FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The man in charge of women's professional tennis, Steve Simon, has been sitting close enough to the action at the season-ending WTA Finals this week — from a seat in front of the front row, as courtside as can be — that a player easily could wander over for a mid-match chat.
Hasn't happened. Probably won't, of course. Simon does say he interacts with the sport's athletes plenty year-round — "I'm not pen pals with all of them, per se; I'm not going to flop down on the sofa next to them, per se ... but I think we have a good relationship" — and listens to their concerns, many of which lately can be summed up by one particular word.
"Everyone's looking for stability," WTA Tour Chairman and CEO Simon said during an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday at Dickies Arena, which has a one-year deal to host the tournament for the top eight singles players and top eight doubles teams through next Monday, before giving way to the site's usual mix of monster trucks, rodeo shows, indoor lacrosse and concerts by acts such as George Strait and the Eagles.
One unresolved issue for Simon, with an underlying cause that troubles him and players alike, is when the tour's events, including the WTA Finals, will return to China. A year ago, the WTA suspended all tournaments in that country because of concerns about the safety of Peng Shuai, a Grand Slam doubles champion who accused a former government official there of sexual assault. Simon wanted a full and transparent inquiry into her allegations and a chance for the tour to communicate with her — none of which has happened yet.
Peng immediately disappeared from public view, then tried to recant. She doesn't leave China and was part of carefully orchestrated appearances during the Beijing Olympics in February.