First appeared in BOXSCORE
By Aron Solomon
Let’s get things started with a tweet from your author:
This tweet addressed the honest words of tournament finalist, Liudmila Samsonova, speaking out in her press conference about how poorly-run this massively high-profile tournament was. She wasn’t alone in so doing – Grand Slam winner Elena Rybakina did the same mere hours before.
The Montreal event is a WTA 1000-level event, meaning it’s just below Grand Slam level. As for the tennis itself, Jessica Pegula won her second WTA 1000 event -, and deservedly so. Anyone saying that her win should go down in history with an astersk either doesn’t follow tennis very closely or is simply a dope. Yet their comments unearth the stark reality of a tournament that is going to get significantly bigger in a couple of years when it moves from one week to two weeks but seems remarkably ill-prepared to do so.
The crowds were amazing. Montreal is one of the world’s great tennis cities, with a ridiculous number of tennis players who live in a city that’s not conducive to tennis much of the year.
It’s super sad to watch other tournaments where great women’s tennis matches have stands that are 90% empty. The crowds were strong all week – so credit and congratulations to the people who came out and cheered the players on.
The (REALLY) Bad:
This tournament isn’t competently run.
There’s plenty of blame to go around for the past week. The WTA needs to have the courage to figure out how to honestly apportion responsibility between their organization and the Montreal tournament staff.
Was it simply a tournament being run by people who were pretty much completely out of their depth or is there a structural and leadership issue within the WTA that makes it impossible for them to make the right decisions (as Rybakina implied)?
The number one issue that killed the tournament this week was scheduling.
Where to even start?
With the 3am ending of the amazing Kasatkina-Rybakina match that had no business starting anywhere as late as it did?
With forcing Samsonova to play her semi-final against Rybakina not only on the same day as her eventual final against Pegula but on less than two hours of rest?
Each day found WTA and tournament officials scrambling much more than they ever need to. None of the challenges presented by uncertain and fairly wet weather were unique. What was unique was the ability of the decision-makers to drop the ball worse than I’ve seen at far less prestigious events.
It was embarrassing in new ways on a daily rotation.
The Ugly (but super funny):
Enter Cotton-Eyed Joe.
I was in the stands for the Pegula semifinal, on her side of the court, relatively close to the public announcement speaker. When the song, Cotton-Eyed Joe, came on – blaring in the middle of an absolutely critical point in the match – I can assure you that everybody in the stands was in utter disbelief, as were both players.
I’ve been to a lot of tennis tournaments over the decades and I can’t remember when something this dumb happened. I can’t even think of a good equivalency in other sports. I don’t know, maybe your team in hockey has a penalty shot in overtime and someone running the arena leans over and clicks off the lights just as your player is about the score and win the game.
It really was that epic a mistake, and made much worse by the fact that Iga Świątek won all 12 of the matches next 12 points, completely turning around the tone and tenor of a match Pegula was close to finishing out.
The funny part was, it was such an epic fail-army-style fail, that, for the rest of the tournament, and probably the rest of history, playing that song is going to make Jessica Pegula laugh, which is exactly why they played it seconds after for victory in the finals the next day.
But funny, unintended consequences aside, this mistake by the people responsible for running this tournament was a very public example of many things that went wrong through the week.
Here’s a small example of another:
This is part of a public park, a grassy area, right outside the tennis center. The tournament organizers converted this into a VIP parking lot for those who were willing to pay exorbitant prices to park their cars.
Rather than either not using a grassy area of the public park for parking, or at least having the common decency and common sense not to do it on days we were having torrential floods, the tournament and WTA directors are responsible for tearing up a good chunk of the front-facing park near the national tennis center.
What is this is more lazy than dumb is up to the city to decide, but as several of us who contacted the city on Monday about this inquired how quickly this would be fixed and whether the tournament is going to pay for the repairs?
Finally, The Best for Last:
This is a Golden Age for women’s tennis and as someone who loves the game and follows it extremely closely, the quality of play was fantastic. Being able to attend some unbelievable matches this week (I especially loved last weekend’s qualifying matches on the more remote, intimate courts) was just amazing.
Most of the players were great interacting with all the fans and I had several nice conversations with some of the world’s top players. It’s great to support these professionals who – even in trying times such as Montreal – love what they do and the legions of fans who support their endeavors.