The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, March 17, 2020
Is it time for a union? — Coronavirus suspends WTA through April — Roland Garros goes rogue
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COVID-19 pauses the tennis world without player input. Is it time for a union?
After the BNP Paribas Open announced their cancellation because of COVID-19 (coronavirus), the sports world began following suit, with pretty much no active professional athletics being played. On top of that, the NCAA announced the suspension of all winter and spring sports for the rest of the semester, effectively ending all careers of seniors and cancelling national tournaments.
Since then, the WTA announced the suspension of all tournaments through May 2, while the ITF has announced there will be no tennis on their Pro Circuit through April 20. However, the biggest announcement in the tennis world came today when Roland Garros announced they were postponing the tournament and will now be hosting it September 20-October 4.
The new date Roland Garros is unacceptable to the players and the surrounding tournaments, especially in an Olympic year. To be clear, should this stand, the WTA calendar will fall like this:
*two weeks in Europe*
*four weeks in North America*
*two weeks in Asia*
Once the news broke, it started becoming increasingly clear that the ATP and WTA were not involved in Roland Garros’ decision. The replacement tournament coincides with the WTA Premier event in Wuhan, China – ironically, where COVID-19 initially blew up.
In wake of the WTA being criticized for not directly joining the ATP on their initial suspension of tournaments, it bears the ultimate question: should the players form a joint union so they have a seat at the table with their concerns met?
Vasek Pospisil, an ATP Council member and proponent of a union,went to Twitter to voice is displeasure and wants a more balanced scale in the corporate side of tennis
Noah Rubin shared the ATP’s internal statement and agreed with Pospisil’s statements.
The WTA Player Council has been invigorated with young blood in 2020, led by Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys. Only a few months into being elected, Stephens and Pospisil have teamed up for their councils to pressure the Grand Slams into sharing a bigger piece of prize money to players. Why not collaborate on a joint union too?
Tennis players are in a unique situation compared to basketball or hockey players. There is no financial security in a guaranteed salary and they aren’t protected when the tours suspend play. When Billie Jean King and the other members of the Original 9 saw a huge disparity between them and the men, they helped form the WTA. Why shouldn’t there be a revolution where the players band together in solidarity? Those in the tour and tournament offices need to realize: without the players, there is no tour and there are no tournaments.
Tournaments only have their self-interests in mind at the end of the day and to an extent, so do the tours. Players aren’t asking for a salary in the event they get hurt or there’s an extreme circumstance like we’re seeing now. They’re looking to be treated as an equal and not a racehorse. Inserting themselves in the equation in the decision-making that ultimately affects them the most is extremely important.
In the wake of 2019’s ATP Player Union drama, Pospisil, Stephens and others got dozens of players to sign players in solidarity (with a third party firm) when they were fighting for prize money. Now, I’m not saying that a union needs to form in the next four weeks while the tour stands at a halt. However, this is the perfect time for players to get together and discuss their future. Without a union, they’re consistently going to find out major news that affect them greatly on Twitter without any warning.
This Week in Women’s Tennis
WTA’s Social Buzz covers what the players are up to following the suspension brought by COVID-19, including Yaroslava Shvedova’s update from quarantine following a flight with an infected passenger.
The latest My Story feature from the WTA features Dayana Yastremska. It’s a must-watch, especially if you’re a fan of the rising Ukrainian star:
“I’ve walked past Rod Laver a couple of times in the hallway but I’ve never met him – if he sees this, tell him we can set up a meeting sometime. I need a selfie for Instagram!”
Coco Gauff, Naomi Osaka and Belinda Bencic are only a few players who have given the most memorable quotes in 2020’s first quarter.
Bianca Andreescu planned on making her 2020 debut in Miami, but she has bigger goals and believes she can play at an even higher level than what carried her to US Open glory.
Teenagers Leylah Fernandez and Leonie Kung are two players highlighted who have quickly slashed their rankings in the first three months of 2020.
Magda Linette was a the WTA’s latest Player Spotlight feature, where the Pole talks about her journey to her career-best tennis that includes making her training base out of Guangzhou, China.
In light of International Women’s Day, Venus Williams shares her motivation in sports, her off-court endeavors and what she envisions for the future.
Serena Williams was a guest judge on the finale of Project Runway, where sustainable fashion and ways to incorporate it was highlighted.
2010 Wimbledon semifinalist Tsvetana Prionkova, who last played a WTA match at the All-England Club in 2017, announced she’s making her comeback from maternity leave
Volvo Car Open Tournament Director Bob Moran and WTA Player Council member Kristie Ahn both talked to Tennis Channel on how COVID-19 led to the cancellation of Charleston and Indian Wells, respectively.
Also in comeback news, teenage sensation and 2016 US Open quarterfinalist Ana Konjuh seems poised to make a comeback in the early summer according to Croatian media. Since 2018, the Croat has endured four elbow surgeries with hopes of playing professional tennis again.
Nina Pantic and Irina Falconi talk about how COVID-19 is affecting the players in a special episode of the Tennis.com podcast.
Monica Puig journals her Indian Wells journey in the most recent episode of Tennis.com’s My Tennis Life.
Tweet of the Week
Though not a tweet, Kristie Ahn is making sure you’re getting in your #quaranfitness.