(October 29, 2012) Transcripts of the final interviews with Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Stacey Allaster at the WTA Championships on October 28, 2012. Transcripts courtesy of ASAPSports.
October 28, 2012
S. WILLIAMS/M. Sharapova
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Thank you.
Q. This wraps up obviously a big year for you. How important was it for you to get it title and end it on a good note all the same?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Now that I can be honest, I really wanted to win and win this title and put a little pressure on myself.
Yeah, I wanted it so bad but I didn’t want to say it. I’m really excited that I was able to win it. I feel really good about ending the year.
Like it really was important for me to end the year with this title in particular, so I feel really good about it.
Q. How close were you to not playing this tournament potentially? I know you’ve been sick for sometime between here in the US Open.
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I was going to play the whole time. Yeah, it was never a doubt.
Q. Why all the pressure? Why after the year that you’ve had did you want to win this one so badly?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I had such a good year winning Wimbledon and US Open and stuff, Olympics, you know, it’s like a heavy favorite going in to win this title, so for me it was really important. I mean, for my own sanity, so to say, I really wanted it, even though I didn’t need it.
Like I don’t think I needed to do anything else this year or any other year, but I really wanted to end on a good note.
Q. You’ve only lost one match since you lost at the French Open. How much credit of that goes to your new partnership with Patrick, or is there anything else that you’ve done to change? And just even bouncing back from that loss.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, it’s been an incredible run. I really love working with Patrick. He’s been really, really positive and really awesome.
And I hate to lose. I think I went back to the drawing board. After Wimbledon my first few matches I was really, really tight, and I had a really great talk with my sister Isha who encouraged me a lot. I got better after that.
So I think it was a lot of factors that really helped me to be able to get better.
Q. You started the week a little bit slow and you really didn’t have your rhythm, even though you didn’t drop a set, and today was pretty good overall. Talk about the performance. She didn’t have a break point; you were hitting winners from everywhere.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think she played really well today and I think she’s improved so much, which is amazing that a player of her stature and caliber can still want to improve and still get better.
So I think that I played solid today. I think the last game I really played well. You know, when you’re playing a player like Maria you always have to be focused for every point.
Q. Talk about how you focus. You get out there in front of this crowd, it’s totally sold out, and people are yelling and screaming. Are you in your zone and able to block everything out and focus on the ball?
SERENA WILLIAMS: You know, I go through different emotions. Sometimes it’s really exciting. Like when you first walk out on the court it’s like, Wow, they’re here, they’re for you.
You see the sold out crowd and it’s completely packed and you see all the signs and people sitting on the stairs with no seats just filling in the arena even more. It’s cool, really cool.
Then you have to come to the moment where now you have to play. So for me, I have to kind of separate that. I think it’s just staying focused and thinking about wanting to win every point.
Q. You played in so many Grand Slams and so many of these Championships. What do you think about the quality of the women’s game now as compared to how it was perhaps when you’ first emerged as a player, the depth of quality in the women’s game?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think the depth is great. I think it’s gotten better; namely this year I think the depth has gotten a lot better.
I think when I first started it was Monica Seles, Steffi Graf, Lindsay Davenport, Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis. So it was probably even more depth back then, but now I think it’s getting to be just as much.
Q. How do you rank this season in your career?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think it’s been a great season. I was asked that on the court. I have to say number two only because I didn’t have two Grand Slams in the beginning. I faltered in the French and fell in the first round. I beat my record for 2002 match‑wise, but, yeah, I didn’t do so well at the French obviously or in Australia.
But it’s close. It’s neck and neck, really neck and neck.
Q. When you look back after couple of years, what is the biggest thing you’re going to you remember about this tournament?
SERENA WILLIAMS: About this tournament?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I’ll probably remember the fans, how amazing and excited they were. The karaoke sign, the guy had the sign that said, Are we going to karaoke tonight? He knows I’m a big karaoke addict.
So I’ll remember all those things.
Q. You said you knew you were a heavy favorite coming into this tournament. How heavy a favorite will you be at the Australian Open, do you think?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Gosh, I don’t know. I’ll probably be one of the favorites, but, I mean, you can never underestimate Victoria or Maria or so many other players, like Kvitova, who’s doing really well. There are a lot of other young players that are playing really well.
It’s one thing to be a favorite, but it’s another thing to show up and show the reason why you’re the favorite.
Q. Have you got another Serena slam in you?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don’t know. I could. We’ll see. I have a chance. Hopefully.
Q. On Monday on the media day, Li Na was speaking about you and she said that when Serena is on her 100% she’s impossible beat. Do you feel invincible? Obviously she’s right.
SERENA WILLIAMS: You know, I always said that if I’m playing well and I’m doing everything right, you know, it’s really difficult to beat me. I still believe that, which is great that I still can kind of play that way.
You know, I feel like there are ways for me to improve, but I feel like it’s ‑‑ I think it’s a true statement, without trying to sound full of myself or anything.
Q. Patrick suggested that despite all you’ve achieved in the game that you can still improve. Do you agree with that? If so, can you say how you go about it without giving away secrets?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I definitely think I can improve. Especially when I was out there today I thought, Okay, I want to work on this in November. Oh, okay, I’m going to work on that one in November.
So I was thinking of all these things I can work on and I can improve on. I think every day, whether it’s life or whether it’s playing tennis, we always can improve as people or as whatever we do.
So the day I feel that I can’t improve, I think that’s the day I should probably hang up my racquet.
Q. At the top of the game at the moment you have, as it were, two 31 year olds, Roger Federer and yourself. What do you think that says about the longevity of tennis? If a young player is coming in now, they’re probably got a very long career ahead of them before they actually reach their ultimate.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think it’s been a great development. I think Roger and myself ‑ and Venus is still swinging and winning tournaments. So it just goes to show that you we can still do well and play well at an older age.
I don’t know if it’s for everyone, though. Different strokes for different folks. It’s definitely for myself and Roger and Venus. Yeah, we like it. We love the game. We love to play. We love being competitive. We love the competition. It’s our life.
Q. Could you ever imagine a time when you wouldn’t want to be competitive and out there playing tennis?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Not necessarily. I was playing Family Feud earlier today with my phone, on my smartphone, I should say, and I was really competitive with some other person in the digital world. I don’t even know who they were and I got angry.
Yeah, I think I’m still ready to play tennis.
Q. They announced the candidates for the 2014 locations for the tournament. How much of a priority do you think it should be for the WTA to find somewhere that can kind of replicate this kind of environment, this sort of overflow crowds you get here, the enthusiasm, because it hasn’t always been that way.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, no, it hasn’t been. But when you’re moving a tournament year after year or ever few years, it’s not easy. You have to build a fan base.
I think in Turkey we were really quite fortunate in a way to be able to have such amazing tennis fans and amazing people. You also have great players, great star power that bring in the crowds as well.
So I think it’s definitely important, but at the same time, some cities that might get chosen may need help in their tennis world or might have a bright future for a lot of tennis players.
Q. Start of the year you tore up your ankle in Brisbane.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Don’t remind me.
Q. I know. Thinking back to that and not sure if you could play the Aussie, if you would’ve know you would’ve gotten to this point where you’re Olympic gold and Wimbledon, and US Open champion, I guess you might have taken that, huh?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, definitely; although I was devastated when I went over on my ankle. Seems so long ago.
I guess, you know, you just got to take‑‑ this is why I just got to take things as they come. I was positive. There is no way I should have played, but I thought, I’m not going to travel 8,000 miles to go back home.
So I won a few matches. It was nice. Afterwards I stayed a you few days and I had fun. I love that place, so, you know, it definitely was worth‑‑ I don’t know if it was worth it, but I definitely was able to get some rest and play some more matches.
Q. So Patrick says you’re going to be training in Mauritius.
SERENA WILLIAMS: He talks a lot.
Q. Yeah, he does. That’s a change for you. No L.A., no Florida. He didn’t talk that much.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Okay.
Q. But he said you were training in Mauritius. For you to put yourself out there, staying in Paris, going to Mauritius, not doing the normal things, is it something you’re trying to do in your life to change things up and keep it fresh?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No. I mean, that’s where everyone at his academy trains at the end of the year. So when we first started working out, that’s all I wanted to do was go Mauritius, because I saw the pictures and it was so pretty. All I could think about‑ and I’m not kidding ‑ in Stanford I went swimsuit shopping.
So six months in advance I have all my swimsuits and bikinis. Everyone is going to be training two and three times. I told Patrick, Now, look. I train in the morning and I’m at the beach in the afternoon. We have to have some sort of understanding here.
So I’m excited about that. It’ll be like a mini vacation for me. I feel like I’ll working hard and be laying out.
Q. I never seen you so fast to go to the net and play so much at the net.
SERENA WILLIAMS: On the?
Q. The net, play so offensive all the time. Do you think this is the evolution of yourself to play shorter points, always every match, and this is the best Serena?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I didn’t realize I came to the net. That’s good. So when my dad is talking to me, I’ll tell him what you said. I’m like, Daddy, I did come to the net. (Laughing.)
Q. The statistics are good.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Really? I’ll have to look at ’em. It’s funny. I don’t feel like I was in at all. It’s a totally different game when you go back and look at it as posed to being in the moment. You see so much more.
Definitely have to go back and look at the match.
Q. Is this the best Serena in’ your mind?
SERENA WILLIAMS: The one that comes to the net?
Q. No, this one, this Serena.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don’t know. I can’t say that. Like I said, I’m just always doing the best I can and looking to improve and, yeah, keep going forward.
Q. You’ve been playing very hard, and then maybe after tomorrow back to your country. So what are you imagining in Istanbul, the Turkish people?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I didn’t understand the first part.
Q. You’re playing all the week. You’re playing hard.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I’m playing near?
Q. No, no, playing all week here.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Okay, yeah.
Q. Tomorrow it’s back to your country maybe after tomorrow.
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, no, my country…
Q. No, what are your thoughts of Istanbul?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Okay, I’m sorry. It was so clear. It’s me. It’s not you.
Q. So for example, what are you doing tomorrow?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Okay. So Istanbul has been really great to me. Turkey has been great. I’ve heard so much about the city, so my goal is tomorrow to go into the city and see more.
I’m going to be here an extra day, so I’m excited to be here an extra day so I can kind of visit such a historic, amazing city that I’ve never been to before.
It’ll be relaxing because I don’t have anything to worry about playing a match, so it’ll be good.
Q. I may be wrong, but at one point I hear you shouting in French, Allez.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Maybe next year at Roland Garros.
Q. So you didn’t shout allez in French today?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, not yet.
Q. Anyway, I was told by Patrick that you’re practicing in French, correct?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Practicing my French? Yes. Everyone at the academy speaks French to me. Sometimes I look like a der in headlights, and when in doubt I just nod and say, Oui.
S. WILLIAMS/M. Sharapova
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Maria.
Q. You played pretty well overall but just couldn’t get a sniff on her serve seemed like. She had a big serving day once again.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, she did serve consistently well. I don’t think I even had a break point today. Yeah, I mean, partly because maybe I wasn’t doing enough on the returns and she was serving well. Even a few moments whether it was 30‑All or 15‑All, I didn’t really get a good return.
Yeah, it was one or two breaks, so 6‑4, 6‑3.
Q. Do you expect with the amount of times you played her now that when she needs to she’s going to serve well in the clutch or come up with a big groundstroke at 30‑All or at deuce?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: That’s one of the reasons she’s such a great champion and has had a tremendous amount of success in her career. There is a reason for that.
It’s obviously tougher to play when you’re behind, even if it’s just a break. But, yeah, I mean, got to keep moving forward. (Smiling.)
Q. You don’t have to keep moving at this moment. Now you get some time off to reflect and rest. What do you look back on the 2012 season most having now wrapped it up?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’m proud of it. I’m proud of my consistency, I’m proud that I’m moving in the right direction in terms of improving my game and where I see it.
You know, I’ve accomplished a lot of things this year that I really wanted and wanted to get back in my career. Yeah, lots of great memories. Some difficult ones, but a lot of really positive thoughts moving into next year.
Q. When you talk about moving in the right direction, does that count for this match? Your last two matches against her were not as close as this in the Olympics final and Madrid.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I mean, maybe you could say it was just one or two breaks in the first, second set, but, I mean, I probably had more ‑‑ I broke her a few more times in the other matches or maybe had more looks to break.
Today she had another great serving day against me.
Q. Can you read her serve? Is her toss that hard to read, or do you feel like you have to kind of guess on her first serve?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Maybe she can serve some for you. I don’t know.
Q. You’re the one that’s returning though.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Maybe you can win a raffle.
Q. $1 million. But seriously, can he see where her toss is going, or are you saying, She might go T this time, she might go out wide, but I’m just going to have to guess.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I think her toss is pretty consistent, definitely.
Q. So it’s hard to?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, if I didn’t have a break point, there is your answer. (Laughing.)
Q. After a couple of years when you look back and when you remember this tournament, what’s the biggest thing you will remember about this tournament?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, I’ve it said throughout the whole tournament. I feel like this has been the best Championships that I’ve been a part of. I only got to play a couple of matches last year, but this year the energy from the first round on…
Maybe wasn’t completely sold out in the first round, but as the week went on, I mean, just the excitement from the people from the second they call your name onto the court and you’re walking out, it’s pretty incredible as an athlete to have that sort of positive energy without even hitting a ball.
The appreciation you have from people’s understanding and respect of what you do I think is really unique. I think we were really all unsure of how was it going to go in Istanbul because we never really had such a big tennis event. Only a smaller tennis tournament here.
But I think we’re all really happy. We’re here another year, so.
Q. With the finals going to another place in 2014, there is a lot of discussion about what the priorities should be for the WTA. With how good the crowd is here, do you think finding somewhere where they can get sell‑out stadiums and this much enthusiasm for women’s tennis should be a priority?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think obviously as players we want that excitement from the crowd. I mean, like I said, there is no better feeling than having that energy from people that want to watch you play. It’s a little bit different when the stadium is a bit more empty, there is no doubt.
But it’s not just the tickets that make an event happen. It’s also the involvement of the government, the sponsors, so there is a lot involved. Where will it be, we’re not sure yet. I personally would love to see it in Brazil.
Q. Just on that point, do you like the idea of moving the Championships every two or three years to places that don’t have big‑time tennis events?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: For sure.
Q. You were mentioning Brazil and Rio, which I guess isn’t a candidate. Would you like to see it put someplace like Paris or London, putting L.A. aside?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Just as a staple, let it be there?
Q. Well rather than just saying, Okay, we’ll have all these cities bid for it.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh.
Q. And maybe we should move it to a part of Asia that hasn’t had a lot of exposure to tennis or…
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I like the idea, because I think it’s almost like a competition of who really wants it more. I think that’s also really important, because we don’t just want to give it to somebody just to give it to someone.
I think it’s a very unique event and opportunity for the people, the city, for the government. I think it’s worked so far for us, that concept of bidding, and I hope that it moves on going forward.
Q. So when is the next time you plan on hitting a ball?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Not sure right now. I don’t know. Tomorrow actually. I’m going to Prague. Oh, no. Oopsies. How did I sign up for that one?
Q. They announced finalist cities for the next years and one is in Russia. What would that mean to you to have it in Kazan?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, that was an interesting one. I was actually pleasantly surprised to hear that. I mean, I just heard it a few days ago as well. I don’t know. I mean, it will depend, like I said, on who wants it more.
It would mean a lot if it was there, absolutely. To have such a big event in that region is pretty unique.
An interview with
STACEY ALLASTER: Welcome to everyone, particularly welcome to our friends who have signed on to Google+Hangouts.
This is the year‑end review. Wow. For many of us, we’re all waiting, all the staff; it’s not just the players who are anxious for the season to be over. It’s a time of reflection.
As I said Sunday night, 2012 will be remembered for epic matches, inspirational comebacks, and historic moments.
If we want to look anywhere for inspiration, I think we can look at the Turkish fans. They have been incredible. They launched this Championships with great enthusiasm, and they haven’t let us down in 2012. They’ve loved the performances of our athletes, and our athletes have loved them.
I don’t know about you, but it has been quite fun to listen to the athletes’ post‑match speeches where they have actually have thanked the fans. They thanked them for the posters, and have even gone as far as to go over and give them hugs. I don’t remember which tournaments that actually happens.
So it has been a special week here at the TEB BNP Paribas Championships. We have had tremendous off‑court support for these Championships. We start with the Ministry of Sport and the minister, Suat Kiliç, and the great leadership of the Turkish Tennis Federation by a great women who just joined us, Ayda Uluç.
Let’s give her a round of applause.
At the end we’ll do something special for you.
It has been two great years, two great Championships under your leadership, and we’re most grateful.
Of course our partners at TEB BNP Paribas, they came on this journey with us in 2011, and I know they continue to be incredibly excited about tennis. They’re now supporting the Turkish Tennis Federation, and that’s ultimately what we want to be able to do: build tennis in Turkey.
The Champions are the engine, the excitement, and when we move on, it will be great to know what this legacy and the sport development program that the TTF inspires to be will have great partners with TEB and so forth.
Ten players, ten flags. Never in our history have we ended the year with ten different nations being represented. I’ve been talking about WTA being a truly global platform. Nothing tells the story more than these ten flags being represented. And as well, we had eight flags, eight nations here at the Championships. First in our history.
As I look back, I watched a lot tennis in 2012, along with many of you that are in the room. Some of those historic moments have to be Victoria Azarenka starting the year earning the No. 1 ranking and ending the year with the No. 1 ranking; capturing her first Grand Slam ‑ and I’m sure we will see her earn many more slams; and five titles on the WTA. Terrific year. She is certainly setting the stage for a very strong career on the WTA.
I don’t know what gets better than this photo. Here you have this incredible champion, she gets injured, she comes back from that injury, she retools herself, she captures a career Grand Slam. She wins that slam that she had coveted and wanted. I think we have seen it here on court how excited she is to be playing tennis and winning tennis. That was a special moment that day on the red clay.
This picture, call her the comeback kid. She has defied all of the odds against very serious health issues and has come back in epic performance, whether you watched her at Wimbledon, her Olympic gold medal, her US Open performance, and her performances here at the TEB BNP Paribas Championships. I think Jon Wertheim tweeted in advance of my press conference today and said, What Stacey wants to say is never let Serena retire. Jon is right. She is a gift to us in women’s tennis.
I would be remiss if we didn’t also say a few things about some other future stars. We’ve had this mix of the established and the rising stars, and what a great performance all year Agnieszka Radwanska has had for women’s tennis.
Sara Errani; what can you say? 12 titles between singles and doubles and the year‑end No. 1. She just left her heart on the court for us earning a year‑end ranking of 7.
And Angelique Kerber, I can remember a year ago being in the US Open, she’s in the semifinals, and everyone is asking me, Who is Angelique Kerber? Well she has arrived. She is the first German player since 1999 to be ranked in the top 5 when Steffi Graf retired. So she is definitely driving the engine for German tennis.
We had some fun on the international tournament level in the fall where young Laura Robson had great performances, and Heather Watson actually broke through and won a WTA career title. So we’re looking forward to also the youth of the WTA led by Heather and Laura and so many other talented young players.
Well, it was a sad day in New York. There were tears. Yes, this CEO did cry. This athlete has made me cry several times through her time on the WTA Tour. Just what a special person. We didn’t say goodbye to Kim; we did wish her good luck. I don’t think she’s going to go very far from this sport. She does love it. I think last week she was in Luxembourg actually coaching the Belgian players. We wish her and Brian and Jada all the best. She’s part of this great WTA family, and I know we’ll see more of Kim in a different way on the WTA.
2012, I don’t think in my career, aside perhaps from equal prize money, the reunion of the original nine was one of the most historic and inspirational moments for me. It’s only the second time that these women have actually gotten together, so it was a special.
And I can tell you, they are as charming, as fiery, and as competitive today as they were in the 1970s. So we had fun re‑createing that photo. I’ll toggle them back and forth so you can see them. We wanted that capture it almost 40 years later. They were the brave souls that stood up to the establishment and said there could be a commercially successful women’s‑only tour. They signed a $1 check.
And today, in 2012, our athletes are playing for $100 million in prize money between the Grand Slams and the WTA. How far we’ve come in just 40 years. This is not only historic and a milestone for women’s tennis, women’s sport, it’s also is our proof point that the circuit structure reform that we embarked upon in 2009 is working.
We went through this hard work of shortening the season, streamlining the calendar, providing more breaks in the calendar, and the top players are delivering. They’re going to our top events and playing more. As a result of that, tournament revenues are increasing. When tournament revenues increase, the players are earning more prize money and so forth.
2012 was a great business year for us as well. We renewed our partnership with Oriflame for two years, and we also renewed our long‑standing partner, Dubai Duty Free, who are here. You saw that new dimension of our partnership where Dubai Duty Free is now the presenting sponsor of our year‑end awards. We thank Salah for all of your support.
2012 will also be the ending of a few key partnerships that we have had for a long time, the first being Regency Eurosport. I first want to thank Arnon Milchan of Regency. He had the vision and inspiration that women’s tennis deserved more exposure on television. It was the late the ’90s. He had bought this company called Puma, and he sponsored a young lady that he thought was going to be a massive star.
Arnon was right; it was Serena Williams. He wanted to provide a platform for Serena and the stars of today with more exposure. So he used his influence in the industry and he brokered a deal for us with Eurosport. 14 years ever great support. I want to thank Laurent Eric Le Lay and Geraldine Filliol. She really has been the internal champion of women’s tennis for so many years at Eurosport, and all of the production people who have promoted our athletes and shared with the world our women’s tennis.
Eight amazing, fantastic years when we started with Sony Ericsson and now Sony Mobile. If Billie was here, she would say Sony Ericsson epitomized the best sponsor in the world. Not only did they give us financial support, they gave us the heartbeat and the energy to dream big and go big.
They got it. They wanted a strong WTA brand and they pushed us. They energized us and pushed us beyond our comfort level, lots of innovations, and cut‑through promotions for women’s tennis.
A few of my key memories, we played tennis in the dark. Night tennis was a lot fun. That was really, really cool. I think that was one of our best.
We played tennis in the middle of Seville when Real Madrid was playing.
We played tennis in the desert sands of Qatar.
We played tennis on the top of London near the London Eye.
We even played tennis in South Beach on the top of cars.
We all know Serena walks on water. We actually played tennis on water. And the help desk to promote the younger stars, and they took us into the digital age with the Xperia Hot Shots program, which was great last year.
When we said we sold you 26 Tier 1 and Tier II tournaments but we have to make major reform, we have to cut it, they said, We’re with you because we want a strong WTA. They were in lock step with the circuit structure reform and were a major partner in helping us through it. They helped us open the first WTA office in Beijing.
Probably or proudest moment with Sony Erisson was the achievement of equal prize money. They were arm in arm in this fight. The gentlemen in this photo, Miles Flint, the president of Sony Ericsson at the time where he signed the largest sponsorship in the history of tennis, in the history of women’s tennis. So Miles, I would like you to stand please, we’ll all give you a round of applause for your vision and all of your support for women’s tennis.
So they took us to the top of the world. We are at the top of our game. They made us believe, and they have left women’s tennis in a great spot. We are incredibly grateful for their historic contribution to the WTA.
But it’s a new day, a new road, a new horizon, and the future a bright. We’re incredibly excited about our new four‑year partnership with Perform. Perform is going to dial it up and do what Arnon Milchan wanted, more exposure for women’s tennis through multiple platforms.
Many of our Premier tournaments will have two courts covered. That will mean a 45% increase in the number of live matches. Right now today, when we have all of these great stars we only have one court to share on the world feed. Most of our of Premier tournaments will have two. That means when Li Na is playing and Angelique Kerber, we can now deliver to fans in China, we can deliver to fans in Germany more matches.
Perform will launch a new web and mobile site by year end. Our newsfeed will now be produced in seven different languages and be done on a regular basis throughout the day, including the daily wrap‑up. We are going to produce a magazine show for the WTA, 26 episodes which will provide great content and all of that off‑court personality that we know our athletes possess.
Tennistv.com, obviously have more matches available to fans because more matches will be produced. They’ll be very aggressive at pumping out the news through video on demand. This is going to be a real win for the WTA at a time when we’re looking for more digital distribution and more exposure overall for women’s tennis.
It’s not a secret. I told you last year, and it continues to be one of our key strategic objectives: the growth of the sport in Asia‑Pacific and in China as a foundation. We have the China Open, we have Guangzhou, and in 2013 we would had a new international tournament in Shenzen.
And I’m hoping, with good cooperation with the CTA, that we will had one, maybe two WTA 125s onto the calendar in 1213.
Now this jewel that we have, the WTA Championships. Where will to find its home in 2014. I think maybe before I talk about where we might stage the Championships in 2014, let’s maybe have a quick look at where we have been.
That was the video that was used in the big process. We launched a sort of 12‑month process, and we are now at the moment where we are going to announce the candidate cities for the 2014 WTA Championships. I’ll start from the west and go east: Mexico City, Mexico; Kasan, Russia; Tianjin, China; and Singapore.
I couldn’t be more excited to have those four cities bidding for the WTA Championships. Four amazing cities, robust economies, growth markets, and very much part of our international growth strategy
So we’ll now embark upon the process of working with these candidate cities with our agency TSC. They’ve done an amazing job, along with and Laurence Applebaum. We’ll meet with them and do the site visits, continue to talk, and by the spring of 2013, Lisa and Vanessa here will make the decision, the board. (Laughing.) We’ll bring forward to the board our recommendation of where the Championships should be held for 2014 and beyond
2013, 40‑Love. We are 40 years old in 2013, so save the date. There will be celebrations throughout the year. We will, as a tennis family, gather during the middle Sunday of Wimbledon and celebrate 40 years of women’s tennis
So although we have the Qatar Airways Tournament of Champions next week in Sofia, Bulgaria, we have our first 125 in Taipei. The sun will set tonight here in Istanbul. We will crown a new sultana of the TEB BNP Paribas Championships. These eight players will take a long‑deserved break.
They have inspired us in 2012. They have taken women’s tennis to a new level. This tennis has been incredible. What you’ve seen this week, you seen it. It’s just they keep dialing it up. I think they’re setting the stage for a very interesting and competitive 2013.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
ANDREW KRAZNY: We’ll open it up in here for questions for Stacey. Wait for a microphone to get to you and state your name and affiliation.
Q. Neil Harman from the London Times. As you can imagine while you were making your presentation, the world of Twitter has been flying with comments, not the least of which is on the Eurosport deal. How are people in Great Britain and in Europe actually going to see their tennis in the future?
STACEY ALLASTER: Yeah. What I can say to our fans for 2013 is there will be significantly more live matches available and multiple distribution channels available for fans.
Right now today, all of the deals are being currently contracted. Perform was at Sportel just two weeks ago, so they’re working this week and the next several weeks. So stay tuned.
But the good news is there will be a lot more matches available for our fans.
Q. Richard Eaton, AFP. The stats on appearances, revenues, and prize money are fantastically competitive. It’s all happened in the middle of a world recession, which is a remarkable thing. This reflects very well on the management of the tour, but is there any sense in which you can gather the attitudes towards women’s sport and women’s tennis are changing around the world?
STACEY ALLASTER: I give all the credit to the athletes and the tournaments, the members of the WTA. They are the ones who are out there driving the business. Tournaments have done a great job through this worldwide recession at managing their business.
The bottom line is fans love women’s tennis, and the tournament owners know how to drive people through the gate. The athletes are performing on court, and there is just this worldwide love affair with women’s tennis.
Q. If that’s the case, then the future should be even brighter than the present, shouldn’t it, since people’s attitudes are changing?
STACEY ALLASTER: Correct. That’s why I have that road with the sun on the horizon. I definitely think we’re just going from strength to strength.
When we started the WTA in 1973, when Billie Jean King founded it, we had $300,000 in prize money, 14 events, primarily in North America. We, in 2012, have 52 events in 32 countries with $100 million in prize money. So each generation continues to take it to the next level. This generation is certainly standing tall and doing their part in the history of the sport.
What we’re seeing on the court is I have the best female an athlete’s in the world. I know we can continue to bring world‑class sponsors to the sport in world‑class cities that are interested in the Championships.
There is no shortage of people that call us and say, We want a WTA event. That’s why we developed the 125s.
Q. The Grand Slams were all here represented this week, and I know they had meetings with the players. If you can tell us anything about the essence of the dialog you’re having with the Grand Slams and where your current relationship is with them as regards certain important things like prize money, et cetera.
STACEY ALLASTER: Well, I’m appreciative of all four Grand Slams coming to the Championships. It’s not new. They generally do come, in particular Wimbledon and the USTA and Tennis Australia have been coming for several years.
I can tell you from our meetings that we had with the Grand Slams that they’re very constructive and positive. They all four are committed to equal prize money. That’s obviously very important to our athletes and to our sport. They are all committed to increased compensation for the athletes.
So we left the discussion on that positive note. We know there is more constructive dialog to be had in the coming months. There is a lot of optimism that the slams are hearing the players and are going to step up.
I think while I have it, because you’ve asked the question and this is being streamed, I do want to take this opportunity to thank the leadership of the ATP, in particular Brad Drewett and the top guys. They’re busy. They have a lot on their plates, and on this particular issue they have spent a lot of time providing that leadership.
We have not sat on the sidelines. Brad and I have been in constant dialog, and it has been our choice to do it privately with the Grand Slams. Brad and I are in regular dialog, and I’m in regular dialog with the Grand Slams on the matter.
Q. You just mentioned that Asia‑Pacific region will be your priority for WTA to develop tennis in the next few years, and you emphasized China. Do you have any specific ideas or plans right now for this? Can you talk about Tianjin?
STACEY ALLASTER: Look, I think the foundation of our strategy was placing the China Open, upgrading it to the mandatory in 2009 as the foundation; opening the WTA office so we could be on the ground in China to learn the culture and how we can work with the CTA and the China Open and others in the sport to grow.
So we believe it’s working well with CC TV making sure that these 40 weeks are broadcast back. Our team does a lot on the daily basis feeding the website site that you all are involved in. Not only Chinese player results, but all players. There are Chinese fans that are crazy about some our athletes. So we do that.
Events are key because they do provide promotion and the very important development opportunities and ranking points for young athletes. So in speaking to the CTA, we talked about more 125s, more of the entry‑level WTA professional events to provide local Chinese players with those opportunities.
Tianjin being a candidate city obviously would bring a lot more promotion to develop the facilities for the country.
Q. Linda Pearce from The Age in Melbourne. Just following up on the Grand Slam question, what’s the WTA’s position on the distribution of the increased prize money pool? Do you think it’s time for a major recalibration of first round compared with alter rounds, or first week compared with second?
STACEY ALLASTER: I think together as a sport through these discussions, we’ve all looked at it ‑ and even this summer with my CEO roundtable meetings that I have with the athletes, it’s becoming clear that we need to try and channel and funnel some more prize money to the first‑week players so that they can hire a coach, cover their expenses, have little bit of money, put something away.
So I think I support ‑ we support ‑ this notion of looking at the distributions. It’s very important that we drive to the top. We know that the top stars are driving the business.
But the whole business requires the full system. If you’ve made it to slam, that is quite an accomplishment. You are one talented tennis player. So we want to make sure as we go through this exercise that we also look at the first‑week players in all rounds of the first week.
Q. Courtney Nguyen with Sports Illustrated. Stacey, going back to the issue of television and with Eurosport no longer being a partner, we’ve heard you mention the importance of digital media and the WTA getting on digital platforms. How important is it for you to continue to drive to get on television? Can the sport really grow if it’s kind of marketed exclusively on the digital platforms?
STACEY ALLASTER: We’re certainly not going just digital. It’s complementary. We’re going to have now a 45% increase in live matches being on television platforms. So let’s make sure that that is the foundation, no question.
The nice thing about digital is that it’s complementary, and it’s younger fan. It’s a a fan who wants to consume this traditional sport in a different way.
We have this dimension of on‑court and off‑court content, the digital platforms really give us an efficient way for us to engage with the fans. We’re in a great spot to be able to have the traditional broadcast combined with the digital.
Q. Ben Rothenberg, New York Times. I was wondering, you talk about mentioning the tournament in Taipei, the 125 there. It seems like the ATP has had much of an ownership role at the challenger level controlling tournaments down to I think 35 kids or so; whereas the WTA has always deferred to the ITF on that. Is that something the WTA is looking to take more control of, the lower levels of the tournaments?
STACEY ALLASTER: What we’re trying to do is provide complimentary jobs to the system. So we’ve had the great work that the ITF is doing. We want that to continue. That is very important for the overall development of the sport.
But we do do have a gap between the ITF 100s and the WTA’s ‑‑ our prize money is going up at all events next year, so our internationals will be 235s. We saw a gap, and literally I would say at least once a week, we’re getting a call from a city somewhere in this world that wants to host a WTA event.
We’ve got a shortage in our supply because we’re very disciplined with the Roadmap. We knew that we needed more jobs and strategic weeks, like second week of slams and second week of Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid opposite Tokyo where the cut‑offs are tough.
So we created this product. It’s in its test form in year. Just here this week we approved another one in Cali, Colombia, so it’s meant to be complementary.
Q. Matt Cronin, Reuters. You were talking a lot about prize money increases. I spoke to a couple of the doubles players the other day, and we obviously have the final coming up and I know that they would like to be part of the prize money increase, just on that. Then talking about city expansions, have you made a serious attempt to get into Africa that a maybe one of the part of the world that the ATP and the WTA haven’t been able to have any penetration in?
STACEY ALLASTER: So on the second question, on Africa, we are obviously in touch with Fez. (Phonetic.) I think these 125s may provide that opportunity. We have talked to South Africa trying to maybe bringing an international, but it’s not easy to go to that continent with our calendar, as you know.
We’re trying to have a healthy calendar, follow the geographical flow, the surface flow of the Grand Slams, and to go to some of those parts of world is not easy. But we definitely need to be there, and we’re also just trying to be measured and strategic.
Targeting at the moment the Asia‑Pacific territory. More work to be done in South America, but certainly Africa will be on the horizon, and hopefully we can find a way through the 125s.
Q. And the doubles?
STACEY ALLASTER: So your question is?
Q. Whether or not there has been discussions about increasing the doubles prize money? Even when issues with the slams have been discussed, it was mostly around the first, second, third rounds. I talked to some of the doubles players who would actually like to be part of the conversation overall about getting prize money increases.
STACEY ALLASTER: Well, as we know, prize money is always on the minds of athletes, whether they be singles or doubles players. We generally on the WTA have sort of an 80/20 at our top events. All 53 events on the WTA in 2013 will have prize money increases, and the doubles players will receive increases in accordance with that ratio.
You know that the Grand Slams will ultimately set their own prize money. There will be prize money increases in the doubles, it’s just going to be in the end of the day where it all flows out.
The Grand Slams are going to set their own distributions, but they are reaching out and wanting the feedback of the ATP, of our players. And so we’ll be working with our council, and there are doubles players on the council that can provide us some feedback that we can then give to the slams.
Q. Just thinking about the setup of the Championships in the future, I mean, we have a situation here where the men, at their event, play so there is always a day off between every single match. I think it’s fair to say that Ms. Radwanska looked absolutely shattered from her experience the day before. Can you extend perhaps in the future to make it a week‑long event?
STACEY ALLASTER: That’s a great question. The good thing that happened this week was the intensity of the matches, the quality of the matches, you know. But it was obviously incredibly tough on a few of the athletes.
We haven’t had this issue in the past. The good news is the quality and the depth and the rivalries are coming. For ’14, we’ve already contemplated more days where we would start on the Monday night. We are adding four doubles teams, so we will have the eight singles and the eight doubles players in the 2014 Championships.
I think we’ll work with the athletes once they get a bit of rest, work with their representatives, to see if we want to extend the days here. We would have to work with the TTF. And do the athletes want more days for next year?
Q. That’s true.
STACEY ALLASTER: That’s one of those things that would require a lot of dialog with the TTF and the athletes.
Certainly for 2014, it’ll be a fresh palette for us where we’ll be able to work with the new candidate city and decide what’s the right format for today’s competitive landscape.