Tennis Notes: Garrison Suing USTA, Paying to Watch on Internet
by Richard Vach | January 14th, 2009, 11:53 am
  • 34 Comments

RECENT U.S. FED CUP CAPTAIN GARRISON SUING USTA FOR DISCRIMINATION – The U.S. Fed Cup captaincy hand-over from Zina Garrison to Mary Joe Fernandez for the 2009 season hit a snag this week when Garrison’s lawyer announced she may be suing the USTA for racial discrimination.


Garrison was dumped after compiling a 5-5 win-loss record over five seasons where she struggled to get top players such as the Williams sisters to commit on a regular basis. The U.S. failed to reach the finals in that five-year span. “There’s an ongoing dispute, and there has been discussion of litigation, and there is not a firm date on which litigation is going to be filed,” Garrison’s lawyer, Debra Katz, said in a release. “There is an ongoing dispute with the USTA, and we’ll see where it goes.”

It could likely go the wrong direction for Garrison. The former Wimbledon runner-up will need some hard evidence other than a general racial accusation, as the numbers she put up during her reign as captain were awful, and she was specifically hired with an eye toward her relationships with the Williams sisters and Lindsay Davenport and getting them to represent the U.S. If the litigation goes forward, look for Garrison to not only likely lose the case due to her squad’s poor performances (not even managing a final over five years with three former No. 1s on the roster), but to also have burnt her bridges with the USTA, the organization in which she served in various capacities over the years, including its board.

Garrison is reportedly seeking millions of dollars in compensation. “It’s disappointing,” said USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier.

The U.S. is the winningest nation in Fed Cup history, but the spotty participation by its top players has led to the Americans failing to raise the Cup during the last eight years.

GERMAN TENNIS IN FREE FALL – German tennis fans are thinking, ‘Oh for the heady days of Boris Becker and Steffi Graf.’ Now, without any stars at the top of the game, the popularity of tennis in Germany is on life support.

The ATP recently downgraded the men’s Hamburg tournament from its Masters Series status, and this week it was announced that the WTA Berlin event, the German Open, will be dropped from the schedule. The Berlin event was owned by an investors group from Qatar, which has suddenly given the rights for the tournament back to the WTA Tour without informing the German tennis federation or Berlin organizers.

Georg von Waldenfels, president of the German federation, said he would try to keep the tournament in Berlin this year, but events seem out of his hands. Once so popular and laden with money that the ATP moved their year-end championship from the popular Madison Square Garden in New York City to Frankfurt (Frankfurt?) in a money-grab, now German tennis is in a coma. Germany currently has no men ranked in the Top 30, and no women in the Top 50.

FUTURE OF TENNIS: PAY TO WATCH? – In the U.S., ESPN has cornered the presentation (and a good one at that) of the Grand Slams; various other networks pop up with other tennis events (ex: FOX Sports Net with Indian Wells, Miami), and the Tennis Channel’s live tennis offerings are few and far between compared with their series re-runs.

That leaves — still not a lot of tennis viewing available in the U.S. compared to the number of events on the ATP and WTA calendars. If your sport isn’t on TV, it may as well not exist if you’re looking for growth. The solution from the ATP and WTA? Make people pay to watch tennis. On their computer monitors.

With fanfare the ATP and WTA this week launched TENNISTV.COM, where you can “Follow all the live action from the ATP World Tour and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour…”

Among the many problems with this model are: a) You can’t say “follow all the action” when you only show select tournaments live (and “highlights” don’t count); b) Only hardcore fans are going to pay $130 for a year-long package to watch tennis on a computer monitor while other major sports show their events free on TV; and c) Savvy fans searching for tennis on the internet can use Justin.TV or many of the other pirate video outlets to watch live tennis on their computer monitors — for free.

“Pay to watch tennis?” says the casual sports fan (who we’re trying to attract, by the way). “Eh, I’ll just watch basketball. Or volleyball. Or golf. Which are all on TV for free.”

Tennis needs to be free and on the TV — often — for tennis to survive. The tours should be putting their effort into helping The Tennis Channel and other TV outlets secure rights for events rather than looking for ways to suck their hardcore fans dry of cash.

“Tennis fans are changing the way they view the sport and we need to ensure we change with them,” said Steve Plasto, CEO of ATP Media.

Here’s a potential bell-ringer for your next executive meeting — tennis fans are changing the way they view the sport (on the internet) because YOU GUYS AREN’T SUCCESSFULLY GETTING TENNIS ON TV. We have a Tennis Channel, but it is mostly reruns and canned shows. In the U.S. the Tennis Channel is a huge part of the future of the sport, how about helping them out with tournament rights so we can see some live tennis on the big screen rather than the small monitor?

Putting effort into encouraging fans to pay to watch online instead of getting it on TV for free? If you’re reading this, you’re the tennis fan, so you tell me.

In the U.S., the USTA realized there was far too little tennis on TV, so they worked with the broadcasters and the tournaments to start the US Open Series of televised events — they didn’t start “watch-tennis-only-on-our-website.com.”

Tennis should be available online, but not at a premium charge for fans — this as opposed to improving tennis on TV? Sounds like another in a long line of poor marketing tactics by the pro tours. I already pay a premium to receive the Tennis Channel with my cable package, how about putting some tennis there? Oops, I forgot, the would be for the good of the sport, rather than putting cash directly in ATP/WTA coffers via their website TENNISTV.COM.

Let’s start printing up the t-shirts, “Free Tennis on TV!”


Also Check Out:
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Williams Sisters Troubles Continue This Week
What’s Not on Live TV: Tursunov Beats Roddick to Clinch Russian Davis Cup Win
Serena Williams Apologizes Again — Part II

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34 Comments for Tennis Notes: Garrison Suing USTA, Paying to Watch on Internet

Colin Says:

I wouldn’t presume to comment on this issue, as I don’t know the background, but I find something slightly ironic in the context, that Garrison’s failure to compile a better record is due in some degree to a couple of fellow black players.


Nancy J Says:

In a bad economy, who can afford $130 for additional net services? I pay ENOUGH for cable ISP and TV services!

By the way, I like some of those “canned” shows on The Tennis Channel. So I hope they don’t get rid of them, but rather, get a good mix of live tennis, classic tennis (which there is NOT enough of), and the shows (which they desperately need to produce more of for variety). I wish that TTC was on 24 hours also. I’m sick of falling asleep with TTC on and waking up to infomercials. But I guess they can’t afford 24 hours. Maybe the ATP and WTA should help with that.


Nancy J Says:

About Fed Cup — they need to change the format! Back in the day, Fed Cup was a one week shoot out that was usually easy for most if not all of the top players to work into their schedules. The way it is now — they play too much at different times in different locations. Also, with players either ALWAYS injured or coming back from injury or fearing injury, they need to play less. It’s not the players fault that Fed Cup is hurting.


Debra Gardner Says:

It’d be one thing if you paid for it and could watch exactly what you wanted, but to shell out a lot of money and then not be able to watch the matches of the players you’re interested in just isn’t worth it. I also don’t see why I should have to pay extra for the tennis channel. Like you say, I can listen to football, baseball basketball and even some ice hockey for free. It’s not a particularly good way to win new fans, especially poorer ones like me.


Colin Says:

I’ve completely stopped watching all forms of TV, and disabled my set, to avoid paying the licence. It’s online tennis for me this year. I’m going to miss some sleep next week!


Colin Says:

Sorry, I didn’t pay attention! I realise the artcile actually deals with online viewing not being free. But it will still be possible to get the free stuff from the likes of Justin. Speaking from my advanced age, I’d say you guys are lucky to be able to watch online free. When I started watching Wimbledon on TV, the (black-and-white)TV screen was the size of an ordinary computer monitor. Plus, of course, TV of any kind isn’t free in the UK….. (totters off muttering to bed)


Matthew Says:

I paid for the ATP Masters Series pass last year, and I think it was worth it. That was only about $60, but it did allow me to watch a bunch of Masters Series tournaments full-screen, at a really nice resolution. The free streaming websites are usually about 3″ by 3″.

So I was glad to see that they were expanding their coverage to include more tournaments. But I’m sort of insane – I skip work and change my sleep schedule to watch tennis matches in other time zones.

I agree that they’re really screwing the future of the sport by trying to focus on people like me, who will do whatever it takes to watch tennis. Sure, I’ll be your audience forever, but if you ignore the casual fan, then you’re shooting yourself in the foot. There are a lot more of them than there are of me.


Fedwatch Says:

Short odds bemuse Fed

Bruce Matthews

January 13, 2009 12:00am

HOT Scot Andy Murray has everyone running scared – even the bookies, much to Roger Federer’s bemusement.

Federer said he was surprised when told Murray was being quoted as favourite to win his first grand slam title at the Australian Open.

“Good for him. It doesn’t help him a whole lot. I’ve been in that position before as well and didn’t make it,” Federer said at Kooyong yesterday.

“But, look, he has put himself into a great position. He started off well, playing well in Doha, and finished strong last year.

“But it still does surprise me the bookies say that because he has never won a slam (title), nor is he defending champion here.

“It’s surprising to hear, but we’ll see what happens.”

Federer and Murray were equal favourites ($3.50) with TAB Sportsbet yesterday, followed by world No. 1 Rafael Nadal ($5) and defending champion Novak Djokovic ($7).

While Federer beat Murray in the US Open final in September, their only meeting in a major championship, the improving Scot has since dominated the former world No 1.

He beat Federer twice late last year and did it again in Qatar last week en route to winning the final.

“He has put himself into a winning position, but still, winning a grand slam is a different animal,” Federer said.

“Not many guys have been able to win grand slams in the last few years. Rafa (Nadal) won, Marat (Safin) won here a few years ago, but it doesn’t happen that easy. They don’t come easily. That’s why, I guess, he has got a chance like many other players.”

Federer said he is fit and primed this time, a stark contrast to last year when he was briefly admitted to hospital with a virus and had to abandon his traditional Open build-up in the eight-man AAMI Classic at Kooyong.

“I love playing here, it has always been a good preparation for me to play well at the Australian Open and I hope it’s going to work again this time,” the Swiss master said.

“Usually before grand slams, you take it easy or you practise. But this is a different approach because we’re lacking matches at the beginning of the season.

“Of course, we play matches in practice, but it’s not the same. You don’t have linespeople, you don’t have fans, we don’t have umpires, so it’s a different mindset. It’s more serious when you come out on the match court.

“Going into the French Open or Wimbledon or the US Open, I don’t need matches.

“But this is a different approach and it has served me well. I kind of like being in Melbourne the week before the Australian Open so I can settle and get used to the conditions.”


Giner Says:

I hate when people use racism as an excuse for perceived discrimination. Richard Williams is just as guilty of this.

Does Garrison actually have any basis for this accusation?

Why is it only blacks that perceive racism? Before Garrison had the part, it was BJ King who is white. Could King have sued for racism when the captaincy was handed to a black person (Garrison)? King could have even accused them of discriminating based on homophobia. They didn’t like her sexuality, perhaps?

She would have lost, and so should Garrison.


Von Says:

It’s so ridiculous for Garrison to sue the USTA for discrimination. The Fed Cup and Davis Cup captains’ tenure usually runs for four (4) years, she’s done her stint and it’s now time to move on. I’m sure the USTA would have found another position for her in some other area of tennis, but she’s killed her chances for any future employment with the USTA by suing them. What does she hope to achieve by so doing?


Susan Says:

I’d pay $130 for tennis on television but not on a computer. I don’t know what everyone else pays for the tennis channel, but my bill is $1.99/month with an NBA channel added in. I was almost inclined to buy my whole block the coverage! If the Tennis Channel needs to increase their fees, try that. But please more coverage. Too many repeats.

As for the Garrison story. Finally the old “race card” excuse is on it’s way OUT!!!


Samprazzz Says:

I much prefer to watch tennis over the internet because you don’t have any tv commercials during the changeovers. Plus, you can select what match you want to watch. Whereas if you watch tennis on tv, they show alot of matches that you aren’t interested in such as womens matches. So for me, pay as you go is a better option. However, I agree that in order to grow the game, you’ve got to have it for free on regular cable. If you make people pay to watch it over the net, you’re going to shrink your fan-base to the die-hard fans only. Occasional fans aren’t going to shell out money to watch tennis on a computer screen.


jane Says:

Speaking of watching tennis over the internet, does anyone know of a good live feed for the Sydney event? Nalbandian is playing Hewitt now, Dementieva just beat Serena easily!


matt Says:

i paid for the masters series last year and i’ll be paying for tennistv as well – it’s worth it to get a reliable high quality stream and no adverts. i personally appreciate the fact the ATP and WTA provide this service. there aren’t many sports that do.


JJFAN Says:

More ATP critics. Are there ever any compliments? When I saw that ATP would provide video coverage, I was happy, because all the other outlets were either unreliable, poor quality, or not in a language I could understand. The only good media outlets are in support of gambling. Is that what we want?


carnap Says:

Tennis Channel also lost quite a few female viewers when they didn’t fire Justin Gimelslob for his blatant sexism.


Richard Vach Says:

Matt and JJFan — I agree that it is a service that needs to be provided, but I don’t agree that it should be their marketing focus (segregating fans to their streaming website where they make the money) rather than getting tennis on TV in the U.S. and other countries, working with broadcasters and tournaments more, etc. It is the typical “our piece of the pie” philosophy.


Colin Says:

Regarding the question of TV ads, I watched some of the Doha exhibition tourney on, I think, Justin, and there were indeed Spanish TV ads (and pretty dull they were). Does anyone know if the draw is live online anywhere? It apparently starts 10AM Melbourne time, so it would be possible to follow it in the UK without staying up too late.


mem Says:

once again, tsonga has retired with injury! i’m curious to know how this will affect his australian open plans.


mem Says:

tsonga was a walkover(his back) not a retirement!


jane Says:

mem – on the “roger will be no.1″ thread, I noted that I’ve read in some articles that Tsonga is in doubt for the AO. Apparently he will be spending the next couple of days in bed. The back began to bother him in his first match at Sydney and is, they think, related to a recurring disc problem.


mem Says:

thanks jane! the news came as a surprise to me. i didn’t know that he was having back problems again. i can only imagine how discouraging this must be for him. from what i have read, he was so excited and looking forward to taking his last year’s success one step further. it could happen to anyone!


lucy Says:

Someone needs to start a write-in campaign for the tennis channel to get rid of gimelslob. Not just for his sexist remarks but just because he’s an awful commentator. When i watched Miami on FSN during the match he stated Tsonga was better than Nadal even though he hadn’t won a tournament yet. Every time someone made an awesome shot he said TENDERVITTLES (which made me cringe)I didn’t know ATP endorsed cat food.


Von Says:

Giner:

“Why is it only blacks that perceive racism? Before Garrison had the part, it was BJ King who is white. Could King have sued for racism when the captaincy was handed to a black person (Garrison)? King could have even accused them of discriminating based on homophobia. They didn’t like her sexuality, perhaps?”

I’m so sorry to disappoint you, but it’s not just blacks who perceive racism, it’s everyone.

Blacks are part of a minority group, and ALL minority groups are hooked up into the racism trap. Then there’s reverse discriminarion, where the Whites feel they are being discriminated against because of the numbers quota and games played by corporations. For example, a promotion is given to a black instead of a white worker, and immediately the white employee feels that the promotion was given to the black and/or minority employee because of the company’s desire to fill a quota. Many times, that’s not the case, the minority worker might have an edge on the White person in terms of education, attitude and knowledge of the job, but the flag goes up and the word, “discrimination” is thrown about because it’s more soothing to the ego. However, there are instances that discrimination is a factor, but it’s very hard to prove. Unfortunately, that’s how the cookie crumbles in the corporate world and/or life in general.


TD (Tam) Says:

Crying racism is a tired trick that most people no longer take seriously. People like Garrison are a disgrace to other minorities who have truly suffered from racial discrimination. The USTA is above reproach here.


Giner Says:

Serena Williams on her loss to Elena Dementieva:

“I wasn’t moving as I wanted to today,” Williams said. “I gave it away more than anything. I made a lot of errors and made her look like a champ, really. I just pretty much gave her the match.”

Hmmm…


jane Says:

Well if she did “give” it away, she gave it away lock, stock and barrel! What was it? 6-1, 6-3? Dementieva faced some break points (needless to say) but from what I could tell, she fought them off. The holds didn’t look to be handed to her.


Giner Says:

“I’m so sorry to disappoint you, but it’s not just blacks who perceive racism, it’s everyone.”

Oh believe me, you’ve never disappointed me. But thanks for the correction.


TD (Tam) Says:

lucy: “Someone needs to start a write-in campaign for the tennis channel to get rid of gimelslob. Not just for his sexist remarks but just because he’s an awful commentator. When i watched Miami on FSN during the match he stated Tsonga was better than Nadal even though he hadn’t won a tournament yet. Every time someone made an awesome shot he said TENDERVITTLES (which made me cringe)I didn’t know ATP endorsed cat food.”

ITA lucy. I feel sorry for tennis fans who have to listen to that swine ruin perfectly good matches by his unwanted presence.


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Stu Says:

I just watched the WTA Sydney final on tennistv.com on my mac in the office and it was fantastic quality on a big widescreen monitor – nearly as good as TV and means I can watch at work too. I’ll be investing in an annual pass due to where I am in the world.


Von Says:

Giner:

“I’m so sorry to disappoint you, but it’s not just blacks who perceive racism, it’s everyone.”

“Oh believe me, you’ve never disappointed me. But thanks for the correction.”

______________
Are you being facetious here or sarcastic?


Dowie. Says:

I stop contribution to TC, Time Warner increased the monthly cost by $2.00 monthly, that was the final straw. I was tired of seeing the repeat of bag check after bag check, reruns, like old stockings.
I was of the opinion that a TC would carry all the current tennis, like is done on the Golf Channel. Am an avid tennis fan, however I work very hard for my cash, and must get value for money.
It is disappointing that the Tennis Channel is un-
able to do justice to the game.

I must however give them credit for the presentation of thr French Open. It was almost perfect, if only they could do more of that with
the other Slams.

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