Fresh off of its golden anniversary, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) is reorganizing. The organization, founded by Billie Jean King in 1973, will be searching for a new CEO to replace Steve Simon who has been in the role since 2015.
For those who believe this reorganization is a result of missteps by Simon and the WTA last season, the official word is that this has been in the works for a while and is completely unrelated. Simon is not leaving the organization. He is moving into the role of Executive Chairman.
The most significant item for the new CEO to tackle is the WTA Finals. Unlike the ATP which has a years-long contract in Turin, Italy for its event, the WTA Finals is moved around every year. To make matters worse, the players often do not know the location until two months before. In the 2023 ATP Finals, Cancun was selected after the WTA seriously considered having the event in Saudi Arabia.
A new WTA CEO needs to be the fixer
Players and former players had sharp and divisive opinions on selecting Saudi Arabia. By choosing Cancun at the proverbial 12th hour, there was a frenzy of activity to build an outdoor stadium on top of a golf course in hurricane season. The event was a mess in more ways than one as noted by Aryna Sabalenka who said she felt disrespected by the WTA.
Another issue was how the Madrid Open handled the women’s doubles trophy presentation and speeches. Champions Victoria Azarenka and Beatriz Haddad Maia and runners-up Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula were awkwardly handed their trophies and rushed off the court without having an opportunity to speak.
Champion Elena Rybakina’s trophy presentation at the Italian Open was another head-scratcher. She spoke first which is when the runner-up traditionally speaks and walked over to pick up the trophy because it was not presented to her.
Tennis produced 7 out of the top 10 highest-earning female athletes in 2023. Hopefully, a new WTA CEO can right the ship by fixing these and other issues to protect the credibility and reputation of the sport and its athletes.