Hello and welcome to the 30th issue of Tennis inbox. This week: a new look for the WTA, Australian Open details have been finalized, and good news for players ranked 200–2,000. Read on to find out more.
The WTA Rebrands itself, changes tournament nomenclature, too
Every few years, as they often do, brands decide to get a facelift. The ATP rebranded back in 2018. Now it’s the WTA’s turn. From their press release:
“The WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) introduces a new corporate identity today, redefining the organization’s strength as a collective unit of inspiring athletes and tournaments. The launch also reveals a new ‘WTA For The Game’ campaign that highlights the driving forces of the sport, aimed at creating deeper fan connections. The rebranding, which includes the WTA’s first logo redesign in 10 years, coincides with the announcement of a simplified numerical naming system for WTA tournaments.“
While a new logo and colors are nice to have, arguably the more important rebrand comes with how the WTA organizes its naming system for its tournaments. From the press release again:
“[T]he WTA worked with the ATP to create consistency and alignment across professional tennis. Starting in 2021, both Tours will share the same tournament tier and nomenclature system to create simplicity for fans and consumers. Moving forward, WTA events will now be categorized as WTA 1000 (incorporating the former Premier Mandatory and Premier 5 tournaments); WTA 500 (formerly Premier 700); WTA 250 (International); and WTA 125 (125K Series).”
This is a welcome change, especially for semi-casual fans who didn’t understand why men’s and women’s tours had different nomenclature for their tournaments. By uniting how tournaments are represented to fans, I hope it’ll make it easier for all fans—regardless of their interest level—to follow along. The key difference is that though the WTA is adopting the ATP’s naming system, the number of points won at each WTA tournament won’t be matched. What do I mean by that? For example, if a player were to win a WTA 250, they would get 280 points. Not the 250 as would be expected. Odd. But it makes sense. The WTA can’t just up-end the way it allocates rankings points just to match the new names for its tournaments.
Australian Open finalized
By now you’ve probably heard that the Australian Open has been announced to start on the 8th of February, but you might be missing out on a few of the additional details. Well, here they are:
- Players can undertake quarantine from 15th January
- Players can train during their 14-day quarantine, but only if they test negative
- Players will be tested on days one, three, seven, 10, and 14 in their hotel rooms
- The February 8th start date will mean that there might be time for one or two lead-in events
- But the larger ATP Cup event might be scrapped
In related news, Nine, the TV channel which broadcasts the Australian Open domestically within Australia, is expected to ask Tennis Australia for a discount. According to this report in the Sydney Morning Herald, “Nine will seek a reduction on its $300 million five-year deal with Tennis Australia, which includes events in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Hobart, once the final date of the tennis grand slam is confirmed.” This is because “Media companies often buy the rights to sport as it helps attract large audiences and a lot of advertisers which they hope will continue to stay and watch other programs.” Since the later tournament dates will probably clash with Nine’s programming and scheduling, it makes sense that they’d ask for some kind of discount.
UTR plans to help aspiring tennis players
Universal Tennis has burst onto the scene in the last 10 months or so. My first experience was with the UTR Pro Tennis Series in Australia, which offered aspiring tennis players a chance to compete for prize money and to improve their UTRs. As I’ve written about many times, players in the 2,000 to 200 range really struggle to earn a living from playing tennis. It’s not pretty. They often have to create hybridized lifestyles where they’re spending half of their time coaching and the other half traveling and competing. The barriers to entry to being a professional tennis player and earning a living through playing tennis are extremely high.
UTR is hoping to remedy this to a degree by introducing the UTR Pro Tennis Series Tour, a three-year, $20 million dollar tour that will host events for elite juniors, college players, and aspiring professionals. The aim of the series is to ensure that players who would like to play professionally have a chance to earn their livings and to provide them with consistent and secure playing opportunities.
UTR’s CEO, Mark Leschly, said:
“As part of our mission to support all facets of tennis, the UTR Pro Tennis Series Tour is founded on our desire to create a development tour to support elite players, coaches, organizers and Federations worldwide. The UTR Pro Tennis Series Tour will create more opportunities for aspiring professional players with UTR rankings of 200 to 2000 globally to compete and earn a living while working their way up to the highest level pro tours.”
In my opinion, it’s all good news. Tennis has long been a sport that has only been able to support a small percentage of its players who consider themselves professionals. Yes, us being an individual sport has something to do with it, in that there are no contracts, salaries, and teams. But giving a larger chunk of professionals a chance to earn their living through competition is surely the right way to go. More players trying to be professionals equals tougher competition. More players trying to be professional also means our sport might not lose out on those talented juniors who become disillusioned with tennis at a young age because of how expensive it is to become a pro.
Change of Ends with Go Inagawa
What do club/recreational players neglect the most when they play?
Footwork, footwork, and footwork! This game is about moving and positioning; getting to the ball and having great balance to hit quality, consistent shots. This will allow you to make your court look smaller and your opponent’s court bigger. This is why many times a less experienced “athletic” tennis player can compete with and beat a solid player that does not have great footwork. Everyone should start doing jump rope every day!
What do you encourage your students to focus on when it comes to playing a match?
Enjoy it! One of my favorite quotes is: “Greatest thing in life: Winning a tennis match. The second greatest thing in life: Losing a tennis match.” By Jimmy Connors. You are playing tennis how bad can it be? So enjoy the competition, butterflies in your tummy, the bad calls, and great sportsmanship. Then worry about playing “YOUR GAME.” Many players worry about what the opponent is doing or going to do. Last but not least as you all know, play to win! Don’t play not to lose.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to your students which seems counterintuitive or runs against the prevailing norms in tennis?
I would say not to use the continental grip on your serve. This all depends on each player. Of course, if your student can do it, they should. However, depending on how much time a player can devote to mastering the continental grip, it may be wise not to use it at all.
Have a question you’d like a coach to answer? Are you a coach who’d like to contribute? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Andy Murray can win big again. He just needs to change how he plays
Andy Murray has been one of my favorite players for a while now. And it’s been amazing to see him back on the court again. But unless he changes his playing style, I don’t think he has any chance of a “successful” comeback. Because he’s one of my favorite players, I decided to do a deep dive/research piece on what I believe his problems are. My main points:
- There’s probably a connection between his playing style and all the injuries
- He seems to be stuck in his ways and is playing too passively
- He needs to make some difficult but necessary changes because his body can’t handle his playing style anymore
I used Dr. Stephanie Kovalchik’s data to make a rough case for my positions and also quotes and anecdotes from some of the world’s best players. Dr. Kovalchik is a data scientist, whose work I’ve referred to before.
I’d love to hear your criticisms/comments/thoughts if you haven’t read the article already. Leave a comment on the article or simply email me back.