Thursday, August 15, 2013

U.S. Open Notebook: A New Queen on The Rise?

In my last post, I discussed the state of male tennis in the United States, focusing on the lack of prospects and national coverage. Now in general, male sports are more famous and receive more coverage than female sports, however, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has made multiple strides in gaining popularity not only in the U.S. but throughout the whole world. Tennis is really the only sport where male and female competitions are televised together, receive equal prize money, and analyzed with equitable media coverage. A great deal of this is due to big names like Serena Williams (She also has a clothing line.) and Maria Sharapova (She also models). Needless to say, the WTA has found a way to gain more media attention, and it is through using individual players for not only their skills on the court, but their appearance as well.

Serena argues a foot-fault call with line official.
Endorsements are key for any athlete. It is another
source of income and it can help shape their image. Women’s tennis has grown because of multiple endorsement deals. However, in the US, female tennis is big due to the overall dominance of Serena Williams. Arguably one of the best female tennis players to ever step on the court, Williams might have started to hit her decline. She was ousted this year at Wimbledon earlier than expected, and who knows, she might be one foot-fault away from falling short at this year’s US Open. (See Image) So, with this decline coming over the next couple of years, and no young male on the rise for the US, are there young females who can take over the role for Serena in order for tennis to hold at least some prevalence in the United States?

The answer is yes. Sloane Stephens has assumed the role of leader of the young, American prowess on the female side. Stephens, who is one of only two women to make it to the round of 16 in all three majors this year (Serena being the other), recently signed two endorsement deals with American Express and Listerine. Sloane is to be the face of a new Listerine campaign, “HealthySmiles.” Commercial spots featuring Stephens will air during Good Morning America at the time of the US Open. What these deals tell us is that these corporations believe Sloane Stephens will be taking over US tennis in the very near future. Can you blame them? She has only begun her overthrow of American tennis. Not only is she a fan favorite due to the way she carries herself both on and off the court, but she is winning big matches. Just this week, she upset the number 3 seeded player in the world, Maria Sharapova in Cincinnati. I highly suggest to keep an eye on Sloane in the upcoming US Open, but I believe it would be harder to not watch out for her. 

Sloane Stephens is not the only young American who has potential to rise to the top 5. Madison Keys, at age 18, is a powerful player, who I expect to rise to the top. This year, she advanced to the third round of the Australian Open, the second round of her first ever French Open, and the third round of her first ever Wimbledon. Currently ranked at 40, she is at the highest ranking of her young career. Knowing that Keys seems to step up to the plate on the big stages, I would not be surprised to see her make a run at Flushing Meadows this year. Finally, one last name to watch out for is Melanie Oudin. Oudin made a run a few years back at the US Open, but has hit a road block in her young career. Like Jack Sock on the Men’s side, one big win coupled with good support from fans, and she might be able to make another run at this year’s Open.

Are there any other U.S. women I am missing? Will other women sports start to adapt the strategy of using appearance to gain more exposure? Let me know your thoughts. Stay tuned for my next post regarding renovations of the U.S. Open fcailities, including plans for a retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium.


Michael Proska is a freshman at Drexel University from Springfield, PA pursuing a Sport Management degree along with a minor in Statistics. Along with being a writer for the SMTSU blog, The Sports Complex, he has an internship with Drexel Athletics in the promotions and marketing department. Michael is a member of the Army ROTC at Drexel University.  Michael is the Secretary for the SMTSU.  Follow Michael on Twitter @mikeprosk.

Connect with Michael Proska on LinkedIn.

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