Scott Resigns from WTA

Sony Ericsson 2010. That was the first thing that popped into my head when I learned Larry Scott would leave the WTA Tour at the end of June to become the Pacific-10 Conference’s commissioner. It will come across as cynical, but with the tour’s six-year, $88 million contract with the cell-phone maker up next year and the economy in the pits, the timing for Scott could not be better. Scott, who put together the blockbuster SE deal, is nothing if not a calculated and shrewd businessman. The Harvard grad has built his career on it (including 10 years with the ATP, which were not as much of an unalloyed success – see ISL deal), and its part of the reason women’s tennis has hit a number of milestones under his rein, among them a 250% increase in overall revenue, equal prize money at the majors and the slimmed down calendar under his “roadmap” plan.

I’ll admit I was surprised by his exit, but despite the trite mantra of a new challenge, other factors must be involved. Scott had hit the proverbial ceiling in tennis. He wanted to be the sport’s czar/commissioner, but since the ATP and WTA are years away (if ever) from truly combining, that’s a pipe dream. Scott also has three children under 8, and the international travel must surely take a toll on his home life. Salary might play a role as well: Tom Hansen, the departing Pac-10 chief, is reported to earn more than $1 million in salary.

WTA staffers, I’m told, were shocked by the news, and probably saddened since Scott was well regarded both inside and outside his organization. Replacing Scott now moves to the top of the WTA board’s agenda. Among those that could step in on an interim or permanent basis are WTA president Stacey Allaster, COO and general counsel David Shoemaker or perhaps Steve Simon, TD at Indian Wells and chairman of the tournament council. I’ll be happy to call Scott a neighbor in the San Francisco Bay Area when he relocates later this year. The Pac-10 headquarters is in the East Bay city of Walnut Creek.

Leftover Notes from Indian Wells

--Is there any doubt Rafael Nadal is the baddest dude in tennis? Even the women are trying to channel their inner-Rafa for inspiration. Here’s what was between the ears of Victoria Azarenka’s after upsetting top seed Dinara Safina last week: “The image I had in my head there was actually Nadal, the way he plays all the time. I think his mentality, for me, it the best mentality anybody ever have. So I was just trying to fight as good as him, and it was pretty good for me.”

--It’s been ages since I’ve seen a male player serve with one ball at a time and take the second ball from the ballperson instead of putting it in his pocket (a number of women players still do it). In the desert, I found one: Philipp Kohlschreiber. Curious, I asked the German why, and he explained that he started to do it about 1.5 years ago when the ball kept popping out of his new adidas apparel. “They made a really small pocket,” he said. “The ball fell out a few times.” Kohlschreiber claimed he had improved his serve because instead of seeing a fault drifting back from the net, he turns away to receive a new ball and starts “a new vision.” Do his fellow pros give him crap? He said no. “Everybody has their own rhythm,” he insisted.


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