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Is the WTA better than the ATP?

by Jonas Eriksson

Yeah, it’s a headline for brevity. When I write “is the WTA better than the ATP?”, I mean – is it more interesting to watch at the moment?

I’ve been thinking about this question because I haven’t paid much attention to the WTA since the days of Justin Henin-Hardenne, a player whose one-handed backhand was so impressive, you could watch it just for that. Why? The main reason is that it’s almost impossible to keep up to date with two tours. But women’s tennis was many years not the most fun to watch, where it was all grunting baseline power rallies and not much in terms of finesse. This has changed drastically, which makes me ask the question: “is the WTA better than the ATP“? Is the variety of players and the more “unknown outcomes” more interesting on the WTA Tour than on the ATP Tour?

On the ATP Tour, we have gotten used to the narrative of the three GOATs winning almost everything. I love watching the three best tennis players of all time duke it out and challenge each other over tennis history, but when that narrative has been played out and they’ve retired their racquets – what are we left with? At the moment, it’s difficult to say. Sure, there are many fun players to watch on the ATP Tour, but will it be the same without Federer, Nadal and Djokovic?

The WTA Tour is going strong

The GOAT on the WTA, Serena Williams, is chasing her 24th grand slam title. Will she make it? It looks increasingly doubtful, but one thing we know about Serena is that she won’t give up. But the WTA Tour has grown significantly more competitive in the last couple of years. There is a wider group of players that can challenge, the styles are less two-dimensional, the pace of the game has increased and there are simply a bunch of interesting storylines and players around almost every event.

Just look at the quarter-final line-up in Rome: Ash Barty vs Coco Gauff (who beat Sabalenka), Svitolina vs Swiatek (interesting match with contrasting styles), Pliskova vs Ostapenko, and Pegula (who beat Osaka) vs Martic. Some strong encounters there!

Okay, the ATP is not in a bad place either!

Without the GOATs, my gut reaction is that the ATP Tour is not quite there. Perhaps because the three best players in the world have been so dominant, that it’s been hard for other players to step up.

They’re trying though. Both Sinner and Shapovalov came very close to beating (Shapo had two match points) Nadal, but Rafa does Rafa things and wins anyway.

But when I look at the draw for the quarter-finals in Rome, maybe the ATP is also in a good place? Or what do you say about Djokovic vs Tsitsipas, Zverev vs Nadal (revenge?), Rublev vs Sonego (beat Thiem!), Opelka vs Delbonis (who saw this match coming?).

These are some mouth-watering match-ups! (Check out the order of play here) Maybe both tours are doing well? Maybe tennis is doing well? Discuss!

Why not one Tour?

The competitive tennis world is strange. ITF, ATP, WTA, Grand slams, player organizations, etc. It’s a land of confusion (cue Genesis song). Why not have one organization for all of it? Or at least merge the WTA and ATP under one roof? I think tennis would win a lot from more unity. For the viewer, the players, the sport, it should be a win-win-win.

I know some players have asked for this for a long time (Billie Jean King raised it ages ago, Rafa and Roger talked about it on their Instagram live during the lockdown) and it does make sense. I guess politics come in the way. But it should be something to strive for at least!

Okay, lots of things to unpack here. Keen to hear your thoughts on my rambles.

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Hans May 14, 2021 - 10:29

I often see this kind of ATP vs WTA clickbait thing.
Luckily, we don’t have to chose one over the other and it’s perfectly OK to watch both. Just sign for a monthly or yearly subscription and then watch more tennis than you can fit into your calendar. WTA costs about half as much as ATP.

WTA: http://www.wtatv.com/
ATP: https://www.tennistv.com/live

The ATP platform (TennisTV) is way better and I wish WTA could move their content to that platform ASAP. The WTA platform is primitive and has little historical content. Features while watching live are limited and resolution not up to modern standards. TennisTV (ATP) goes back to 1990 with historical content and the platform does what can be expected.

There has been some talks about merging WTA/ATP and I think it would be a harmless and risk free start just to put the WTA content on the TennisTV platform. This will benefit sales for both ATP and WTA and they will both profit from this. WTA will get more exposure and people only subscribing to ATP today will find it convenient to add the WTA content with a click.

I personally follow both tours and when it comes to WTA/ATP 500/1000 events, there are certainly more popcorn match-ups in the WTA corner over the course of the entire tournaments. I probably spend more time watching WTA totally. However, the quality of WTA 250-events is not as good as ATP 250 so it will be the opposite situation there.

If I could wish for something, it would be for these platforms to add streams with court level camera angles. They already film this so it’s only about adding a separate stream to the events. I would pay more for this.
I heard some commentator say that the Germans could do this at the Stuttgart tournament recently if I remember correctly.

Would be interesting to see Tennisnerd put some journalistic pressure on the platform owners and interview them about alternate camera view streams.
Court levelish views sometimes happens in WTA 250 matches when played on small arenas and that alone is a reason to watch.

Lucas Mastelaro Cunha May 14, 2021 - 16:03

WTA is 95% boring and double faults.
Very few attracting games and no 5 sets, so no special emotion at all on Grand Slams

J May 15, 2021 - 01:32

Amazon in the UK have been doing a great job of covering both ATP and WTA tours included with Prime.i think, partially, the WTA tour is interesting because women’s tennis is developing and evolving back out to differing styles of play, with different match ups and effectively the women’s game has more space to evolve in to.
For years, as you say, it was a bit baseline basher grunty ‘pong’.
There has never really been a modern ‘complete’ female tennis player. Navratilova for volleys and the variety, tactics and birth of modern fitness training…..Steffi for the forehand, serve, slice, balletic movement, grace and competitive will to win…..Serena for the serve, power, backhand and elevating things in other ways.
It would be lovely to see more single handers and variety on the WTA. Justine…..Gabby Sabbi…..Conchita…….Amilie……

By contrast, the men’s game has been to the moon and back and the big 3, or even big 4 if you include when Murray went to number 1, have skill levels on the extreme so when they run to that ball you think they will never reach, they actually do something with it.
The men’s game has been pulled side to side, front to back, with the extremes of match ups between Roger and Rafa and with Djoko/Murray sitting bang in the middle however you look at the tactical applications.

It appeared that after the GOATS, there would be a void of skill, variety and amazement at the extremes, BUT, competition breeds excellence and there are little bunches of players at different stages, who have the potential to reach again for those heights. Maybe expand them. Who knows. Lots of deft touches and skill still all on display.

But…..essentially on the ATP it’s all sort of, been done.

Where as on the WTA, new things are coming to the fore, combined with what seems to be more variety, and personality. Differing size and stature, demeanour, application and a lot of room to evolve into for future WTA players with high aspirations.

If aspiring players abandon their tailored personal development early in their teens and focus on national association regimes and systems that reward their early success for a slice of the future upside….then the players will essentiall all come out sharing similar characteristics. The same can be said for some academies, which have great facilities but ultimately maybe just a business, and sometimes have a rather too fond of themselves figurehead who likes to post on social media giving what is actually totally incorrect coaching information and frankly laughable. Which is a shame, because some of his other stuff I found quite useful and the personality applied more infectious and endearing.

I guess the more individual the player, the more self driven and the longer they spend learning skill sets rather than learning how to bit a ball 6ft high over the net, the better the individuality of the WTA will be.

Make a bunch of racing cars on the same production line and even if after manufacturing someone tinkers with the engine and wheels….sure, one will be better, or a few, but it still all looks the same even if in different coloured clothing.

Make something bespoke and fit for purpose, tailored from the start and it would run rings around the mass produced option.

It seems we have a few individuals. Maybe I’m future we will learn their stories and how they got where they are.

Looking forward to seeing Swiatek Vs Svitolina, two of the very best movers on the tour. But, does one have more options in the arsenal? Too many options to chose from? Shot selection is king.
But then, it always was.

The future looks bright for WTA.
Barty, Swiatek, Sabalenca, Andreescu, Osaka, Gauff. Can one emerge to serve like Serena, move like Steffi, Volley like Martina…..with steel like Seles and flair like Justine? (I.S…..)

P.S…go Stefanos!!!!!

J May 15, 2021 - 01:44

@Hans, the viewing angle thing is an interesting option and observation.
They have done this in F1 and I’d be interested to know what the uptake was, and the cost offset, whether it warranted the infrastructure effort.

Not all tournaments can do this, and even those that can can do it on multiple courts. It’s not always easy to get camera positions that don’t impede spectators, or even get a position on the court depending on how it is built.
But, it would be possible with smaller fixed cameras of a lower quality, because I mean look at what we have in our smart phones these days!!!
With high quality TV live feeds there is the issue of cables….and power etc. And health and safety. But sure smaller cameras can be dotted for other angles, I’m just not sure how well they can be integrated into a live feed, which is why perhaps they are there for either review or user can designate that feed on playback on some formats.

The generic angle we see tennis from on TV makes the court look bigger than it is in a way, where as some of the closer court level angles show the sport in a totally different light.

The effort these pro players put in is quite astounding when seen, and heard from a different angle, as we have sometimes heard without spectators at some events during this past year.

I guess to an extent the extra angles etc may depend on cost Vs profit upside, it would be interesting to see how/what success/feedback other sports have had with this.

BG Davis November 22, 2022 - 06:33

“Justin” Henin-Hardenne should be “Justine”.


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