"In an exclusive interview given only to VAVEL, we caught up with the chairman and CEO of the WTA Tour, Steve Simon. As the head of women's tennis visited the Bronx Open, he discussed a number of issues including the emphasis on China, the future of the tournament and the vision for the tour going forward.
Simon talks all things WTA Tour in wide-ranging interview
Simon began the interview by complimenting the Cary Leeds Center, stating that "it's a beautiful facility. I know our players are having a great week here and truly enjoying their time here in the Bronx." We moved on to talking about the current state of the tour and he said "the state of women's tennis speaks for itself. It's very strong".
He pointed to the breakthroughs of Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty by calling it "great stories that we have. We have a wonderful product. It's a great time for the WTA". He commented on the recent trend of tournaments being contested in China by stating "the Asia-Pacific region is an important and strategic region for us. What we've done is truly made a commitment to the region. We've established that after the U.S. Open through our finals in Asia and we''re very excited about that."
The topic shifted to 15-year old Cori Gauff, who became the newest sensation in women's tennis after reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon, upsetting Venus Williams in the first round. Simon called her rise "exciting. She's a great young woman. She's obviously got a tremendous amount of talent as she showed at Wimbledon. She also won the doubles title in Washington. I think it shows the depth and amount of talent we have coming through this tour. I think it's going to be great to see Cori grow."
With Liezel Huber running the Cary Leeds Center, she joins former players such as James Blake and Tommy Haas in running or managing tour events and Simon added that they "enhance the tournament even more. Obviously, we have great promoters and people that have a long background in tennis that are running them and have done an amazing job. To have the players coming off the tour coming over to the management and operations side of the event certainly brings some perspective that is very, very important."
He talked about the future of the Bronx Open, stating "it's obviously been a great first event. We want to congratulate and thank all of the people that put in all the time and effort and commitment behind staging this event. We had a one-year agreement here. We'll certainly evaluate it afterwards and obviously talk to everybody here that's running it and we'll all see what the future holds."
Simon concluded the interview by asserting where he'd like to see the tour headed in the immediate future: "I think it's continuing to see this young talent that we have continue to grow and for them to become obviously stars that begin to take on a global following and hopefully by doing that and putting them in that position, we become a sport that's considered equal to all professional sports versus being the number one women's professional sport."