Where Were the Chicas?

Thursday, April 26, 2007 /by

'Ola. The clock is ticking and I need to go cross-town soon  to catch the premiere of Jim Courier's documentary, Unstrung, which is an official entry in the Tribeca Film Festival. So I have to leave my Ivan Lendl post half-finished for now, but I will get it up for you early next week. It's a whopper.

For tomorrow, I'm planning a post that will appeal to those of you who enjoyed Sam and Andrew's recent Player Quality Index (see the Tier Time post) or Rosangel's  Top Fifty Head-to-Head entry (Headbanging with Rosangel). Not another word about it; I want to surprise you all tomorrow.

ShadowboxerToday's ESPN post hasn't gone live yet, but should be up at any time. It's an entry that may infuriate some, in that I try to treat a fairly serious issue in an irreverent way - the issue being, where the hail are the women during a European clay-court season that showcases the men's game in the best possible way: in tournaments of overarching importance (three Masters Series events, practically back-to-back), in either spectacular (Monte Carlo, the Foro Italico) or high-profile locations (Barcelona, Hamburg), featuring the top players.

Monte Carlo officially kicked off the Roland Garros Series by rolling out a Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal final. Granted, it wasn't a great match, but it was an extremely important and closely watched one.

And where were the chicas? Fed Cup. Whoop-dee-doo! And you know I love Fed Cup (or what Fed Cup could be, in a better world).  As y'all like to say, Pfffffttttt. . . .This week, the women are in Budapest. Take a look at the WTA spring calendar and you will see a very powerful statement about the state of the women's game. Beijing? Beijing? How about let's get into Milan, for crying out loud.

Of course, most of us are dying to blame the WTA, or Larry Scott, or Etienne de Villiers (don't worry, you'll think of something)  for the appalling lack of high-quality women's tennis on offer in Europe in the spring. But this is an issue that has a lot more to do with European culture than with tennis politics. The big, simple question is: Why don't the wealthy nations of western Europe support the women's game - especially now that is, largely, dominated by their very own? It's a tricky, compelling issue, but I'm pretty sure it isn't because there's a shortage of sharp-dressed European men (or women) who would like to get rich and famous by throwing the WTA equivalent of Monte Carlo.

Granted, the women play in Rome and Berlin (and, of course, our beloved Estoril!). But note that those events essentially started as the respective national championships of those nations. That is, the women were grandfathered into the Open-era paradigm  by virtue of the ITF and national associations' history and tradition of holding a domestic championships for both genders.

Apart from all other issues, this is another of those facts suggesting that maybe those troglodyte, conservative organizations, with their relatively pure mandate to seek growth (for the game and all those who play it) rather than mere opportunity, had a few good things going all along.

But that's neither here nor there; the uncomfortable question of the moment is, why isn't there a Tier 1 WTA event in Madrid (the fact that Ion Tiriac may be the one bringing it in is yet another delicious irony in this saga)? Basel? Frankfurt? Antwerp? Milan?  Marseilles?

Okay, gotta go - see you all tomorrow!

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