Tennis fans have lashed out on social media over embarrassing scenes at the WTA Finals in Texas after only a smattering of fans rocked up to watch the opening singles match between Jessica Pegula and Maria Sakkari.
The season-ending finals kicked off in Fort Worth on Monday (local time), with the top eight players in women's tennis set to do battle.
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However there were farcical scenes when Pegula's clash with Sakkari commenced in a mostly empty arena, with only a handful of spectators in attendance. There were only a few hundred spectators scattered around the stands at the outset, leaving thousands of empty grey seats.
The courtside radar readouts also initially displayed serve speeds in kilometres per hour instead of the more US-friendly miles per hour, which was quickly changed.
The lack of fans in attendance was all the more baffling considering Pegula is America's No.1 ranked player at the moment and a real chance to take the title in Fort Worth. Fans and commentators were quick to condemn the 'embarrassing' scenes, with many pointing to a lack of marketing and jam-packed sporting schedule in America as issues.
They should do combined event with ATP finals... This is embarassing for WTA
— Alessandro 🎾 (@alevilla1978) October 31, 2022
Another outstanding triumph for the @WTA marketing and promotions department.
— ModSocDem 🇺🇦🌹 (@mod_soc_dem) October 31, 2022
There are NFL, MLB, NBA games tonight too and I bet there will be huge crowd for those. Not the best advertisement for this Tennis tournament I'd say.
— Ali (@ali20teh2000) October 31, 2022
WTA did the worst marketing job ever. No information about live streams, ceremony, lack of content of social media. ATP will be doing pap walks and photo shoots days before first match
— Roksanche (@Roksanche) October 31, 2022
WTA never cease to amaze with their lack of marketing and promotion of their own product and stars.
— GV (@GoldenViews00) October 31, 2022
Literally, I'm a busy tennis fan and I totally forgot it was starting this week. The marketing is absolute garbage.
— Dat Is Funny! 😬 (@ThirstForTT) October 31, 2022
this is just sad for the players, they don't deserve this
— trippypepper (@trippy_pepper) October 31, 2022
I checked tickets for next week final. There is around 70% free tickets. This is a disaster. Top 8 tennis players from 2022 and barely any people came to see them.
— Ania Zosia ⚡🌈💛💙 (@Anna_Niezgodzka) October 31, 2022
The event began with another hiccup as an odd delay of several minutes was caused by a questioned line call on the third point of the opening doubles match.
With Desirae Krawczyk serving to Barbora Krejcikova at 30-love in the very first game, the electronic line-calling system ruled a 100 mph offering an ace. Krejcikova held a finger and thumb apart to show that she thought the ball landed out and asked to see a replay. No such video ever appeared.
That prompted a lengthy break as players and the chair umpire discussed how to handle the situation. Eventually the point was replayed, and again won by Krawczyk, this time with a passing shot.
Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova eventually beat Krawczyk and Demi Schuurs 6-4 6-3.
Can Iga Swiatek crown stellar year with WTA Finals crown?
Reigning US and French Open champion Iga Swiatek is seeking her ninth WTA title of the year and her 12th career crown at the WTA Finals.
The $5 million indoor hardcourt event will feature the world's eight top-ranked women's singles players and doubles teams with group-stage matches through Saturday setting up semi-finals on November 6 with the title matches on November 7.
An unbeaten run to the singles crown is worth $1.68 million, but after making her Finals debut last year, Swiatek knows it's a unique challenge compared to the usual WTA tournaments.
"It's just going to be a challenge to play against the top players day-by-day, not have time to have these easier first two rounds," Swiatek said.
"So I'm curious if I'll be able to play my top tennis from A to Z."
Swiatek is the only reigning grand slam champion in the field and has won eight titles this year, two at grand slams plus Qatar, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart, Rome and at San Diego only two weeks ago.
Her three highest-ranked rivals in Fort Worth - second-ranked Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, third-ranked Pegula and fourth-ranked 18-year-old American Coco Gauff - are all making their WTA Finals debut.
"It's a totally different experience, so having qualified before will help a lot," Swiatek said.
"I'm curious how physically I will be able to play this tournament after such a long season.
"It will be a test for me. Last year, mentally and physically I felt I didn't have much power. This year we did some things differently to have the energy at the end, so I'm curious to see if it actually worked."
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