New Rogers Cup format cheats fans

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:51 PM ET

If you don’t like the fact the Canadian Opens, men and women, are played at the same time, same week, for the very first time, you’d better get used to it.

It won’t be changing soon.

If you don’t like the fact that your annual two weeks of tennis is suddenly one suped-up week of televised tennis on speed dial, too bad. It’s not unlike the regular Williams sister withdrawals from the Rogers tournaments. You’d better get used to it.

“The tours wanted to have a bigger tournament to promote the sport. And, it would have been difficult (for us) to say no,” said Karl Hale, the Rogers Cup tournament director, putting on his happiest face.

“We lobbied for Week 33 on the schedule, to get the strongest playing fields possible. We got that. They want the sport to grow and create bigger events. This was the next logical step.”

It was the next step. Just how logical, we can debate.

I happen to be a tennis fan and I hate the fact that the Toronto and Montreal tournaments are going on simultaneously. In fact, I feel cheated by it.

Maybe it’s my nature to resist change but I got used to seeing a men’s event one week in Toronto and a women’s event the next week in Montreal. It became regular television viewing. They were the only tournaments outside the Grand Slams that I never missed. One I would see live, the other on TV. But now, in this A-D-D world in which we live, it’s all a grand mish-mash, all happening at once.

On Thursday, the quarterfinals of the Rogers Cup will be played at the Rexall Centre in Toronto and that is usually my favourite day of most tennis tournaments. Under normal circumstances, you get treated to four matches of consequence and substance on the same day. And here’s the problem.

If I’m a member of the tennis-paying public and I have paid good money to sit in the stands and sweat at Rexall watching Caroline Wozniacki play Li Na there is every possibility that I’ll miss out on Roger Federer playing Nicolas Almagro in the quarterfinal in Montreal, assuming everything goes according to form. And if that’s the case, I’m feeling cheated.

And I might feel the very same way if I’m sitting at home watching on television.

Consider what the CBC must do on Saturday, semifinal day in both tournaments. Now this is testing a nation’s summertime mettle. It’s one thing to be a tennis fan. It’s another to commit eight hours on a weekend day to watch television. For the NFL, maybe it’s worth considering. But there is no fantasy football equivalent in tennis?

The semifinals on CBC will begin at 11 in the morning and likely end sometime after 9 at night. You have a choice on Saturday: Read War and Peace or watch tennis?

And that’s without complaining that the women’s professionals are getting shortchanged here. It may be human nature, but if given the choice of watching Novak Djokovic or Victoria Azarenka, most of us will choose Djovokic. If given the choice between Rafael Nadal and Vera Zvonareva, I think most of us would pick Nadal.

“We’re going to compete for television time,” said Maria Sharapova, who should never be competing with anyone for television time. “Other than that, (things) are pretty much the same.”

The same for the players. The women are in Toronto this year, the men in Montreal. The tournament hasn’t changed for them. It’s changed for us, for those paying, for those watching at home, for those who care about tennis. And the clever tournament organizers made the centre courts in Toronto and Montreal look almost identical so that the blind eye couldn’t distinguish between cities. The tournament has more of a Grand Slam feel being in two cities from a television perspective — but Slams are played over two weeks.

This being a one-week event means you watch the same amount of tennis in half the time. And I wonder: How does that grow the sport?

How is the men’s event better when it’s been having Grand Slam fields for 10 years?

How is the women’s event better when it’s had great fields since the WTA altered its shoddy attendance policy?

“This works,” said Hale. “This works great for TV.”

Just not great for the tennis fans.

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/simmonssteve


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