Why the Grand Slam Tournaments Risked Playing Hardball With Naomi Osaka

The pandemic has solely accelerated the cycle. A spokesman for the French Open mentioned the event had obtained simply 500 requests for writers’ press credentials this 12 months, in contrast with roughly 800 in 2019. The New York Times was the solely main U.S. information outlet to ship journalists to the Australian Open this winter.

Widmaier mentioned credential requests for the U.S. Open had dropped to about 1,150 from a excessive of 1,500 a decade in the past. South Florida newspapers used to ship three journalists and now usually ship none. California newspapers used to account for a half-dozen credentials, however now would possibly take one.

ESPN, which started solely televising the U.S. Open in 2015, has normally averaged somewhat greater than one million viewers for every telecast. But final 12 months, throughout a tournament held without spectators that a lot of the prime stars skipped, tv scores for the U.S. Open on ESPN fell 47 %. Osaka ended up profitable the girls’s singles championship.

Donald Dell, a founding father of the males’s tour, the ATP, and a longtime agent and event promoter, mentioned media entry to the greatest stars is crucial for the promotion of any sport, and very important to participating its most loyal followers.

“Access creates name recognition, so when you say Osaka or Federer or Nadal is playing in a tournament it enhances the ratings,” Dell mentioned. “When Serena loses a final when she is going for the record for Grand Slams, it’s no fun to go into a news conference, but it is part of the sport and part of trying to build a bigger sport.”

It also can have a direct impact on the backside line. Sponsors usually pay tens of millions of {dollars} partly to have their names on banners behind prime gamers at information conferences and to have their merchandise, similar to a bottle of water or an vitality drink, subsequent to the microphones in entrance of the athletes. If gamers should not have to attend these information conferences, the worth of these offers may drop considerably.

More broadly although, rising participant publicity is at the heart of a plan that Andrea Gaudenzi, chief government of the ATP Tour, has tried to place ahead to increase interest in tennis. Gaudenzi, a former participant, needs gamers to grow to be the topics of documentaries like “The Last Dance,” the latest ESPN collection about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

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