I’m not a marketing expert by any means so I could be way off here, but bear with me for a minute.
Yesterday when I went online looking for my daily tennis fix, the magical world of internet streams presented me with three options: Challenger tennis from Sarajevo, Challenger tennis doubles from Santiago or Has-been tennis from Zurich (aka the Champions’ tour)
The glaring omission from the probably illegal site’s list of streams was Indian Wells.
It wasn’t an oversight by the stream provider. No, just as it has been for as long as I can remember, the only way to watch the first round from Indian Wells is to pack your bags and head for the Californian desert.
It has been a similar tale at some smaller events this year. For example, it was frustrating not being able to watch the opening round from Sydney in January but early days of a Maters event taking place under a cloak of invisibility just beggars belief.
It’s particularly grating given that the tournament is one of the biggest in the USA – a market where tennis has been slowly losing ground for years.
Just to put Indian Wells into perspective:
Depending on your view of the World Tour Finals, Indian Wells is arguably the fifth most important tennis event on the calendar.
In 2010, almost 340,000 people paid through the turnstiles making it the fifth highest attended tennis tournament. The Stadium court there holds 16,100 people – more than Centre Court at Wimbledon, Court Philippe Chatrier and Rod Laver Arena.
With its inflated draw size and dual status it vies for “fifth slam” marketing jargon with Miami but another thing it shares with the Key Biscayne tournament is the absence of early round coverage.
How the sport expects to improve its market standing in the US when the second and third most important tournaments there are partially ignored is completely beyond me and I cannot even conceive of a similar situation arising in another major sport.
When you look at yesterday’s card you can see how the opportunity for some mainstream tennis coverage was lost. Former US Open Champion Juan Martin Del Potro once again looked like a player headed back to the very elite of the game and four out of the five American men in action won.
Even Donald Young, flogged half to death by IMG as teenager, picked up a win while on the women’s side, teenage prospects Sloane Stephens and Christine McHale justified their wildcards with opening round victories.
Maybe I’m missing something and there is an obvious reason why you have more chance of witnessing Halley’s Comet during a thunderstorm than you do of seeing TV coverage from Indian Wells, but it beats me.
Maybe I’m not missing anything, I’m just stating the obvious and it’s just another example of the nonsensical maladministration and poor marketing that continues to blight the sport.