August 8, 2013
Editorial: Open Letter to the Toronto Rogers Cup Tournament Director
Dear Karl Hale,
The intent of this letter is to express my profound disappointment towards the trend seen recently in the Toronto Rogers Cup: the relegation of the WTA event as a mere side-show to the men’s event.
I first visited the Rogers Cup in the late nineties as a young avid fan, and the pride I show towards my home tournament has since followed me while I traveled the world to attend similar events. Both my passion for the game and my desire to pursue a career in the tennis sphere have strongly been influenced by the last fifteen years hanging out with the best players of the world for the first two weeks of August.
Over the years, I developed, like many others have forgotten, a strong preference for women’s tennis. Whether it is the strong WTA personalities of the early 2000’s or the behind-the-scenes drama, I deliberately decided to attend, as well as cover it for media, the women over the men since 2003.
I do understand that the tournament has undergone major structural changes over the past years: the combined one-week event, while justifiably necessary to maintain a decent schedule in both tours, is unfortunate. It creates an economical and logistic strain for both cities and isn’t ideal for the sponsors, organizers and fans. I also do understand that women’s tennis might not be as marketable as men’s tennis right now: what is seen with the ATP big four is both spectacular and unprecedented.
But as one of the largest combined events in the world, I feel that it is part of your mandate to see beyond the annual ticket sales and ensure a sustainable showing for both the men’s and women’s events every year. And that means being ahead of the curve and proactively publicizing the actual women’s stars, instead of constantly and publicly downgrading the women’s event to a less valuable product. Then, maybe, you’d get more interest and increased revenue from the WTA event every two years. It is always better to prevent rather than to cure, as they say.
When the unfortunate ”Come for the ladies, stay for the legends” blunder happened in 2011, I was the first to blame it on a simple marketing mistake: in no way my beloved home tourney would be so degrading towards professional athletes that helped fill up the stands over the years. But sadly, it kept on happening: one, two, three exhibition matches including male players that took the primetime center court spots away from the WTA matches. And it all peaked into tonight’s exhibition between Lopez and Tomic: ”Come for the ladies, stay for the legends and the Montreal first round losers”. Wow.
Ironically, this week also marked the entrance of Billie Jean King in the Rogers Cup Hall of Fame. Honoring the strongest defender of equality in tennis (and even sports) while pushing the WTA stars away from television coverage is a high mark of disrespect to the historical figures of the game, the WTA players and the devoted fans.
Sometimes, seeing beyond the numbers makes some business sense. Especially for a non-profit organization with values such as ”teamwork, passion, integrity, innovation and excellence”. We have the best tournament in the world. Let’s all try to keep it this way. Let’s keep the pride going.
Charles David Mathieu-Poulin
Proud WTA supporter and devoted Canadian tennis fan
The views expressed here are those of the author. Charles David Mathieu-Poulin is covering the Rogers Cup in Montreal for Tennis Panorama News.