Former BNP Paribas Chairman, WTA Board member and latest WTA CEO Steve Simon, met the press in Singapore a few days ago and had an interesting viewpoint on the motley of problems faced by the WTA currently. Unlike his predecessor Stacey Allaster, who focused primarily on the spread of WTA tennis in Asia, Simon already made his objective clear: The shortening of the the WTA calendar by reducing tournaments. Allaster has left a lasting legacy on the structure of the WTA though, perhaps even being the best CEO ever, and has given Simon a much more organized Tour to work with.
Simon was unanimously elected by a council of his peers, the WTA board, and lost no time in accepting the job. According to him, women's tennis is in a good place right now and it has a lot of depth, which the 'Race to Singapore' clearly showcased. He further emphasized the point by stating, "I think that we have to continue presenting this game in a way that features it and puts it in a premium position at all times. We need to have that culture of striving for excellence and striving for winning. We have to work at our structure so that we can place the events and the athletes in that place. I believe that the results of that will bring that excitement and that viewership to the WTA and to where it's going to go."
The most controversial point in the manifesto that he put forward was the hypothetical changes in the calendar due to the long season and it's effect on the players. He feels that it's the responsibility of the WTA to keep the athletes at almost 100 percent even at the end of the season, which isn't feasible due to the sheer number of tournaments, week after week. According to him, "When we have Fed Cup going on in one week and a WTA tour event in another week, we're not putting a premium product on the court that week. It's diluted. We have to work at that, and work at a calendar that deals with all these issues that we need to deal with and that flows. We ask these tennis players to play in a regular week, five to six nights a week for the ones that play deep."
"They're playing a two to three-hour match every time of pretty high level tennis. There are no breaks other than the 90 second changeover. They don't have a teammate that can take the ball for a few minutes. You have an NBA player that plays an average of 36 minutes a night. The starters do. And they have a difficult time playing back-to-back. We're asking them to play two and three weeks in a row, playing five nights a week, three hours a day. So that's going to beat up your body pretty good. We have to figure that out a little bit better and see what we can do to keep them healthy."
Numerous players and even sponsors may refuse to agree with this concept though, since it's meddling with investments, schedules and even time-old traditions. However, he feels that players will agree with the fact that the tournaments just after the US Open need to be reduced, since that time period contains numerous tournaments compressed into a tiny amount of time, which often causes players to be completely burnt out by the time they reach the end of the Asian stretch.
Steve Simon also stated that he would be looking forward to establishing better relationships with the ATP and ITF, with the single minded objective of the betterment of women's tennis.