The women’s professional tennis circuit Monday named Stacey Allaster to replace longtime CEO Larry Scott.
Allaster, who had served as President of the WTA Tour since 2006, takes over an organization that is healthy but in the middle of a transformation. She will be charged with executing the tour’s new plan of adjusting the schedule to reduce wear and tear on players while ensuring the best possible draws. The tour also this year allowed for on-court coaching.
I’ll have a full Q&A with Allaster in my dead tree edition column later this week, but here are some highlights from a conversation with her from Monday morning.
On the health of the WTA Tour: “I’m incredibly fortunate to be inheriting a tour that’s in its strongest position it’s ever been in….We have diversified revenues. we’ve got our international expansion underway with China and the Middle East. We’ve got a good financial base and good reserves, and we’ve got a great product.”
On the “Road Map:” One of the primary reasons for joining the WTA was the vision Larry had for the circuit structure reform. I’ve been in tournament business for 15 years and status quo just wasn’t an option for us. We had to change.. it was all about having a circuit structure that was relevant to today’s athlete, to their bodies, to the pressure that they have so that they can perform their best….Let’s put the right event in the right dates where we know they want to compete as they prepare for the Grand Slams. Let’s put them on big stages so we can increase the marketability of the sport. We’re three-quarters into it and we couldn’t be more thrilled. It really is working…The fundamental pillars of the roadmap are in place.”
On the depth of the talent on the women’s tour: “I wake up every day and I have the pleasure to market the finest female athletes in the world. I think what we have going on tour right now is depth. It’s a recalibration where the established stars are finding their way and the younger stars are coming up.
“There’s no question that Venus and Serena are two of the finest athletes ever to play our sport. …As the surface changes, we get different stars. [Svetlana Kuznetsova] was the dominant player during that claycourt period along with Dinara Safina.”
On Safina Being Ranked #1 despite having never won a major: “The way that our ranking system is set up today, there is no doubt that Dinara Safina is number one. And she’s earned it…Dinara Safina is an incredible great champion. She will win a Grand Slam. There’s no doubt in my mind. She’s finding her way in those big moments.”
On Sony Ericsson and sponsorships: “They are a very active and supportive sponsor, the best sponsor tennis has ever had…We’re day-to-day right now and certainly in the coming months we will some discussions about what the future partnership may or may not be. I think we were all pretty excited when they extended their sponsorship of the Miami Sony Ericsson Open. I think that sends a good signal that tennis works for their business.”
On the possibility of a tour event in D.C.: “There’s always lots of discussion. I know Washington is a great tennis town. [Legg Mason Tennis Classic] Donald Dell has spoken to me on numerous occasions about finding a way to have a women’s event with the Legg Mason. We’ll continue with discussions and if ever there’s a way I know Donald would be happy to bring a women’s event there.”