I bailed on Family Circle Cup this weekend. I just wasn’t in the mood to drive that distance to watch the lesser members of the WTA Tour. Ouch that was harsh. But the truth is that the minute the Big Babes started calling in injured, I canceled my days off and decided to go to work as usual. To be honest, I have no regrets.
A tennis friend made the trip down with her husband yesterday. She came back with the news that Jelena Jankovic is prettier in person than she looks on TV, and that Daniela Hantuchova is pencil-thin without an ounce of fat on her body. Not a word on the tennis itself. I also didn’t bother to ask.
Watching on TV today, I saw nothing worth selling the farm over. Wozniacki vs. Zvonareva was the typical boring display of baseline defending, until Wozniacki gave up, injured. Zvonareva was well on her way to winning that match if you ask me. This was followed by Hantuchova vs. Stosur. I am happy for Samantha that she is having such a terrific run in singles. But I’d sooner travel to Melbourne to see her play there than make the trip to Charleston, SC. It just doesn’t seem worth it.
This inspired me to wonder about the fate of tournaments like Family Circle. How will these smaller events survive in a collapsed financial market?
I asked my coach. He said that the problem quite simply is that the Big Babes help to move merchandise while these smaller fish just do not. He said that last year, after the tournament was over, he was surprised by how much merchandise was still on display, unsold. He said that if either Venus or Serena had been there, merchandise would have gone skipping off the shelves. When the Big Babes bail, it hurts not just the fans of the sport but also the financial bottom line. Merchandise and tickets sell when the Big Babes show up.
This is because tennis fans go to tournaments to see players like the Williams Sisters, Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin, and Maria Sharapova. This is why tennis suffered so much when Henin and Clijsters departed. This is why their return has been hailed with an almost embarrassing level of acclaim. This is why, despite a bum shoulder, Nike elected to invest heavily in Maria Sharapova. Quite simply, she sells product.
As a result, some tournaments pay hefty appearance fees to guarantee that top players will enter their events. But when Serena Williams announced belatedly that she wasn’t going to Charleston because of her bum knee, and Sabine Lisicki announced that she wasn’t going to be defending her trophy because of a sore left ankle, you knew that this little tournament was in trouble.
Eleanor Adams, Family Circle Cup Tournament Manager, tried to put a brave face on it, saying, “Serena and Sabine are great champions, and it’s unfortunate they had to withdraw due to injuries. We wish them the best of luck in making a quick return to the Tour.” What else could she say? Did you expect her to start bemoaning the tons of merchandise that will have to be packed up and sold at other events held in the Family Circle Tennis Center throughout the year?
At least both Serena and Sabine had the decency to make their announcements at the last minute. Hopefully by then some fans would already have committed their money. I however was not one of those fans. I elected to bail.
And let me be the first to admit that attitudes like mine are part of the reason why the fate of these smaller events are now in question. I am addicted to Big Babe tennis and have always been. I have a hard time appreciating the defensive wimps that clutter up the rest of the WTA tour. And because this is a downright shitty attitude (yes, I can admit that), I recognize that since I am not part of the solution, I am therefore a part of the problem.