What WTA, CVC Capital partnership means — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, March 7, 2023

Happy Tennis Tuesday! I was originally planning to unroll my BNP Paribas Open preview since it’s unofficially the “Fifth Grand Slam,” but of course, the tennis world loves to troll me by announcing big news last-minute. However, this CVC Capital Partners news is BIG news!

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For about a year now, the rumblings that CVC Capital Partners have invested in the WTA are now official. CVC has purchased equity in various sports in the past, including a 10% stake in La Liga for $1.2 billion and $700 million for the Cricket franchise Ahmedabad, but they are the previous commercial owners of Formula 1 — which was bought for $4.4 billion in 2016. A new WTA Ventures Board will be created to help decision-making and CVC will have two of the eight seats on there, which will also be chaired by WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon.

The global equity firm has aligned with the tour for a 20% stake in WTA Ventures, a new commercial subsidiary, for $150 million. Now, what is WTA Ventures and where is this money going?

A large majority of the efforts of this partnership will be going towards “generating revenue by managing” to shorten the divide of commercial, data and other rights that the ATP currently have for the men. How I interpret that is that we’ll see a large sum driven into marketing, tournaments and prize money to help elevate the visibility of the tour and in return, gain more sponsorships, media rights deals, etc. If the WTA is reading this, use a lot of these funds to fuel more WTA 125 events and create something similar to the ATP Challenger Tour — grassroots is key. I also would kill for a super dope WTA video game since I still miss the days of playing my WTA Tennis game until it scratched on my Nintendo Gamecube.

Prize money will be a huge area that will likely be increased as a result of the deal, which is fantastic, but I’m curious where and what tournaments will be seeing the bump. Will it be just an overall rise in round-by-round pay at each WTA level? Will it go into the pot the WTA Finals lost when their deal with China was frozen from COVID-19 and Peng Shuai’s situation? Speaking of Peng, Simon said the tour is still looking for a long-term deal to host the WTA Finals and to expect an announcement at the end of the month regarding the WTA’s future in China.

You might be thinking “Joey, didn’t you discuss this a year ago when all this talk was happening about a potential merge with the ATP?” Yes, reader, you’re right! This news certainly isn’t breaking and honestly, it’s a super-bad secret. However, the ATP bypassed the rumored $600 million deal to restructure their own entity and — for the time being — disallow the tour to align with venture capital firms. That being said, the way this CVC-WTA deal is set up, a merge can still happen and the governance of the WTA itself isn’t touched — this is strictly a commercial subsidiary deal.

While this is truly not shocking news, I’m still excited by this development. This is the first time CVC is diving into a female sport — at least at this magnitude. Financial specifics aren’t privy to the public, but I’m hopeful we’ll have a better idea of how much or when to expect the benefits of the deal will start hopefully by Wimbledon. I’d expect a bigger increase in tournaments, marketing and more for the North American hardcourt swing and beyond.

The 50th year of the WTA just got a tad sweeter, but feel free to let me know your thoughts or concerns. Now, onto links!

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This Week in Women’s Tennis

Marta Kostyuk won her first Hologic WTA singles title at the ATX Open and — interestingly enough — the Ukrainian had to play a Russian in the final. Many were curious about the handshake — or lack of one, but I’d like to think she and Varvara Gracheva discussed it prior to their final. The doubles title went to Erin Routliffe and Aldila Sutjiadi, who upset Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Ellen Perez to win their first title as a duo.

At the Abierto GNP Seguros, Donna Vekic captured her fourth WTA singles title and first since 2021 with a high-quality three-set battle over top-seeded Caroline Garcia. The doubles title was the shocker of the week with the Colombian pair of Yuliana Lizarazo and Maria Paulina Perez Garcia — each in only their fourth-ever WTA main draw and first together — walking away with the biggest title of their careers with a match tiebreaker over wilcards Kimberly Birrell and Fernanda Contreras Gomez.

Mia Horvit had an All-American career at the University of South Carolina, but she aims to break into the WTA after dipping her toes in beauty pageants, television work and destroying the Universal Tennis Pro Tennis Tour.

Coco Gauff helped unveil her new sneaker with New Balance and the adorable inspiration behind it — her younger brother, Cameron.

Congratulations to Madison Keys, who announced her engagement to ATP player Bjorn Frantangelo:

In other big congratulatory news, Angelique Kerber shared she gave birth to her first child, a girl named Liana:

In fashion, Lily Pulitzer released Holding Court, a special print for the WTA’s 50th anniversary, while Athleta shared their tennis-specific line for women with Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig as their newest ambassador.

The ATX Open presented the Sloane Stephens Foundation their inaugural Catalyst Award, which came with a $25,000 donation:

In other private equity news, Venus Williams has been named as an operating partner for Topspin Consumer Partners.

According to the USTA, the last three years has seen a major increase in players of Hispanic, Black and Asian backgrounds.

The US Open announced that former chair umpire Jake Garner will be the tournament referee for the Grand Slam.

Tweet of the Week

These athletes have more of an impact on us than we think:

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Joey Dillon