An Interview with CEO of the WTA, Stacey Allaster: “It’s exciting to note how global tennis has become” - UBITENNIS
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An Interview with CEO of the WTA, Stacey Allaster: “It’s exciting to note how global tennis has become”

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TENNIS – On Wednesday the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix was visited by Stacey Allaster, Chairman and CEO of the WTA, who found her way to Stuttgart once again this year. Porsche Tennis Grand Prix media spoke to the Canadian about women’s tennis today and in the future, WTA’s responsibility towards the players and the importance of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix for the WTA. From Stuttgart, Simone Kemler

 

Ms Allaster, the Board of Directors are accompanying you to the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. What’s the importance of the tournament for the WTA?

The Porsche Tennis Grand Prix is very important to the WTA. Each year the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix event exhibits the vision of the WTA “to be the most inspirational and exciting sport entertainment experience on earth”. I’ve been fortunate to attend the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix a number of times over the years, and I think it sets an extremely high standard. Furthermore, and most importantly, this is a tournament the athletes love to play. The tournament’s honor roll features many of the sport’s legends – and they’ve come back year after year. It has always been a pleasure to attend the tournament.”

 

The WTA represents over 2,500 players from 92 nations. How important is player welfare for you and where in particular do you see the WTA’s responsibility as being?

The health and welfare of our athletes is our number one priority. We have a world class Sports Science and Medicine team that focuses on prevention, triage and rehabilitation in and out of competition. Our Director of Athlete Assistance travels to support the athletes, their coaches and parents. And we have a dedicated team that focuses on professional development programs. These programs include: (i) WTA Rookies that provides services and professional advice to help young players transition from the juniors to professional tennis; and (ii) WTA Transitions that provides professional development for those athletes who are nearing the end of their on-court careers. The type of programs offered include university undergraduate and masters degrees, coaching certification, public speaking, real estate, financial management and media training.”

 

Women’s tennis has developed rapidly in the past years. What in your opinion were the pivotal strategic changes?

The introduction of Roadmap circuit reform in 2007 was a pivotal moment for the WTA. Our vision was to build a tournament structure that increased the participation rates of the WTA’s top players, while elongating the off-season in order to help cut down on injuries and prolong careers. As of February, we have 15 players aged 30 or older in the Top 100, including our World No.1 Serena Williams, who is still reigning supreme and breaking records at 32-years old.”

 

Where does women’s tennis stand in 2014 and what are your plans for the near future?

With the tennis markets in Europe and the Americas at a mature stage, it was important to seek to establish women’s tennis in emerging markets, such as China, South East Asia and Brazil. In 2008, in conjunction with the WTA’s 35th anniversary, we opened an office in Beijing, China and upgraded the China Open to a Premier Mandatory event. This year our players could compete in a two-week swing in Brazil, with a tournament in Rio de Janeiro joining the Florianopolis event, which made its debut on the calendar in 2013. We’ll have a record number of tournaments in the Asia-Pacific region in 2014, culminating in our crown jewel event – the season-ending WTA Championships – to be hosted in Singapore for the next five years.”

 

The expansion in recent years has come above all in Asia. Is the rest of the world maybe getting a bit of raw deal?

Europe and the Americas have been great success stories for women’s tennis. Tennis is very popular there and many of our players come from Europe. It’s exciting to note how global tennis has become and that’s why we’re also identifying growth opportunities for women’s tennis in emerging markets. But don’t worry Europe continues to host 23 tournaments – more than any other region on the 2014 WTA calendar. And when you include Roland Garros and Wimbledon, Europe continues to be a key foundation of the WTA’s global calendar. Additionally, with an extra week between Roland Garros and Wimbledon confirmed for 2015, tennis fans can look forward to an extended European grass court swing.”

 

Two players in particular are presently inspiring fans all over the world: Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams. How important are such superstars for women’s tennis and who do you feel can follow in their footsteps?

There’s no doubt that players such as Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Li Na are global superstars of our sport. They not only continue to inspire us all with their on-court performance, but they transcend the sport: whether it is building schools in Africa like Serena has done; becoming the CEO of a multi-million dollar, international company like Maria has done; or being named as one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people as Li Na has been. These players are standing on the shoulders of the women who came before them and living the dream that resulted in the formation of the WTA.”

 

Who can replace the superstars in the future?

As for the future, it’s looking bright. We have 10 different nations represented in our Top 10, and a host of young players rising through the ranks and looking to make their mark on the sport. Keep an eye on players such as Eugenie Bouchard (Canada), Madison Keys (USA), Garbine Muguruza (Spain), Laura Robson (UK), Monica Puig (Puerto Rico) and Elina Svitolina (Ukraine), along with Germany’s own Annika Beck, who just turned 20 and already has a career-high of No. 46 in the world.”

 

What do you think about the rise of women’s tennis in Germany and just how far do you feel the top German players can go?

I think German tennis fans should be immensely proud of the women representing them on the WTA. Outside of the US, Germany has more players ranked in the Top 100 than any other nation. To have seven women ranked inside the Top 100 (as of February) is a fantastic achievement in a global sport such as tennis. Angelique Kerber has become a fixture in the Top 10; we saw Sabine Lisicki reach her first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon last year; and Andrea Petkovic and Julia Görges have broken into the Top 10 and Top 15 respectively over the last few years. These players not only compete hard, but are some of the most popular players on tour too. It is wonderful to see the camaraderie the German girls share, the encouragement and support they give each other, and I think the sky is the limit for what they could achieve in the future.”

 

Back to the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix: Why do you believe the players have voted it so often as their favourite tournament?

The WTA has 22 premier tournaments and to be named the players’ favourite Premier-level tournament five times is a credit to Porsche, Markus and Anke’s leadership. Like the Porsche brand, Markus and Anke are committed each year to providing the athletes with a world class experience that ultimately enhances their performance. Each year the Tournament Directors and Operating Tournament Director are focused on the fine details that make such a difference and they are always asking themselves, despite the high standards, how they can evolve and improve the players’ experience for next year.”

 

What makes the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix different to other tournaments?

Many tournaments provide all the important services for the athletes yet what makes the difference is the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix’s commitment to precision in all of these key areas. Along with world class services, each year the tournament staff rolls out the “911” red carpet for all the athletes and their guests. There are never any problems for the tournament team, just solutions to help the athletes, and it is the passion of the fans that really shines through and lifts this event to a high performance level.” (Porsche Tennis Grand Prix)

ATP

Cincinnati Daily Preview: Brits Andy Murray and Cam Norrie Meet in the Second Round

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A look at Center Court at the Lindner Family Tennis Center (twitter.com/cincytennis)

On Monday, Andy Murray overcame another three-time Major singles champion, Stan Wawrinka, in a three-hour thriller.  In the second round, he meets the new British No.1 Cam Norrie, who reached his first Slam semifinal last month at Wimbledon.

 

WTA action is headlined by three matches between Slam singles champs, which includes world No.1 Iga Swiatek.  Also on Wednesday, Rafael Nadal will play his first match since withdrawing from the Wimbledon semifinals.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Wednesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Andy Murray vs. Cameron Norrie – 11:00am on Center Court

Murray will be happy he had a day of rest after his emotionally and physically taxing match against Wawrinka.  He has compiled a solid record of 23-14 this season, with 2022 being his most active year since 2017, when his hip issues began.  But Norrie has taken his place as the top British male, and has really come into his own over the past 18 months.  Cam is now 38-18 this season, and has reached 10 finals since the start of last year.  Their only prior meeting occurred three years ago in Beijing, with Murray prevailing in a long, tight three-setter that lasted nearly three hours.  But three years later, Norrie is a much-improved competitor.  While playing your fellow countryman is often tricky, especially when they’ve been knighted, Cam should be favored to even their head-to-head.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Sloane Stephens (WC) – Not Before 3:00pm on Grand Stand

Swiatek is vying for her 50th win of the season on Wednesday, with 37 of those victories coming consecutively between February and July.  But since those 37 wins in a row, Iga is only 3-3, and suffered a frustrating loss last week in Toronto to Beatriz Haddad Maia 7-5 in the third after three hours of play.  Stephens continues to be a streaky player, as the 2017 US Open champion has gone on multiple winning and losing streaks of four matches or more throughout the year.  On Monday night, she crushed Alize Cornet 6-1, 6-0.  Sloane often plays her best tennis in American hard courts, and advanced to the third round or better of this tournament in seven straight appearances between 2012 and 2019.  These two Major champs have never played before.  Stephens could be primed for another win streak, and it would be understandable if Swiatek experienced a dip in her level after all the tennis she’s played this year.  Yet after dominating the tour for most of the year, Iga should still be favored.


Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Victoria Azarenka vs. Emma Raducanu (10) – It’s a two-time Australian Open champ against the reigning US Open champ.  Azarenka defeated Kaia Kanepi in three sets on Tuesday, while Raducanu easily prevailed over Serena Williams 6-4, 6-0.

Elena Rybakina vs. Garbine Muguruza (8) – It’s another two-time Major champ against the reigning Wimbledon champ.  Rybakina is 2-2 since her surprising run at The All-England Club, while Muguruza is a subpar 9-13 on the year.  They split two meetings last year, with Elena victorious in the more notable encounter, in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics.

Taylor Fritz (11) vs. Nick Kyrgios – Fritz started the summer by winning the title in Eastbourne, while Kyrgios was the champion in Washington.  This will be their first career meeting.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Borna Coric (PR) – Despite his injury issues, Nadal is a staggering 35-3 in 2022, and 20-1 on hard courts.  Coric missed a full year of action due to shoulder surgery, and is just 12-12 at all levels since returning.  Borna has won two of their four previous meetings, including six years ago at this event.


Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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ATP

Cincinnati Daily Preview: Serena Williams Plays Emma Raducanu, Venus Faces Karolina Pliskova

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Serena Williams practicing on Monday in Cincinnati (twitter.com/cincytennis)

In what is expected to be the next-to-last event of her storied career, Serena Williams will play her opening round match on Tuesday.  And in a blockbuster matchup, she faces reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu.  Can the 19-year-old defeat the GOAT, or can Serena pull off one more high-profile victory before her career comes to an end?

 

Tuesday’s schedule in Cincinnati features many other top names as well.  Center Court alone also includes Naomi Osaka, Daniil Medvedev, Nick Kyrgios, and Venus Williams, who takes on Karolina Pliskova in a battle between two of the WTA’s all-time best servers.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Tuesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Karolina Pliskova (14) vs. Venus Williams (WC) – Second on Center Court

This will only be Venus’ third singles match of the season, as multiple injuries have hampered the 42-year-old in recent years.  Williams has only earned one singles win in the last 18 months.  Pliskova has struggled this season since a hand injury caused her to miss the first two months of 2022.  But Karolina had her best run of the season last week in Toronto, where she reached the semifinals, which included a three-set win over fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari.  Venus and Karolina played three times between 2015 and 2017, with Pliskova taking two of those three encounters.  Their most notable match was in the fourth round of the 2016 US Open, which Karolina won in a third-set tiebreak.  In 2022, Pliskova is a considerable favorite to prevail.


Serena Williams (DA) vs. Emma Raducanu (10) – Not Before 7:00pm on Center Court

This will only be Serena’s fourth singles match of the season, and she’s 1-2 since returning at Wimbledon.  Last week in Toronto, she made a tearful exit from the court after her straight-set loss to Belinda Bencic, as the Canadian crowd gave the 23-time Major singles champion a standing ovation.  With this mini-retirement tour being new territory for Serena, how will she react to what will be a boisterous American crowd on Tuesday?  She’ll surely feel nervous, but Raducanu will as well, as she likely assumed she would never get to play Serena.  Emma has understandably struggled since her shocking, life-changing run a year ago at the US Open, as she’s just 11-14 on the year.  But she’s still played a lot more tennis of late than Serena.  This match was originally scheduled for Monday evening, and reports indicated it was postponed until Tuesday due to an injury concern regarding Serena.  That’s advantage, Emma.  But as we’ve learned over the course of the last several decades, Serena is fully capable of willing her way to victory even when she’s far from her best.


Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Naomi Osaka vs. Shuai Zhang – Osaka is just 1-2 this summer, and was forced to retire last week in Toronto due to a back issue.  She is 3-2 against Shuai, though they haven’t played in nearly four years.

Nick Kyrgios vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – Kyrgios has won 14 of his last 16 singles matches, and is on an eight-match win streak in doubles.  Davidovich Fokina is only 4-9 this season on hard courts.

Coco Gauff (11) vs. Marie Bouzkova (Q) – Gauff is now the new world No.1 in doubles, and is on the brink of making her top 10 debut in singles.  Bouzkova has claimed 18 of her last 22 matches at all levels. 

Mackenzie McDonald (WC) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (3) – McDonald was a finalist last year in Washington, but arrived in Cincinnati on a three-match losing streak.  Alcaraz was upset last week in an extended affair with another American, Tommy Paul.  Earlier this year at Indian Wells, Carlitos beat Mackie 6-3, 6-3.

Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Botic van de Zandschulp – Medvedev needs to win at least two matches this week to ensure he maintains his No.1 ranking.  He’s 2-0 against van de Zandschulp, taking seven of their eight sets contested, all on hard courts.


Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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ATP

Cincinnati Daily Preview: Major Champions Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka Square Off

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Andy Murray practicing this past week in Cincinnati (twitter.com/cincytennis)

For the second consecutive week, a combined ATP Masters/WTA 1000 event is being staged in North America.  This week, it’s the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio.  The singles draws in American’s heartland are loaded: the ATP draw features 14 of the world’s top 16, while the WTA draw features all 16 top-ranked players.

 

Most notably, Serena Williams will play what is assumedly the next-to-last event of her career, and will face reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu in the first round.  And Rafael Nadal will play his first match since withdrawing from the Wimbledon semifinals due to his ongoing left foot issues.

Monday’s action is headlined by Major champions Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, who will play each other for the 22nd time. 

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Monday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Stan Wawrinka (PR) vs. Andy Murray – Third on Center Court

Their rivalry dates all the way back to 2005, when Wawrinka defeated Murray in Davis Cup.  Their most prominent encounter took place in the 2017 Roland Garros semifinals, when Stan outlasted Andy in a five-setter that lasted over four-and-a-half hours.  And neither man has been the same since that grueling battle.  Just weeks later, Murray’s hip problems derailed his career, while Wawrinka would undergo knee surgery.  Both men have now battled multiple serious injuries over the last five years.  Overall Andy is 12-9 against Stan, and 8-4 on hard courts.  Murray has gritted his way to 22 victories this year, while Stan is only 3-7 since returning from foot surgery this spring.  Based on current form, as well as Murray’s history at this event, where he is a two-time champion, the Brit is the favorite on Monday.


Matteo Berrettini (12) vs. Frances Tiafoe – Not Before 7:00pm on Center Court

Berrettini returned from surgery on his right hand in June, and promptly went on a 12-match win streak.  However, he unfortunately missed Wimbledon due to testing positive for COVID-19.  And last week in Montreal, Matteo lost in the opening round, though that one-sided loss to Pablo Carreno Busta doesn’t look quite as bad after Pablo’s fantastic run to his first Masters 1000 title concluded on Sunday.  Meanwhile, it’s been a disappointing year for Tiafoe, who is only 20-17 and has suffered some painful losses.  At Wimbledon, he lost a four-and-a-half hour fourth round match to David Goffin despite having a two-sets-to-one lead.  And just last week in Montreal, Frances was up 4-0 in the third over Taylor Fritz before losing the last six games of the match.  Their only previous meeting occurred four years ago on clay in Rome, where Matteo was victorious in his home country in straight sets.  Can Tiafoe avenge that loss in his own home country?  Frances often excels during night matches in the United States, with his five-set win over Andrey Rublev at last year’s US Open serving as a prime example.  But Matteo has been the much stronger performer for a few years now, and his potent serve/forehand combo makes him the favorite.


Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Amanda Anisimova vs. Daria Kasatkina (9) – Anisimova has reached the second week of every Major this season, while Kasatkina has won 18 of her last 24 matches, which includes a title run this month in San Jose.  Amanda leads their head-to-head 2-0, and dominated Daria 6-2, 6-0 at the beginning of this year.

Jil Teichmann vs. Petra Kvitova – Teichmann was a surprise finalist here a year ago.  Kvitova is only 17-15 this season, though she did win a title on grass in June.  They’ve played three times since last year, with Jil claiming two of those three matches.

Denis Shapovalov vs. Grigor Dimitrov (16) – Shapovalov has now lost nine of his last 10 matches dating back to May.  Meanwhile it’s been over four months since Dimitrov has won more than two matches in a row.  Grigor is 2-1 against Denis, and 2-0 on hard courts.

Sloane Stephens (WC) vs. Alize Cornet – It’s been a streaky season for Stephens, with nine of her 11 victories coming at just two events.  Cornet has achieved two noteworthy results this season: reaching her first Major quarterfinal in Melbourne, and ending Iga Swiatek’s 37-match winning streak at Wimbledon.  This is their first career meeting.


Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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