Anya Desmarest: On British player Johanna Konta, mixed teams and the future of women’s tennis

Written by Staff Writer CNN International Editor-at-Large @vincentdarling introduces us to Anya Desmarest, the general manager of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). Anya Desmarest is the general manager of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA),…

Anya Desmarest: On British player Johanna Konta, mixed teams and the future of women's tennis

Written by Staff Writer

CNN International Editor-at-Large @vincentdarling introduces us to Anya Desmarest, the general manager of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).

Anya Desmarest is the general manager of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), which represents women’s tennis around the world. As the former international press officer at the ATP, she has more than two decades of experience in tennis and has worked on event management and programming for tennis events. She spoke to CNN international editor-at-large @vincentdarling about the future of women’s tennis.

When will British player Johanna Konta win a grand slam?

On her current form and having just beaten Svetlana Kuznetsova in Madrid, I think she is well positioned to do well in the other grand slams. The draw is very favourable and there is the momentum around the number one player, with Serena Williams sidelined with pregnancy. She [Konta] should be OK.

Will the debate around the WTA’s policy on all-women and mixed-gender teams ever become a distraction?

While we do not tolerate any discrimination or bias in our organization, as members of the sport family, we are responsible for telling stories that reflect our values, identify talent and help to influence competition.

The WTA has always been about inclusion and the fact that we have more than 12 of our 15 Grand Slams sanctioned now for mixed-gender teams is proof that the tennis family is moving forward and changing. We are part of the sport, so when a sport is progressive, we will be progressive.

Why do many athletes leave the tour during the off-season?

There are varying reasons why players might need to consider their career. A young player who has been playing on the circuit for several years and has a high profile is on the way to potential career burnout. They may need to consider competing on the sport’s secondary tours — the Challenger Series and the smaller circuit — or taking a more leisurely approach to the calendar.

Why is the WTA, despite its success, still lagging behind the other major sports in gender equality?

We are one of the most diverse sports in the world. We’re only 14 years old and have approximately 27 million members worldwide. There are so many more gender equality issues which we are working with the SportAccord to address.

How does the WTA view men’s tennis?

We don’t divide our sport into those that are male and those that are female. Men’s and women’s tennis compete in the same tournaments and the sport is a sport for everyone. While we have won the Grand Slams on many occasions, it is not the main goal of WTA. We hope our event owners will consider the importance of women’s participation and allow an equal share of funds.

What does the WTA need to do better to engage fans around the world?

We have a very passionate and diverse fan base in every country, but we would like to see more interaction with the fans on social media, whether that is new social platforms or a more coherent program in terms of making the sport very relevant to our fans. We would also like to have a more formal program for those fans in order to reach out to them and have a greater sense of our players and their lives.

What is the biggest challenge for the WTA right now?

Tournaments are a daily process, and as we grow we must also grow in terms of our services to the members and provide a great value proposition to them and make tournaments well-attended.

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