MIAMI – Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski won the biggest tournament of her career last weekend at the Premier Mandatory WTA Tour event in Miami.
No one outside the stadium got to see it.
Dabrowski and Yi-Fan Xu of China, a first-time pairing, won the Miami Open women’s doubles title with a 6-4, 6-3 win over far more experienced No. 3 seeds Sania Mirza and Barbora Strycova. But there weren’t any cameras on court to capture the moment.
Tennis.Life was there, armed with only an iPhone, and managed to grab the very end.
This is one of the under-reported casualties of the WTA’s current streaming woes. Since the break with TennisTV at the end of last season, the Tour has failed to get its tournaments back online, leaving a black hole for fans of women’s tennis.
When it first became apparent that the new service wouldn’t be operational to start 2017, the official line was they hoped it would be in place by April. It’s April. But they can’t pinpoint a date for its return other than they hope it will be by the end of 2017.
It’s bad enough that the fans can’t even watch. But players who are producing great moments on the court have little record of them. As well, too few people are able to watch and enjoy it along with them.
Want to watch women’s tennis? Good luck
The availability of women’s tennis on television is a bit patchy in many countries. For example, in Dabrowski’s home country, you can rarely find it in English, the language of the majority. There is periodic coverage in French on a sports network that’s almost impossible to find outside of the French-speaking province of Quebec.
That’s for singles. Doubles is an even bigger challenge. At least last season you could get the finals of major tournaments on the streaming service. Add to this mix some particular restrictions at the Miami Open (Tennis.Life endeavoured to get more details on this last week, to no avail), and you have … dead air.
It’s a crazy situation. Dabrowski’s Canadian fans could find countrywoman Genie Bouchard’s first-round doubles match in Monterrey, Mexico this week if they went deep enough into the Internet. It was a match at a small International-level tournament. And it wasn’t even on the main stadium court. And still, there was multi-camera coverage.
Fans will be able to get livestreams from the ITF tournament at Indian Harbour Beach, Fla. next week from a thoroughly legitimate source, via the USTA.
If you looked hard enough, you could find Dabrowski and Xu’s first-round upset win over Abigail Spears and Katarina Srebotnik, even though it had just one overhead camera, and the feed froze at match point.
But fans couldn’t watch the doubles final at a Premier Mandatory – no matter how far they delved into the ‘net.
Here’s a moment that added insult to injury.
As Dabrowski and Xu were in the middle of upsetting the No. 2 seeds Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina earlier in the week on the Grandstand court, workers were busy.
During changeovers, they activated and set up the courtside cameras for the next match, a men’s quarter-final doubles match featuring Dabrowski’s countryman Daniel Nestor.
For the women – no such luck.
We did manage to get some footage of the trophy presentation as well.
And here are Dabrowski and Xu talking about it afterwards.
While in Miami, Tennis.Life tried to get some intel on how things were progressing on the streaming side. But there isn’t much out there; whatever is happening, the higher-ups are playing it very close to the vest.
They were testing out the streaming during the tournament and we were told that on that end, everything seems ready to go. But everything surrounding the actual streams on the production values side remains a work in progress.
It’s a moot point; what seems to be holding everything up are legal issues surrounding the split with Tennis.TV. And, as we all know, those things always take longer than anyone would like.
Maybe by the end of 2017, the WTA says
In the meantime, diehard tennis fans that had been willing to pay for a quality streaming service are being forced to find … other options. The thing is, those options are free. Even if the quality is dodgy and the bells and whistles (like archived matches) are missing, it’s going to be very challenging to get the fans back to paying for the cow, when they’ve been getting the milk gratis.
For Dabrowski and Xu, there is a silver lining. They each earned $192,585 US each for the win; that’s more than Dabrowski earned all of 2016 in singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles at Grand Slams combined.
She also reached a career high women’s doubles ranking of No. 19.
Still, she might want to have some memories to go along with it.