Rogers Cup Having Men Play Exhibitions At Women's Event In Effort To Drum Up Interest
Tennis Canada yesterday announced that Bernard Tomic and Feliciano Lopez, losers in the the first round of the ATP side of the Rogers Cup in Montreal, "will fly to Toronto and play an exhibition match" tonight at the WTA side of the event "as a means of giving customers a little more bang for their tennis buck," according to Damien Cox of the TORONTO STAR. All the first-round losers at ATP event "were offered [C]$20,000 and expenses to volunteer for the match." The concept is "in its early stages, but it may be the beginning of a 'men’s invitational' that will be part of the Rogers Cup women’s event every year as a way to attract more customers and corporate business." This is the third year in which the Rogers Cup has "staged a 'virtual' combined tournament, with the women and men playing simultaneously in Toronto and Montreal after years of holding the events in separate weeks." An additional exhibition on Friday night in Toronto will see James Blake face retired player Pete Sampras, while Jim Courier and John McEnroe also are "scheduled to participate in Toronto exhibition matches." The men's matches "are expected to take place in prime time." The move serves as a "startling admission that the women are now less marketable, a combination of the loss of many stars to retirement and the absence of a new generation of talented players with a resume of major victories." The women’s side of the Rogers Cup already has "resorted to a hit-and-giggle doubles exhibition on Monday night involving the Williams sisters, Canadian up-and-comer Eugenie Bouchard and former great Monica Seles." The men’s event "has had no similar exhibitions" (THESTAR.com, 8/7).
ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL: In Toronto, Ian Shantz writes at a press conference with Billie Jean King, it was "suggested that the women might feel slighted or offended by the men playing here, for money -- a concept that, by all accounts, was thought up as a revenue generator, to be used later on athlete resources." But King said, "I don’t think it matters. It’s tennis." WTA Chair & CEO Stacey Allaster said, "It's about generating money for the development of the sport. Ultimately, that's what it's about. I wouldn't get all fussed about it." WTAer Sloane Stephens said, "I think that sponsors just want to see more matches, see more people play. I don’t think it has anything to do with women not being entertaining" (TORONTO SUN, 8/8).
DOUBLE STANDARD? In N.Y., Ben Rothenberg wrote last week's Citi Open in DC, in its second year as a joint ATP-WTA event, "unabashedly gives preferential treatment to the men." Perhaps this is "most noticeable in the court assignments." At this year’s event, which ended Sunday, "23 men’s singles matches were played in the main stadium, compared with six for the women." Event organizers said that the men's event, "which has existed since 1969, is more established than the women’s event, which has existed in the Washington area for only three years." The men's event also "awards significantly more prize money and ranking points." But "perhaps the most notable difference this year was that the women were allowed to use the newly renovated indoor locker room facilities beneath the stadium." The men "had sole access to the indoor facilities last year, while the women used locker rooms, bathrooms and toilets in trailers and tents" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/5).