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Five ever-lasting debates in the WTA world

Marine of Tennis Notebook used the post-Wimbledon hangover time to reflect on the issues that are constantly raised in the WTA world. Let's see Marine's selection of "Five favorite debates of (occasionally) grumpy tennis fans".

Since I started following women's tennis, I have noticed that sometimes it does receive quite a lot of "tough love" from members of its audience. For some reason people just love to grumble about all things WTA. Maybe it’s the retirement of several tennis greats still missed by their large fanbase, the fact that the image of tennis has changed from conservative to glamorous or also preference of different playing style than in the older eras.

As a fan I like to join in the discussions, so I’ve decided to put together a list of what I see as the evergreen topics which always draw tennis lovers’ attention.

1. SLAMLESS NO.1s

This will probably never get old. Every time we have a No.1 without a Grand Slam, it’s as if Pandora’s box opened up. Media and fans question their game, schedule, coaching and sometimes even personal lives. Apart from that, ranking system suddenly breaks down and also there are speculations if, by having a Slamless No.1, tennis has not been brought to disrepute.

2. ONE SLAM WONDERS VS. SLAMLESS NO.1s

This is a spin-off of the above. There were some first-time Grand Slam winners who failed to live up to the status of a Grand Slam champion. Their form has faded away and never really came back, however, their achievements still remain in history books. The talk about which group does have a more important place in history will never cease to be popular.

3. QUALITY OF THE WOMEN'S GAME

This debate is mostly based on the comparisons with previous generations where fans were treated to many great rivalries. The tennis stars of the late 90s and 00s such as Justine Henin, Martina Hingis or Kim Clijsters all had their unique styles of play which many consider to be a lot more varied than we see today. Also, the top players achieved better consistency, especially on the big stage, whereas nowadays that is no longer the case, as we can see especially at Grand Slams.

4. WTA MARKETING

In its most recent marketing campaign "Strong is Beautiful" WTA has really been trying to emphasize the glamorous side of women's tennis. Everyone who has visited WTA’s website saw images of tennis players dolled up in elegant outfits and there was also a series of viral adverts available. In addition, the campaign uses help of famous faces from outside of the tennis world such as Richard Branson or Rory McIlroy to draw attention of wider public. Alas, glossy image is not always accepted the way marketers would like to see. Fans do not want to see just pretty faces, but something more. Otherwise they lose their interest and see everything a bit differently (see the gif above).


5. COMPARING WOMEN'S AND MEN'S TENNIS

It is no news that most fans favor men's tennis over women's game nowadays. It is somehow related to the issue with departure of a strong generation of female players as mentioned before. In the eyes of many, men's tennis is more professional, more interesting, has more variety and more personalities. In short, it’s just "more" in every way possible.

What do you think of my selection? If you have found your favorites or have some other favorite topic to add please do share.

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19 thoughts on “Five ever-lasting debates in the WTA world

  1. Petey Detruse

    First of all, let’s ALL agree on what requires no debate whatsoever. Jelena Jankovic is the WTA’s most important player and we ALL love her.

    Let’s begin. To restate, the topic is, “the top subjects of debate about the women’s game.”

    This is the original list.

    SLAMLESS NO. 1s
    ONE SLAM WONDERS VS. SLAMLESS NO.1s
    QUALITY OF THE WOMEN'S GAME
    WTA MARKETING
    COMPARING WOMEN'S AND MEN'S TENNIS

    I would change that list to the following:

    SLAMLESS NO. 1’s LACK LEGITIMACY
    LOW QUALITY OF THE WOMEN’S GAME (GENERATIONAL AND/OR WITH RESPECT TO MEN)
    PLAYER “X” IS PRETTY; PLAYER “Y” IS NOT PRETTY; PLAYER “X” IS PRETTIER THAN PLAYER “Y”
    THE WOMEN SHOULD PLAY 5 SETS
    PLAYERS FROM “X” COUNTRY HAVE ADVANTAGES BECAUSE…..
    THE WOMEN SHOULD NOT RECEIVE PAY EQUAL TO MEN
    PLAYERS SHOULD NOT BE VIEWED AS SEX OBJECTS/PLAYERS SHOULD DRESS TO AVOID/PROMOTE EXPOSING THE BODY
    PLAYER “X” IS A MAN-LIKE OR USING PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRUGS (AND LESBIAN, BUT I DO NOT EVEN DIGNIFY THAT BY ADDING IT)
    WOMEN PLAYERS ARE OVERLY EMOTIONAL OR INTO DRAMA
    WOMEN PLAYERS ARE BASELINE BASHERS AND LACK ALL COURT GAMES
    THE QUALITY OF TENNIS COMMENTARY AND BROADCAST COVERAGE IS POOR/GOOD GIVEN THE WTA PRODUCT.

    I’ll have more to say about each of these later, but before I sign off I will say that the last item certainly does not apply to this blog. This blog continues to explore tennis in unique and interesting ways.

  2. pookie

    I'm not sure the ATP guys have more variety and more personalities, seeing that the same 4 (incredibly bland and stifled by their PR teams) players have won 34 of the last 36 slams. At least on the WTA tour the occasional oddity pops up to win a slam, whilst Serena & Maria get catty and Aga offends the Catholic church!

    Thanks to Federer's painful-to-watch decline (out to the world 114 today) and Rafa's knees the next rivalry in men's tennis will be Djokovic-Murray, neither of whom exactly exude star quality, whilst the next batch of female players seem (to me, at least) a lot more interesting than the guys.

    In the end, everything is cyclical – remember in the early noughts the WTA had Venus, Serena, Lindsay, Martina, Anna, Kim, Justine and Jennifer, whilst the ATP had Hewitt, Who-Gives-A-Damn and an aged, part-time Agassi managed to hit number one due to the lack of competition. Just wait a couple of seasons until players like Vekic, Konjuh, Bencic and Barty come through – the WTA will rise again!

  3. Marine

    Well, you must go to tennis sites quite often, I've also seen the comments that you've posted.
    Especially the talk about players' looks and their importance is quite common now.

  4. Petey Detruse

    Actually, I don’t go to sites very often. I almost always comment when I do, however. In America, there was a musician named Isaac Hayes. He sang a song and the song contains a message for everyone:

    Do your thing
    If there’s something that you want to say,
    And talking is the only way,
    Talk on, talk on….

    I have many interests. I play tennis very well. More important, I introduced a lot of people to the game and most of them are women. And I love the women’s game.

    I comment for one reason only:

    To express myself and to give recognition to the women’s game. I say exactly what I feel but I never – ever use my voice to disrespect any player, especially concerning their appearance. When I talk positively about what I like. I will never speak words that suggest any player is NOT beautiful. I believe that the career as a professional player is especially difficult because many uncivilized people say such vile and ugly things about a player’s appearance.

    Most people work in professions – in offices, for example, where the behaviors that tennis players are exposed to would result in an employee being fired. Imagine an employee at a retail store who hears a coworker shout racial insults, or who comments that a coworker has an ugly face – these are things that tennis players experience.

    When I find people who say things like that about Jelena Jankovic, I attack.

    I can be criticized for being open and honest about how much I love Jelena’s appearance. I place any such blame completely on Jelena Jankovic. She should know that by being so pretty and THEN forging her body into such an impressive example of perfection that she is deliberately causing men like me lose control. Jelena Jankovic is hot. As a man with a festive and appreciative penis, I MUST sing praises to that pretty woman.

    :o)

    GoT it?

    The birds do it to the morning sun
    I do it to the legs of that amazing Serbian pretty woman.

    Go JJ!!!

  5. Gregoire Gentil

    One topic, more recent than the others five, but it will be there for a LONG time: equal pay between men and women in tennis.

  6. Petey Detruse

    I just spent the day doing heavy labor and am back to continue this thought.

    Before I do, let me say Happy Birthday to Nelson Mandela.

    First, Marine, I think that your list is correct, my suggestions are really additions. What I especially like about what you wrote is what people in any profession need to navigate through situations where they are exposed to lots of opinion and information. Summary. Classification. Condensation of information. I think that this is excellent. You really made me think about how I experience the commentators and people who speak about tennis.

    Thank you.

    No. You did not FEEL me. I said:

    Thank you.

    To build (possibly in the wrong direction!) on your work, I will:

    Explain the most common debates (that I see)
    And, offer the correct answers to those questions.

    SLAMLESS NO. 1’s LACK LEGITIMACY

    I agree 100% with what you said, as written. My only suggestion is that “1 slam” is essentially the same argument. To either argument, I say this: Slams are marketing constructions. If I was Jelena Jankovic and I met Serena on some unknown court in Los Angeles or Belgrade and said to Serena, “Let’s see what you REALLY can do,” we can play all day and on that given day we’d both be washing ourselves in our respective showers KNOWING who was the better player. That day. A slam is a series of tennis matches. It’s a tournament. If I kick your ass all year and lose at the French some jerkoff claiming that I do not have a slam is, in fact, a jerkoff.

    Anyone who plays golf or tennis knows that performance on any given day is subject to variation. This fixation on slams is the behavior of people who really do not know or respect the realities of what it’s like to be on a tour. I like the player who takes care to manage their schedule so that they can earn good income; sustain the health of their bodies; be good and happy people; pay their team; and give the people who buy the tickets a show. To be a professional, to be a part of the WTA and to do – listen – the best that one can do while being a good person is all that the world should expect of anyone.

    In management, we call this: A balance between drive for results and drive to respect people (including yourself).

    Fuck slams.

    Slamless women I love to watch play:

    Vania King – a wonderful woman
    Woz.
    Sam.

    You know what? I won’t get started. This post will get too long. Then I’d have to talk about people like Svetlana Kuznetsova who have won a slam, but not lately, whom I also love.

    LOW QUALITY OF THE WOMEN’S GAME (GENERATIONAL AND/OR WITH RESPECT TO MEN)

    I only condensed you wrote. They are the same argument. Any person who expects that women should have the same response to a tennis ball as a male is an idiot. If they are unable to find interest in how a woman plays, given her physicality, they are hopeless. Any person who believes that the generation before was better is a fool.

    There are three basic elements to a tennis player.

    Motor skills – thing such as hand eye coordination, vision, and spatial intelligence.
    Motility athleticism – the ability to move laterally or otherwise, stamina, power, flexibility and other attributes.
    Strategy – the think game.

    Any fool knows that motor skills are genetic traits of the human species that do not change in time frames measured in decades, but in thousands of years. A Cro-Magnon ape could slap you as quickly as a New York policeman. Read: Women of Billie Jean’s era have the same motor skills as women of Jelena’s era.

    Athleticism and training methodologies are constantly improving. Martina Navratilova introduced techniques that are routine today. Read: women are stronger, faster and better trained today. Olympic records in any sport related to strength and speed are consistently improving over decades.

    Strategy. An argument could be made that in the age of Twitter people are dumber, but in tennis, the equipment, from racquets to surfaces, has had such a huge influence that strategies developed when the Davis racquet was predominant do not have applicability today. Read: There’s no comparison. A game that Rosie Casals used against Evonne Goolagong has no relevance to Li Na banging away against Andrea Petkovic.

    To summarize: The women today are the best the world can and should offer. If they are not good enough for you, I feel sorry for your daughters, and even worse for me if I have to sit near you at a tournament.

    PLAYER “X” IS PRETTY; PLAYER “Y” IS NOT PRETTY; PLAYER “X” IS PRETTIER THAN PLAYER “Y”

    I failed to distinguish between the debates about tennis that are healthy for the sport and those that are unhealthy.

    I believe that as long as the consideration of women’s appearance is not carried to the point where people say negative things about player, it is healthy. It is healthy to admire a player’s appearance. In my world, if I do not admire a payer (or person’s appearance) it’s healthy to keep my mouth shut and to look beyond my own preferences. Everyone is beautiful. We all have such a brief excursion in the world of the living and to be on the stage in any form is so precious and magical that we should covet and respect everyone as though they are ourselves.

    Take Jelena Jankovic. She is just SO cute. She has cheekbones and eyes that are so special – and then, her butt and legs –this is ridiculous. I don’t know how a woman can be so fine.

    So what? I’m supposed to PRETEND that she’s not hot? Not comment?

    No. This world is full of so much pain and strife. No, it is our responsibility, our duty to celebrate goodness and beauty wherever we find it.

    Children are in Africa eating poisoned food to fend off starvation. Men eat the hearts of their defeated opponents. I have a duty to fight these wrongs and an obligation to see the reasons why the world can be good.

    And to every TV producer or programmer who chose not to televise a Jelena Jankovic match, or to change cameras to avoid showing her doing a split or bending over I say this from the bottom of my heart: fuck you. You are the devil. Your morality is one of laziness and theft.

    The people want to see the body on that pretty woman. We pay to subscribe to your broadcast and like any bad employee, you substitute your own agenda to avoid giving your customers who pay your salary what they want. It’s as simple as that.

    Enjoying the appearance of a player is not the same as evaluating her practice of her profession. One has nothing to do with the other. A player’s appearance is a minor attribute – unless a player is as hot as Jelena Jankovic.

    Wow! Thinking about her, I forgot what I was writing about.

    Go JJ!!

  7. Marija Post author

    Petey, in your first comment you added a lot of good debate topics. Thumbs up for coming up with all of them. You could write a follow up to Marine's article, elaborating on the topics you added :)

  8. Marine

    Marija,that's what I was thinking as well :-). Or maybe when JJ has birthday Petey could write an ode of celebration:-P.

  9. Petey Detruse

    I’ve never met JJ. I think I’m afraid to meet her. What would I say?

    And then, what would happen if she was able to detect that I think she’s the hottest woman in tennis? One look at her and she will know.

    Then what would happen?

    Scary.

    Let’s continue.

    PLAYERS FROM “X” COUNTRY HAVE ADVANTAGES BECAUSE…..

    Imagine a sport, any sport that develops associations or leagues within a country — any country. Football, track and field, baseball, skiing – any sport, any country. Ask yourself, “what happens when the sport get very popular?” In every case I can imagine, there comes a call for the sport to go international. People want to know how participants in the sport that they love would fare when they compete against the best players around the world. Tennis could not exist as it does today without an international following. Tennis has expanded into geographies fueled by interest in other countries.

    There should be no debate that players from certain countries enjoy advantages.

    As an American, I will say that American players are at a DISADVANTAGE. One need only see the results to prove that. If the Williams sisters chose to play basketball, there would be zero American women in a ladies singles final since the days of Lindsay Davenport. Even then, Lindsay’s success was driven by rivalry with the Williams sisters. Without Andy Rodick and John Isner, the American men would do almost as poorly.

    Serbia has more top players than America. Five Eastern European countries and China have higher ranked players than America. On a per-capita basis, American players are far below smaller less wealthy countries. Let’s summarize the advantages and disadvantages.

    Infrastructure. The presence of tennis courts available to the public. Roads and other public accommodations that allow someone to get to the court and play.
    Safety/stability. JJ and Ana had to practice during a war. In some places and at certain times you can not simply go for a stroll and play tennis.
    National interest. As a child, in the place where you live, how many other children aspire to play tennis? In the national view, how important is tennis?
    Coaching. The presence of experienced people around children, whether in or out of school. People who can identify and nurture talented players. Interestingly enough, this often includes parents!
    Programs and institutions. Are there tennis academies, competitions and tournaments at all levels? Tennis associations that promote the sport and encourage participation at all levels?
    Wealth. If your family is living in a country where your challenge is to put food and potable water on the table, tennis is not an option.
    Distraction. Does your country have widespread deployment of televisions, facebook and twitter? Then you are certainly at a DISADVANTAGE.

    And this last item is the biggest disadvantage for Americans. I see it every day. American kids play games with tablet computers rather than to play tennis or any other real activity such as hiking. And, there is so little interest in the sport. American television networks have abandoned tennis coverage and will broadcast ONLY grand slam finals. This has been a fact for 20 years. There are stations that one must PAY money to receive and their proven practice is to televise women’s tournaments only when the Williams sisters are playing big matches. Or when Maria plays.

    I remember the 2011 French Open when Li Na won the entire slam. They refused to televise Li Na’s matches, focusing on Maria. They finally HAD to televise Li Na because she was in the semifinals! It was so funny! And they do this all the time. For people like me I am amazed that they can be so stupid. There is one company named The Tennis Channel. They openly refuse to televise Jelena Jankovic matches. Jelena is having a great 2013 season. Two finals; two semi-finals; and two quarter finals results and it is only July! With those results they broadcasted one (1!) match of hers all year and I PAY to receive that channel.

    No – I’m wrong they broadcasted three matches. But get this – one included Serena Williams, the other included Maria Sharapova.

    Thus proving my point anyway.

    When I see a match between an Eastern European woman and an American, I feel sorry for the American. Despite having all of the advantages above – the US Tennis Association, academies like Boletaris, stability, and wealth Americans would rather send tweets and go shopping on credit than to excel in tennis. Then, as a cruel joke, those of us who want to see those players from other countries that excel against the odds are disallowed from watching their matches.

    This borders on the topic of Marketing women’s tennis, but I believe that there are two factors that impact the lack of interest in Women’s tennis. The broadcast of sports is controlled by corporate interests and the largest of those is American beer companies. Networks present sports that they can generate revenue for. When beer companies such as Budweiser, Miller, and Coors sponsor a sport it gets broadcast. Women’s tennis has no such sponsorship. That’s why I refer to American football, baseball, basketball and hockey as The Beer Sports. The problem is that they’ve reached a point (15 years ago) where they are so over-marketed that they are losing viewers. Besides the fact that those beers taste horrible compared to Heinekin and other foreign beers.

    Then, there was this: Women’s tennis and tennis in general is often perceived as less appropriate for masculine viewers. Especially given the legacy of tennis players in moving civilization forward in respecting gays and lesbian brothers and sisters (which I celebrate). The perception, which is an illness of society, is that a real man would not watch women play sports.

    This is a ridiculous and backward argument. I can watch a Jelena Jankovic match and in addition to interesting and thrilling competition, I can also experience an erection. What true man doesn’t want to see Jelena Jankovic bend over when she loses a point? This is one of those strange and bizarre contradictions that drive behaviors.

    I’ll get to the subject of Marketing, but I believe that the WTA is making a huge mistake when it does not use the bodies of players in the promotion of the sport. And I can prove it.

    More to come…..

    Go JJ!

  10. Tulp

    Petey, baby, let me put it short (as much as what follows may go against the grain of all the previous, for various reasons welcoming, replies to your enthusiastic, or should I say "euphoric", comments: please, do spare us your tedious and (need I say?) obnoxious "analyses" of how the Market should exploit female bodies, and, especially, your wet dreams featuring the one belonging to, of all girls/women, JJ… That is, forget about "More to come…" There's a good boy.
    P.S. Whether you are/consider yourself a clever "troll" or not, doesn't really matter: be as it may, you are wasting much of our, and much more of your own, precious time – the only thing that we all, actually, have – on nothing. Cheers, you arrogant wiseacre.

  11. Marija Post author

    Marine, definitely. I'd like to hear that, but if he could leave out the ejaculation etc. insinuations, they would be inappropriate.

  12. Petey Detruse

    Tulp, you are the very definition of arrogant and you are vile. I've expressed opinions, disagreed and spoken very frankly but I never — not once — sunk to the level of name calling. You talk like a obnoxious schoolyard bully child. How dare you call me a troll. That is so ignorant and arrogant. You fool! When you agree with me I'm OK, when you disagree, I'm a troll? Are you crazy or just stupid? I expressed my opinion and if you don't like it go to hell. The Internet is so full of obnoxious people like you who try to shout down free expression that people don't agree with. If you don't agree with what I say, present a civil argument to the contrary. If you can't win in the adult presentation of ideas, then don't read what I write. It's like this, BABY, people like you bypass those other steps and go straight to personal attacks and name calling. You do it because you think your ideas and sensibilities have more value than others. That's what we call arrogance you un-clever troll.

  13. Marine

    Marija, yes, I guess that a little less of that could help. Although, you should read some stuff what Maria's fans write sometimes…

    As for what we want and don't want to see on this blog I prefer Petey's mini-essays to annoying unnecessary comments a la Tulp.

  14. Tulp

    Thanks, Petey, for conforming my opinion of your state of being – as well as exposing the dullness of mind of (so far, one of) your supporters unable to grasp it, in spite of all the obvious markers. All in all, one thing is clear: we'll all be tickled, no end in sight, by your "mini-essays" on the role of female bodies in tennis – each for his/her own (no doubt: equally enlightened) reasons. Such satisfaction, eh?

  15. Marine

    Tulp, stop trying to act intelligent as you fail miserably. You don't like his comments? Well,keep it to yourself, I don't need to know. If you have nothing to write ON topic spare us all of your cheap shots at other posters.

  16. P!nky

    Petey, if you ever do meet someone famous whom you deeply admire in many ways. Just be yourself, be who you are, and think about what you say if you want to court her.

    JJ may be a slamless former #1 but she has reached 500 career match wins and mixed doubles title at Wimbledon with Jaime Murray, handing Venus her worst loss of her career, one of only half a dozen players to beat both Williams sisters in the same Tournament and the only one to do it in 24 hours.

    JJ may never win a slam but she will so get into the Hall of Fame someday. Look at Hingis, popped positive for cocaine and made it into the Hall of Fame.

    As far as marketing goes for the WTA, this may sound sexist, but it is not meant to be that in any way, but sex sells and sex appeal. Men are bigger sports fans than women as a hole. I know there are massive female sports fans out there. God gave men 2 brains, but enough blood to use one at a time.

    These women are professional athletes they have worked very very hard to get to where they are today, I respect every single one of them. Sharhar Peer more than others, but that is for later. They are always trying to win every tournament they play in, especially the majors. Some top players may never win a slam, but to me that means the quality of the game is really high and anyone can beat anyone. Some players may just have a bad day.

    As for the last one, men vs. women, Time for another battle of the sex's for charity.

  17. Tulp

    I would not expect less from you, Marine, dear, ever since I dared to question the sportsmanship of your beloved compatriot, way back when… Remember? Well, I remember, as sure you do.

  18. Petkopova

    I can tell you the most bloody pulp of a dead horse in WTA discussions, beaten beyond all recognition, is the noise thing. Good God I'm tired of "quips" from T.V. commenters like "the decibel levels are really going up" during a tense match. I'm tired of when Maria is about to meet Vika in a match, everybody tramples all over each other trying to come up with the best "witticism" along the line of, "Well we know one thing, you're going to need your earplugs, hyuk hyuk hyuk." Just watch the damn match.

    I guess a close second would be "Maria fans are racists who hate the idea of a black woman tennis star" versus "Serena fans are crack-smoking ghetto thugs". Because, of course, you're not allowed to respect and admire both players at once; you have to love one and hate the other.

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