"Yes, women’s tennis exists right now, but can you really say much more than that?"
So began Steve Tignor's recent posting on Tennis.com bashing the WTA. If you read the comments there you'll see a fairly healthy debate on the numerous topics he raised. But more importantly you'll see a number of WTA fans who took great umbrage to Steve's blanket statement that there were no storylines worth following in the WTA.
Uh, are you even bothering to watch any women's tennis right now, Steve? Or are you too busy writing 8 articles a day about how amazing Roger and Rafa are. Rafa's got a pretty big entourage but I'm sure there's room for someone to carry his jock. You should sign up.
The best response I've read was by an anonymous poster in the comments section of the article. I'll quote parts of it here:
Wait a minute, 6 different players have a legit chance of ending the year at #1 (with Safina looking like a strong contender to do so soon after), and you couldn't come up with a positive narative for women's tennis? Are you kidding? And what has been up with all of the criticism of the women's game for not having a dominant player? Those of us without short attention spans can remember just a few years ago, when the WTA was dominated by Williams/Williams, then Henin/Clijsters, and before that by Graf/Seles, or even Navratilova/Evert. And what did the tennis media do? Blasted the tour! Having a couple of players dominate, and routinely meet in slam finals, we were told was "boring", "predictable", and "exposed a lack of depth", and we were told we "might as well not even bother to watch before the semis". Now it's happening on the men's side, and it's suddenly the greatest thing since sliced bread? Holy Double Standards, Batman!
I've even seen one wag make the ridiculous comparison of the current WTA to what the ATP went through earlier in the decade, with the likes of Johansson and Costa winning slams. What an insult, to compare the recent WTA slam winners, Mauresmo, Henin, Williams, Williams, Sharapova, and Ivanovic, all lead-pipe lock Hall of Famers, to those two guys who, while good, were not great players.
This is not meant to disparage the men's tour-- only to point out how vastly underrated the women's tour is. If you guys could spin the Johansson/Costa era, and try to come up with positive takes, you sure as heck ought to be able to do it with the current WTA, which is leagues ahead of that. I'm not saying the WTA is at the best it ever has been, but it is a damn sight better than it's being given credit for.
But, hey, this is the tennis media. If they didn't have double standards, they'd have no standards at all. If you guys actually followed women's tennis more than 4 weeks a year (the 2nd weeks of the majors), you'd have no problems finding interesting naratives. Certainly, were the situations on the two tours reversed, you'd come up with some for the men (and we'd be bombarded again with how "boring" it is to have 2 players dominate)...[T]he inability to come up with a compelling narative about the WTA is not a fault of the tour, but the media's lack of familiarity with it.
TennisReporters.net also posted this response to Steve's baseless ranting:
Tennis.com’s Steve Tignor is a buddy of ours and a terrific writer, but we were disappointed to read his WTA-bashing column, “Picking up the Story,” where he says there are no storylines of note during the start of the hard court season. We didn’t see Steve at Stanford and LA, where there were plenty of them, on court and off. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of paying attention, talking to a few players, watching some live matches. Tennis Mag editor James Martin, another thoughtful guy, said much the same for ESPN.com, even though he rarely attends tournaments or speaks to players. Maybe Tennis magazine should hire ESPN’s Bill Simmons (aka the sport’s Public Journalist Enemy No. 1) to begin penning more lazy, easy-target, anti-tennis pieces for them. He would have fit right in during the last week. Of course, Steve and another writer will get a chance to follow the storylines more closely when they start blogging about the Olympics for NBC from their New York homes and offices, not from Beijing.
There is a reason why the vast majority of my posts are about the WTA. I find the WTA more interesting because of the storylines that Steve and most of the Tennis press are ignorant to. And unfortunately for me, I have to work pretty hard to find a lot of the stuff because the press doesn't cover any of it.
Everyone has a story. And more often then not, they're stories worth telling. All you have to do is pay attention.