LA draws big, makes many eat crow
The Hewitt-Golovin rumors; Serena and the Olsen twin; Maria cans practice coach … and the Tretorn ball
Before Monday night's final, WTA CEO Larry Scott made a terrific point when discussing attendance at the WTA Championships. Back when he worked for the men's tour and the ATP Championships was held in Frankfurt, Scott said they were thrilled to draw 8,000 fans.
Guess what? The WTA Championships averaged more than 8,000 this year, pulling in with 8,890 folks per session, a significant leap from 7,448 fans last year. More impressively, the final between Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams drew 11,397 folks.
The Championships will return to LA next year and, if you consider that attendance has jumped nearly 70 percent since its first visit to the Staples Center in '02, a strong case can be made for keeping it there in 2006 and beyond, something the Tour and its partners are considering doing. Attendance was up 19% this year over last year and even if it only increases another 10 percent next year, everyone will be happy with nearly 10,000 fans a night.
So now everyone who wrote that LA is a lousy tennis market, please step up and eat crow. That includes SI, which wrote prior to the event that the tournament would have "oceans of empty seats." It's actually one of the most active tennis-playing markets in the world. The trick was getting the recreational players to navigate horrible traffic and come downtown for an indoor event, which, by the way, could have easily been played outdoors this year with the sun shining and temperatures reaching into the 70s nearly every day.
AEG, Octagon and the tour have done a good job of marketing the tournament during the past two years. Not that anyone made money in '04, because they poured significant dollars into marketing, but they should see a solid return in '05. As Billie Jean King, Serena, Davenport and TennisReporters.net have said before (Californians that we all are), you can't have a successful event of that unless you are willing to stick in the market for a good five years and imprint the dates and the tournament in the minds of fans. This year, people who attended in '04 recalled that they saw great tennis in '03, which is why they returned this year and will come back again in '05.
With all that said, the tournament does have its problems: Other than Saturday and Sunday, it starts too late, chasing away East Coast and European TV viewers. A 5:30 p.m. start for the first round robin match is recommended, as well as a 5 p.m. start for the final. Also, the lower seats have obstructed views. It's not basketball folks, where you are looking up at the ball going toward the rim.
It would have also been nice to mix in a few more between match activities. There are certainly enough tennis-loving celebrities in LA who are willing to hit a few balls. Speaking of celebrities, Serena's boyfriend, director Brett Ratner, attended almost every one of his girlfriend's matches, sitting next to Richard Williams. We guess that Richard has accepted him into the family. Now if Brett can just teach him how to use that video camera.
Speaking of Richard, we ran into him into the hallway during Serena's medical timeout on Monday night and asked him what the situation was. His reply? "Just great, thank you." … Woody Harrelson, who's in Ratner's new flick, "After the Sunset," showed up for the final; but where was Salma Hayek?
Serena and the Olsen twin
Some clarification on Serena's Mary Kate Olsen quote. We had asked her how her headaches were going, given that's the reason why should pulled out Linz and Philly.
Here's what she said about the day she lost in Linz: "I think I am suffering from Mary Kate Olsen syndrome," said Serena. "You know, cappuccino in the morning, frappucchino for lunch, cappuccino for dinner. I get so that I forget to eat. And I don't like to eat. I had no energy because I hadn't been eating. So when I got out there, I just got dizzy and had all kinds of headaches. So I have been forcing myself to eat."
Of course, that doesn't excuse the Philly pullout. Serena does her own thing and does it well. When she feels like playing, she's still a Top-5 competitor. When she doesn't want to or can't play, she finds ways to malke headlines off-court. Take her recent photo spread in Esquire, which was done in Malibu on the day of the semifinals of the Canadian Open last August, a tournament she pulled out of with a knee injury.
Maria cans practice coach … and the Tretorn ball
Maria Sharapova has canned Mauricio Hadad as her traveling coach. The WTA will not use the "heavy" Tretorn balls until next fall. On the advice of her handlers, Sharapova clamed about the subject after TR.net (and Reuters) reported her comments last week. But now this: she's still not pleased. … If we didn't emphasize this point strongly enough last week, we do so now: Anastasia Myskina and Sharapova are no longer on speaking terms.
ATP CEO Mark Miles is advocating a Masters Series of seven tournaments. "The Masters Series are great events," Tim Henman told The Independent. "Do we need nine? I don't think so."
Lleyton Hewitt has denied it to his camp that he's having a romantic relationship with 16-year-old Tatiana Golovin. Take that for what it is worth.
BTW: Hewitt's mom, Sherilyn, took it on the chin for getting overly involved in Lleyton and Kim Clijsters' wedding plans. But what's fair is fair: Sources in the Hewitt camp says that Leo Clijsters became overly involved in the timing of the break-up announcement. Kim had decided to split with Hewitt before the Hewitt-Golovin rumors surfaced at the Japan Open.
The ATP has announced it will begin publishing Deuce magazine on a quarterly basis. Anyone for another TR.net rift on monopoly capitalism? The men's tour will also begin making available new nutritional supplements to the players next year, overseen by the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, which has bases in England and the US.
Juan Carlos Ferrero told EFE's Miguel Luengo that if he's not feeling right, he'll step aside and let Rafael Nadal play singles in the Davis Cup final. But he was really just taking the high road and the Spaniards expect him to play. Nadal says he'll play singles, doubles, orange juice boy, whatever. Word has it that not only has the final sold all of its 22,000 seats per day, but will sell out an additional 3,000 seats per day. Props to the Spanish fans.