Anyone who knows me knows that I am an avid tennis fan. I play it, I watch it, I discuss it. Anyone who knows me even better knows that I have a very, very strong preference for women’s tennis. I almost never watch men’s tennis, for a variety of reasons. I find men’s tennis to be boring; if I wanted to watch a 50-ball rally that ends with an unforced error or one person being too tired to get what would normally be an easy ball to return, I would watch a practice session at the tennis center back at home. Almost every man on tour is a pusher, a pejorative term for someone who just hits the ball back without going for a winner and waits for the other to mess up. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very good strategy. It’s not, however, good entertainment. Most of the men on tour are also awful, awful human beings. I could write a whole new blog post on my problems with the people of the ATP tour, so I will keep my thoughts on this point brief. The only reason I ever watch men’s tennis is if it is a Grand Slam or if one of the very few men I like are playing. And by few, I mean count-on-two-hands few. The WTA brings me solace from the atrocity of men’s tennis. Of course, there are still pushers, though I won’t name any names (Sara Sorribes Tormo), and there are still awful people, again not naming any names (Sorana Cîrstea), but for the most part I love watching women’s tennis and can almost always root for someone. Women’s tennis brings me joy.
That’s why I absolutely, with all of my being, DESPISE Steve Simon. For the unacquainted, Steve Simon is the chief executive of the WTA, and has been since 2015. With so much experience, you would think he would be able to do his job. WRONG. You literally couldn’t be MORE wrong. He garnered quite a bit of respect when, in 2021, he took on China, one of the WTA’s largest markets, in the wake of the disappearance of Chinese tennis player, Peng Shuai. He withdrew all tournaments from China to take a stand against a perceived retaliation against Peng. That was clearly just a temporary stand, however, since the WTA returned to China this season with events in Guangzhou, Ningbo, Beijing, Zhengzhou, Nanchang, and Zhuhai. To be honest, I don’t really have many grievances with this decision. The Chinese tournaments are some of my favorites, and with the return of Wuhan next season already confirmed, my favorite of the Chinese tournaments, it just seems like a small retraction from Steve Simon. However, despite the return to China, the WTA Finals, the year-end championships for the top 8 singles players and top 8 doubles pairs of the season, didn’t take place in Shenzhen, where it had taken place in 2019. In 2020, WTA Finals was expected to return to Shenzhen and WTA Elite Trophy to Zhuhai, but COVID sidelined the tour, and the WTA Finals wasn’t held. In 2021, there wasn’t a plan to hold any tournaments in China because they had still remained restricted because of COVID, and 2022 was the first season with the WTA’s stance against China. WTA Finals, which had seen temporary homes in Guadalajara for 2021 and Ft. Worth for 2022, was once again looking for a home.
Throughout the past few years, the WTA Finals venue has not been announced until very late in the year, which is bad for obvious reasons. Players have to schedule around big events, and with the WTA’s propensity for having the worst scheduling ever, not airing the venue of the final tournament of the season for the top players can become problematic. The bidding for this year’s venue was very public however, unlike last year where it seemed that Ft. Worth was chosen out of nowhere. The reason it was so public was because everyone’s favorite sport-washing government, Saudi Arabia, threw their hat (and money) into the ring to hold the WTA Finals. Mind you, Saudi Arabia doesn’t have a single top 1000 player on either tour and, as far as I can tell, doesn’t have much of a tennis culture. And yet, Steve Simon was reportedly heavily considering taking the women’s tennis tour to renowned human rights violator, Saudi Arabia. Money talks, I guess. Except clearly it doesn’t, because Saudi Arabia’s largest competitor for the WTA Finals was Czechia, who wanted to hold the WTA Finals in Ostrava this year, and Prague for the future.
Czechia has a rich tennis history. Karolína Muchová and Markéta Vondroušová both qualified for the WTA Finals this year (Muchová later withdrew due to injury) in singles, Barbora Krejčiková and Kateřina Siniaková qualified in doubles, and Krejčiková was first alternate in singles. Czechs love their tennis and with four Czech players, the seats would have been full. However, the WTA Finals has landed in…Cancún. Huh. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Mexican tournaments throughout the year–they have great crowds and the Mexican fans know how to make a great atmosphere. But…why would they not go to Czechia instead? The Czech bid quite literally had everything. They had a venue ready, they had plans for the future, they had the money, and yet Steve Simon literally ghosted them. Not only did they go for an objectively worse bid plan-wise, they went for a bid that is financially-irresponsible. This is because the Czech bid promised $15 million in prize money and $6 million in WTA fees and was ALL EXPENSES PAID. Cancún, on the other hand, had put the WTA out of millions of dollars because the WTA itself is footing the entire bill. Instead of making money, the WTA is hemorrhaging it. Now, allegedly, the WTA didn’t want to go to Czechia because they have a ban on Russian and Belarussian players (for obvious reasons), but the Czech bid also reassured them that Russians and Belarussians would be allowed to get an exemption to play. Many speculate that the WTA has gone with Cancún in order to keep the possibility of going to Saudi Arabia open. And trust me, Saudi Arabia will keep trying. They already have their sights set on buying both the Miami Open and Mutua Madrid Open. Steve Simon will give in to them, I have no doubt about it, because he is a spineless, sad excuse of a man. The bidding war isn’t even the worst part.
The WTA Finals, which are currently ongoing, have been an absolute DISASTER. I have never seen a worse tournament, and I’m being so for real. Starting off, the tournament was doomed because the original Cancún bid offered an indoor venue. Obviously, that didn’t happen because they are playing outdoors. In the middle of hurricane season. They had to build an entire new arena from scratch, and the main court was not ready until the Saturday before the tournament started. And they cut a lot of corners to get it ready. There are dead spots on the court (spots where the ball doesn’t bounce as well–or at all) and the court is literally UNEVEN. Elena Rybakina, who has been beefing with the WTA for the past few months, came out and said that the conditions are ridiculous. Aryna Sabalenka, the world number one, has ranted about feeling disrespected by the WTA with these conditions. Siniaková is also clearly fed up, giving a sarcastic thumbs up to the camera in reference to the court conditions. The weather conditions are awful as well. As I mentioned, we’re in hurricane season and the wind is certainly acting like it. If you want just a glimpse at some of the genuine disaster the tournament has been, I recommend this short Twitter video. I’m convinced the same people that did the drainage system on our campus did the drainage system in Cancún because why is the water just sitting there instead of draining away?
In a SHOCKING turn of events, Steve Simon has not addressed the catastrophe occuring in Cancún. It also came out that, while the prospect of Saudi Arabia hosting the WTA Finals was still around, it was suggested to players that instead of criticizing, they should say “I’m happy to play wherever the WTA Finals is hosted, it’s a prestigious event”. This is a CRAZY thing to ask, considering Daria Kasatkina, who has expressed immense pushback against playing in Saudi Arabia, is openly a lesbian and has a girlfriend. Why should she be happy to play in Saudi Arabia when it is literally illegal to be gay there? Players have also made complaints about pay, which is severely unequal outside of large events. The WTA told them they should instead express pride in the WTA’s fight for equal pay. Tell me if I’m missing something, but if there was equal pay, there would be no complaints.
I love this sport, and for this sport to survive, Steve Simon must be removed. He is actively hurting the sport: fans hate him, tournament organizers hate him, players hate him. What is he good for if he can’t do his job correctly?
Enjoy your days, Mr. Simon. They are numbered. And everyone will be cheering when they finally run out.
Catch me rant about tennis and other topics on my show, The Changeover, on Mondays from 9pm – 10pm.