being directly affected. So, I think they need to be a little more involved like we used to be and pay more attention during the election process, rather than after things have already happened,” she added.
Her friend and great rival, Chris Evert, backed her up, “It’s good in the sense that women are speaking up and people are listening. So I’m happy about that, but I agree with Martina. It’s like, okay, I heard complaining the first day or two. Well, get over it and keep playing.”
Precisely those who complained the least about the court and outside conditions played the final. Iga Swiatek crushed Jessica Pegula 6-1, 6-0 in Monday’s final to close the year as world number one. Mariachi music played as the Polish player lifted the trophy on the ninth day of competition.
The first day where the sun was shining and the people filled the stadium.