You know women’s tennis is in trouble when the WTA dips into their un-original bag of ideas to better the game, only to pull out the on-court coaching card.
In a press release Friday the WTA announced that it will “experiment” with on-court coaching at upcoming summer stops in Montreal and New Haven, meaning coaches will be allowed to come on court during matches to help their players.
The release went on to claim that the “historic” test will “add to the entertainment value and intrigue to viewers of women’s professional tennis.”
Wow. You mean the WTA matches are not enough of an entertainment value, you guys need to add the coaches into the mix? Just great. Can’t wait to see even more of Yuri Sharapov and his mangy phone hat on my TV. Talk about a sure-fire way to add entertainment value! And nothing says excitement more to me than seeing Carlos Rodriguez sitting courtside. Why not just bring the agents down, mom and dad, too. We all know there are few whack jobs and degenerates in that group, as well.
WTA CEO Larry Scott added his own spin: “As we seek to strike a balance between our core traditional strengths as a sport and the desire to increase the accessibility of our athletes to fans, we will continue to experiment with cutting-edge ideas. On-court coaching is a concept that has both our broadcasters and players excited, and we are looking forward to reviewing the results of this test.”
Cutting edge? Wasn’t this cutting-edge test carried out at the ATP several years ago while Scott was still there in office? Doesn’t Scott remember how that worked out? Apparently not. Watching Raul Viver consult with Ramon Delgado during a changeover didn’t exactly translate into must-see-TV (yes, I watched a lot of tennis back then and don’t you forget it).
Give me a break.
I get that the WTA is looking to spice up the game. They have to. What with the Wimbledon women’s final losing nearly half (41%) of its U.S. TV audience from last year despite having a compelling final match-up. (Even without an American the men’s final actually improved its rating by 19%. Take that equal prize money supporters.)
Unfortunately for the WTA, pin-up gal Maria Sharapova can’t seem to reach another major final, wanna-be pin-up gal Nicole Vaidisova has yet to reach a Slam final, the Williams sisters are dust in the wind, the Russians outside of Maria aren’t quite Madison Avenue material and Martina Hingis is too busy locking lips with Radek Stepanek. So the WTA is left with Justine Henin, Amelie Mauresmo and Kim Clijsters carrying the load at the end of Grand Slams. Nice girls they are but not very engaging.
So instead of spending time and money on crappy “groundbreaking” PR gimmicks like coaching, replay, etc., how about the WTA addressing things like injuries, shortening the season and above all promoting individual players like Mauresmo and Henin who are in the middle of their own Federer/Nadal-type rivalry?
Last I checked Henin has been in the all three 2006 Slam finals, losing two to Mauresmo. That’s a rivalry. Promote that, especially right now leading up to the US Open because one of them if not both will be in the final. Plus, the fact they don’t like each makes it even better! What is the WTA waiting for? Slap up some posters with Henin and Mauresmo giving each other the finger and put them all around New York City. Or get the two of them in a room and get them talk smack at each other. Throw in Pierre Yves or whatever Justine’s husband’s name is. Stir up it for God sakes. Do something, anything other than waste time with experiments like on-court coaching which we all know isn’t going to become standard practice on the tour.
Tennis is a unique sport in that players are all alone on the court, with no one to turn to for help, for instruction or for advice on how to right the ship when the going gets tough. It’s what makes the sport what it is, and we as fans get to sit there and soak it all up, uninterrupted. Let’s keep it that way and focus on the bigger things.
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