Observations and Overrules: Things I Loved and Hated From the End of Miami

So, the March swing is over. That went by quickly, didn’t it? Suddenly we’re in clay season, which is just insane. Looking back on March, the only big surprise was Flavia Pennetta winning Indian Wells. I wasn’t expecting Novak Djokovic to win the double, but now that I think about it, given the play of the rest of the ATP so far this season, it’s far from shocking.

I just wish I could cast a magical spell over the ATP and WTA and everyone would suddenly be healthy. How much better would March had been if, say, the Miami semifinals were actually played with a healthy Kei and Tomas? Or if Vika’s foot/ankle was all good and she was back in top form challenging Serena? Or if Aga had been able to actually push Flavia in the Indian Wells final? It would have been infinitely better.

Anyways, that isn’t the case. Such is life. Before we move on to clay (I go to Charleston tomorrow!), lets look at some of the things that I loved and hated from Miami.

I loved this quote from Li Na:

Q. Is there any point where you were thinking, Maybe I should have signed up to have Carlos?

NA LI: I think he trust me a lot, and also I trust myself. I think I’m strong enough to face to do that.
So we already decide the tournament start, no coaching at all. Yeah.

You know what? We all know that Li got blown off the court once Serena woke up in that final, but I love the fact that she is starting to really and truly believe in herself. She is strong enough. She should trust herself. End of story.

I hated the sexism shown by the silence of tennis journos

At the top of this great post on sexism in tennis that Amy wrote last year, you can read the tweets that some journalist wrote last year at Indian Wells when both Victoria Azarenka and Sam Stosur had to pull out of their quarterfinal matches on the same day. As we’ve come to expect with these things, those unfortunate withdrawals were not seen as isolated cases where two women were dealing with injuries and unable to compete on that day, but as an indictment of the entire WTA.

As you all know, last Friday both Nishikori and Berdych had to pull out of their semifinals against Djokovic and Nadal, meaning that no singles matches were played on Friday in Indian Wells at all. Not once on my timeline, where I try and follow a lot of journalists and fans whether I agree with them or not, did I see anyone insinuate that this made the entire ATP look bad.

Anyone who pays attention knows that the WTA is always on a shorter leash than the ATP. This isn’t just a tennis thing. Billie Jean King talked last year in Toronto about the lack of long-term investment in women’s sports–men’s sports are given room to fail and grow, while women’s sports are always on a do-or-die trial. (You see this thought process almost across the board in regards to opportunities given to women and minorities, but we’ll keep to the pertinent scale for now.)

In tennis, when a woman withdraws or when there’s a bad match, it’s seen as a catastrophe for the entire tour and proof (to some) that women shouldn’t get equal pay or be respected as professional athletes. When the men have a bad match or a retirement, it’s just seen for what it is–an unfortunate, isolated incident.

So, while not at all surprising, the silence on Friday from those who criticized the WTA last year in Indian Wells said it all.

I love these pictures of Nole:

The Miami winner’s photo shoot is just the best. Remember this?


I also love how fabulous she is:

They’re not here for you, Patrick.

I hate that doubles doesn’t get more TV coverage. So do the Bryans.

Q. With doubles, every tournament I have been to, the stands on the smaller courts are really packed, but they don’t get televised very often. Do you think there is anything that could be done from the ATP end to boost the visibility of doubles?

MIKE BRYAN: Yeah. I mean, today would have been nice if the match was at least live streaming on the Internet, especially that one, a big final. It’s a Masters 1000, two marquee teams, and it was great tennis.
People‑‑ you know, a lot of our fans back at home, especially our parents, are like ‑‑they would love to have watched the match. It doesn’t have to be on Tennis Channel or ESPN or anything, but just to have a live stream. Having the cameras rolling would have been nice.
BOB BRYAN: It’s criminal there is not a camera in the back just rolling, live stream taping. It doesn’t take much. I’ll pay for the videotape. You know, I’ll put my friend back there with the camera or whatever.
But it’s absolutely criminal that there isn’t a live streaming at least on the Internet. That’s the least this tournament and the ATP could do.
MIKE BRYAN: It’s tough in the U.S. to have that go out to a major network, but I know a TV station in Colombia would have picked it up.
BOB BRYAN: I mean, we’re not asking for much. Just a live stream.
MIKE BRYAN: That’s the first thing that could be done that will popularize doubles even more. That’s what we need from, you know, whoever, ATP, but that’s the first thing and then take it from there.
BOB BRYAN: I think that has to be done at the, you know, player council levels. You know, we have to have a vote to get that mandatory, especially Masters 1000 level.
So we will take it ‑‑I have to talk to our player reps, and we’ve got to get a vote because it just‑‑ you know, doubles gets swept under the rug a little too often, especially in times like this where it could help out the popularity.

You tell them, Bryans. I love that they are standing up for themselves on this front–I wish the women had complained more about their lack of visibility in Miami.

What about you guys? What were your favorite moments from March?

Lindsay is an author, a filmmaker, a long-winded blogger, and a huge tennis fan.

10 Responses

  1. Matt Vidakovic
    Matt Vidakovic March 31, 2014 at 3:53 pm |

    Though I don’t really watch much women’s tennis – I agree vehemently that its criminal that women’s tenis gets less coverage, and the double standards journo’s apply when it comes to the women and men pulling out of matches.

    On a more positive note:


  2. Master Ace
    Master Ace March 31, 2014 at 5:21 pm |

    Yes, TV coverage for WTA was dismal in Miami but they are attempting to make it up in Charleston and Monterrey this week. 19 matches are being streamed in both locations on the last day of March.

  3. Andrew Burton
    Andrew Burton March 31, 2014 at 5:58 pm |

    The catch on the difference between Miami 2014 and IW 2013 is a really good one.

    A twist in the tale is that Wertheim, among others, compared Stosur’s and Azarenka’s “weakness” to Federer’s “strength” – Fed had a back twinge but chose to play Wawrinka. What we now know is that Federer today speaks of this as a poor decision on his part, and he attributes some of his poor 2013 results to complications from that injury. Federer today would urge his 2013 self to have withdrawn.

    Each of the players is a professional athlete and independent contractor. None of them are the embodiment of mens or womens tennis.

  4. JLindyNYC
    JLindyNYC March 31, 2014 at 6:03 pm |

    Probably 80% of all tennis fans play more doubles than singles, and hundreds of thousands ONLY play doubles. Surprised there is so little interest from the fan base – lots to learn about movement and tactics by watching WTA/ATP level doubles !!

  5. Karen
    Karen March 31, 2014 at 6:08 pm |

    Linz, the silence as they say was deafening. Frankly, what we need in sports journalism is more women. We need more women to change the narrative that is currently being exhibited towards professional female athletes and we really need more female sports journalists especially in tennis. I follow quite a bit of the journalists that you yourself perhaps follow and I am sure that you have already noted the tone and tenor of their writings when it comes to coverage of women’s tennis. There is a certain dismissive tone in the way that the women’s game is being reported and it is that dismissiveness that seeps into how tournament directors and fans view the women’s game.

    Tournament directors and fans are always sold on the fact that the men’s game is of a superior quality and product to what the women can offer. As a result, TV often pays big money to air these matches. However, the numbers don’t lie. The fact remains that more people tune in to watch a women’s match than they do a men’s match. I am sure that Perform must have done the numbers prior to signing on with the WTA about airing tennis. They have gone over and beyond in terms of ensuring that fans of the women’s game are fed tennis from first to last ball. As a consequence of that, more and more players are getting the opportunity to showcase their talents. No longer do we have to wait on the Networks or ESPN to deign to show someone outside of Serena and Sharapova, but now we get to see Bencic, Svitolina and a whole host of others. This is good for the WTA because unlike the ATP, there are no Dark Days coming (h/t to Andrew Burton)

    1. David Groesbeck
      David Groesbeck April 1, 2014 at 1:12 am |

      Dear Karen,

      You’ve got to be kidding. “The fact remains that more people tune in to watch a women’s match than a man’s match”? Really? Have you been to a tennis tournament? Have you seen the difference in spectators between men’s and women’s matches? Hey, I just got back from Indian Wells and there is a big difference–more people watch men’s tennis. I like to watch women’s matches and saw some good ones at IW. But it certainly looks to me that more people watch men’s matches. And please stop complaining about differences in reporting between men’s and women’s matches. And there are certain physical and biological differences between men and women. Doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy watching women’s matches.

      1. Steve
        Steve April 1, 2014 at 4:51 pm |

        Agree with David here. All the numbers I’ve read regarding viewership in tennis leads me to believe men’s tennis is watched in greater numbers than women’s tennis – this discrepancy may also account for some of the differences in coverage as far as amount of television time. Economics drives everything on television. That’s how a popular cable news network that was supposed to cover hard news has become a 24/7 rumor mill regarding an airplane that undoubtedly crashed a month ago.

  6. Sho-time
    Sho-time April 1, 2014 at 12:35 pm |

    I hated how Gasquet and Tsonga completely folded against Federer and Murray, respectively. Those guys are taking “being French” to a different level…

  7. Karen
    Karen April 2, 2014 at 10:28 pm |

    David and Steve, there may have been more people watching the men’s matches more than the women but numbers do not lie. For the past 4 years, the numbers from television audiences have identified that the women’s matches have garnered higher ratings than the men’s matches. Some may say that it is the Serena Factor, but even in a situation where Serena was not in the final of a tournament, the numbers still skewed towards the women’s matches, especially at the Grand Slam level.

    As to empty stands, the same holds true for the men and women. Last year during the Rome tournament, a combined event, the women’s matches had bigger crowds than the men’s matches. The only time the stands were packed for the men’s matches was when one of the Big 3 or 4 were playing.

    People pay to watch great tennis matches. The way how the media portrays the men’s and women’s games leaves a lot to be desired. The anecdote about the withdrawals of both men’s semifinalists and the silence that those withdrawals were greeted by the media says everything you need to know. Last year at the same time the media killed the whole Tour when Stosur and Azarenka withdrew from their matches.

  8. Patrick of La Verne
    Patrick of La Verne April 6, 2014 at 6:39 am |

    @ Karen ” As a result, TV often pays big money to air these matches. However, the numbers don’t lie. The fact remains that more people tune in to watch a women’s match than they do a men’s match. – See more at: http://www.changeovertennis.com/observations-overrules-things-loved-hated-end-miami/#sthash.n05BO59N.dpuf

    I’m guessing that the “more people tune in to watch women’s match” is severely skewed by the Li Na effect. When she won the French Open a couple of years ago, something like 120 million people in China tuned in to watch the match. Those numbers surpass the American audience for most Super Bowls, much less men’s ATP and grand slam tournaments.

    And that’s a wonderful thing, without question.

    But it’s important to remember that not all the stakeholders in the byzantine tennis industry benefit (at least not directly) from a huge Chinese TV audience. The fact that ESPN chose to televise a cheerleading competition (Go, Team!) instead of the thrilling Bencic-Cepelova semifinal at Charleston tells us pretty much where they stand. That said, I’m grateful that they showed it live on ESPN3.

    In most of Europe, the live audiences for men and women are worlds apart. And why not — Federer, Nadak, Djokovic, Murray, Berdych, Tsonga, Ferrer are all Europeans. Venus and Serena are not, and while Maria and Vika were both born in countries that technically are considered part of Europe, I think both of them have one foot planted firmly in the US. The tournament in Madrid, in particular is very depressing for fans of women’s tennis. A couple of years ago Serena and Sharapova, the biggest rivalry in women’s tennis, played a QF at the Caja Magica, and there was hardly anybody in the stadium. In fairness, it was an afternoon match, and the Madrilenos are notorious night hawks, but still… And yes, in recent years Spain has been ravaged by high unemployment and dreadful balance of payments problems, but that didn’t stop the sports fans from turning out for the men’s matches.

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