Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Problem with Appearance Money

Posted By on Sun, Feb 26, 2012 at 12:49 PM

Tennis tournaments and tennis fans are getting shortchanged by appearance money.

The Regions Morgan Keegan Championships and the Memphis International Women's Tournament come to a close this weekend. Once again, there are several no-names in the finals and several big names who got several thousands of dollars in appearance money were beaten and are long gone, including men's 2nd seed Andy Roddick and women's top seed Nadia Petrova. Both lost in straight sets in the first round.

Take the money and run.

They ought to call it disappearance money.

Here are the names and faces that appeared in the ads and billboards promoting the tournament: Roddick, Petrova, Cilic, Blake, Raonic, Hewitt, Querrey, Isner, Monfils, McEnroe.

John McEnroe played an exhibition doubles match Monday night that filled the stadium court to what looked like about three-quarters capacity. At $40 a ticket, that's over $100,000. He also did media interviews before and after the match. He played hard and well, and kept his temper in check.

Milos Raonic is in Sunday's finals. No problem there. The winner gets $277,915. And Isner and Querrey each won a round or two in singles and in doubles. Cilic, Hewitt, and Monfils withdrew a few days before the tournament due to injuries. James Blake got wiped out in the first round. Roddick lost to Xavier Malisse, but it was close and Roddick had been off the court for several weeks due to injuries. He's a gamer, and offered no excuses. But, sorry, he didn't earn his fee.

Petrova lost to a qualifier. Good grief. The sponsorless women's tournament is lucky to be here, with prize money of $220,000 in singles and $220,000 in doubles. The only woman who was a proven draw in Memphis was Venus Williams. Otherwise, the women's final in recent years has barely filled half the house. Last night was no exception. The doubles, by the way, was won by the drop-dead gorgeous Andrea Hlavackova and her partner Lucie Hradecka, aka the Scrabble board sisters. The photo with this post suggests the WTA and local promoters should perhaps try a different tack.

I love tennis, love the tournament, and wish it the best. But the players need to act for the good of the game and recognize the limited appeal that tennis has in Memphis, and the responsibility that comes with appearance money. On Sunday, the skies are blue in Memphis and the temperature is pushing 60. It's a great day for tennis. I think I'll go outside and hit some.

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