Missing the Mark: Why Tennis Should Merge the Men’s and Women’s Finals
As the ATP Finals roll on in London this week, there was question that came my way – “Why doesn’t the WTA have a Finals event?” This, I thought, was an excellent question. The Women’s Tour should have its own Finals event that is the same format as the men, giving the top 8 players a chance to compete for some big prize money as a reward for their hard work during the season.
Wait. There is a WTA Finals. Did you know this? My guess is that you probably didn’t unless you are a huge fan of the WTA or you are a serious gambler. The WTA Finals takes place in Mid-October and is typically held in Asia. This may be why it wasn’t on my radar, but now that I know the event exists, I have my own question:
Why aren’t the Men’s and Women’s Tour Finals played at he same time and location?
There are many reasons why I think this would be a way better option for tennis and for those of us who like to have a bet on tennis occasionally. Here are my thoughts on why this idea is a winner.
The big events are co-ed
Let’s start with the fact that this is not an unprecedented concept. All four of the Grand Slam events and a couple of high-profile tournaments involve both the men and women playing in the same location. There is clearly an appetite for top-level tennis regardless of gender, so having both the men and women play their Finals event in the same location would make a lot of sense.
London is a great tennis (and gambling) town
The British are not shy about their love of gambling, and this can be seen on almost every street corner across the country. When an event is live in the region, there is likely to be much more action at the bookmakers, and that in turn would draw even more interest in the events themselves. I think that if you put the women’s event in London, even if it is not at the exact same time, there would be more eyeballs on the tournament, which must be good for sponsors, venues and sportsbooks alike.
The women’s game needs the exposure
Let’s face it: the WTA lags far behind the ATP in popularity. The tour has relied on a few marquee names like the Williams sisters and Maria Sharapova to buoy its popularity for the last decade, and with these three stars getting older, it is time to groom some of the younger players to take over that mantel. The WTA Finals event is the perfect spot o showcase these new top players but holding the event in Asia makes it far more difficult for viewers in Europe and North America to follow along (as can be seen by my not knowing the event even existed). While I understand that the tour is looking towards Asia for growth, the dollars are still on this side of the Pacific, so moving the event to England is just good business.
What would the new event look like?
Right now, there are only two matches being played in each session of the ATP Finals. Adding the WTA to this event is easy enough -you could add another match to each session without issue. The fans would love to see more tennis, and the players could accommodate the extra time between matches.
Both the ATP and WTA Finals are round robin events, meaning each player gets 3 guaranteed matches. This gives fans a chance to see their favorite players more than once in an event, and while right now there are a couple of days between matches, this timeframe could be compressed to accommodate more matches. As a gambler, I would love to be able to find more matches to bet on each day, and these players are used to playing every day during their regular one-week tournaments.
At the end of the day, the only thing that seems to be stopping these two tournaments from merging is lack of momentum. Tennis is still a fringe sport outside of the top 5 or 6 events, and I am convinced that putting these two special events together will help grow both in popularity, attendance and sponsorship.
Oh…and I would far more likely to bet on the women’s event if I knew the Finals were taking place. But that’s just me.