I love the WTA. I love the players, both past and present who make up the WTA. I have my faves and I have those players who for one reason or another I truly don't care about. However, at the end of the day I will tune in to watch a match in time zones that are not considered decent and which cannot be found on an android phone so that I can correlate the time where I live.
As a result of my love for the WTA, I have advocated vociferously, both through this blog, via Twitter and on the Realz podcast about how truly great the WTA is. You can then imagine my dismay when almost on the eve of the biggest event on the WTA Tour there are still tweets being asked as to who has qualified to play the WTA Year End Championships, who are the alternates and what a complete clusterfuck this year's YEC has become.
Most of the time when I see mean tweets that are directed at the WTA as a whole or to particular individuals, I usually roll my eyes and keep right on trucking. However, as I contemplate that this Friday is my last day of work and that I will be settling in come Sunday night or early Monday morning to watch the women who qualified for this prestigious event, I can't help thinking that with all the momentum gained by the WTA this year, at some point, events seem to have overtaken this great event, with the result that it seems as if the YEC is now merely an afterthought. This should not be the case.
When play starts on Monday, the YEC will be going up against the following narratives:-
- ATP Basel - while this is an ATP 500 event, both Federer and Nadal will be playing, as well as Wawrinka;
- ATP Masters Paris starts soon after
- ATP WTF will be soon thereafter.
As the WTA holds its prestigious season ending tournament, the WTA will be struggling for relevancy for its signature event. How is this even possible?
In addition to competing for coverage with the ATP storylines, the WTA also seems to have a bit of a PR problem as it relates to qualifying. Reports are that French Open semifinalist, Timea Baczsinky was unaware that playing Luxembourg did not enable her to qualify for the YEC. Same story for last year's qualifier at the YEC, Ana Ivanovic.
In addition to players apparently not being aware of which tournament would allow them to qualify (and one wonders how could they not know), we also have a situation where many of the players who have done exceptionally well, and who have been fan favourites during this season, failed to qualify for this event (Pliskova and Suarez-Navarro). Our hats are raised to the women who have themselves qualified and the field is a strong one, made up of players whose styles of play are complimentary, but for whatever reason, they don't seem to have garnered the same amount of publicity as those who have failed to qualify.
While many are pointing to the fact that the World's No. 1 and defending champion, Serena Williams has shut down her season, it cannot be the case that with Serena not playing, the event seems to have lost some of its lustre. If that is the story that folks are going with, then the whole point of the WTA Tour and its message seems to have been lost on everyone.
The WTA Tour and the ITF events (read Grand Slams) are run by two separate organisations. The fact that Serena has won 3 Majors this year and has chosen not to play the YEC this year should not be an indictment on the WTA Tour. The WTA YEC is not an ITF sanctioned event, but a WTA sanctioned event.
That being said, I don't know whether the Tour is currently in transition with the abrupt departure of CEO Stacey Allaster, but the Tour seems to be floundering at this point and I for one am completely annoyed at the narrative that seems to be making the rounds, that is, that the WTA Tour is dead and/or dying.
For me the women who have now qualified should take this opportunity to showcase their awesome talent. They need to make people realise that the the WTA Tour is not just Serena. While Serena has been the driving force behind the coverage of the sport, the media needs to give due respect to the other women who make up this great organisation. Perhaps that could start with the YEC coverage.