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August 9, 2018
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. I'll register my grievances here. I'd like to know why the WTA - members, players, whatever they are - can't be more professional in terms of this is the only sport I know where the players set the time when they're going to meet the media, and consistently they're late. In fact, you're eight minutes late. I'm saying that's good because most of the week we've been 15, 20 minutes late. There was a 2:15 press conference yesterday. At 2:30 we were told it was 2:45. This is time we could be watching matches, could be writing. It's a difficult situation here because the press box, the working area, is a distance away from the interview room. We spend a lot of time just waiting around for players who have set the time. They've said when they want to meet the media, but they can't get mere on time.
MICKY LAWLER: Well, that has to be changed.
Q. It's been going on for 20 years. First time I covered this tournament was 1967. Since the time they have had a separate tournament here, every year it's the same problem, every year. I've talked to numerous people that have had your job, and it never changes. If the player doesn't want to be here till 2:45, say 2:45, don't say 2:15.
MICKY LAWLER: Okay. There are obviously things that do change for them. But it should be very easy in the day of technology to send you a message or say, Look, the trainer was running behind, I couldn't find a free shower, whatever. I'm going to be 10 minutes late.
Q. Maybe like every other sport, right after the match they come and talk to the media.
THE MODERATOR: Other questions.
Q. Every year this tournament sets fan attendance records.
MICKY LAWLER: Yes.
Q. For a one-week event, whether it's the women or men, WTA or ATP Tour. Even beats out Toronto and the other tournaments in the world for a female or male event. Why is this tournament so successful in Montreal? Not that the other tournaments aren't successful, but why is this number one in terms of fan attendance?
MICKY LAWLER: I think the team has invested and continues to invest a lot in looking at ways to keep improving on the event. It was my first time here yesterday. Eugene took me around the venue and explained the history of how it went from a baseball stadium to the city and the state and the federal government bringing investment together to build a specific tennis facility because the baseball team moved to another arena, so now this was going to be dedicated to tennis.
In the way that he looks at how the seating is commercialized, how the fan village is laid out, it's very clear to me, who visits many tennis facilities around the world, that the thought here is really fan-first. That is the right way to think, obviously. Even in looking at how the public space was laid out, his question was, What do you think? Is this the optimal way to lay it out?
That always translates to the fan knowing that their voice or their habits are studied and they're prioritized. I think that's number one.
Number two, the fields are always very strong. The fans here know tennis. That's obvious. Then Tennis Canada has done a great job of training per region. The training facility here is very impressive. They have Har-Tru courts here on the roof. It's just a beautiful facility.
Then you talk to the juniors, how they come here for their regional championships, they've come here for nationals. The whole infrastructure is very much geared toward success for the sport.
Q. Talking about the infrastructure going forward, Eugene Lapierre is suggesting eventually he wants to put a retractable roof over the center court. He says it's the trend in tennis. You see it as most of the majors. He's trying to get ahead of the ball, coming from him rather than the WTA or ATP. Do you think that's necessary? Is that, like, a prerequisite to keep a tournament in Montreal in the years ahead?
MICKY LAWLER: No, not a prerequisite. In the theme of he's always looking, What's the next best thing? How can we make this better and better and better? Never resting on his laurels.
We've had rain. So then the other tournaments are solving that by becoming rain-proof. That's future-proof. So being the market that it is in here in Montreal, I think it would be great. It's also expensive.
Is it a prerequisite or necessary? No, but it's probably coming, right? If I were a betting woman, I'd say it's probably coming at some point in the next five to 10 years.
Q. Any other changes that you see that are required in order to keep this tournament as popular as it is? Any pressures you're putting on Eugene or any suggestions?
MICKY LAWLER: No. The team here is best in class. It's such a pleasure to be here because, in fact, we're working on our Finals moving forward. You get a lot of ideas here of what you can do, what to avoid. It's perfect.
The seats for the fans, there's not a bad seat in this house. We've looked at all of them. The atmosphere is very inclusive. The player facilities are amazing. The people are amazing. It's one of the best tournaments in the world, for sure.
Q. You mentioned the tournament, the facilities and everything. However, the tournament compared to the men's tournament is not the same category. The prize money is less, the points are a little less, as well. Do you see any way this tournament can get to that next level where the prize money would be the same and maybe there would be less withdrawals from players and stuff like that?
MICKY LAWLER: Well, the tournament is one of the top nine on the WTA Tour, so it is comparable to the men. The sports do not mirror each other exactly. But in as far as if you take these similar two contexts, then they are pretty similar.
The prize money and the points, that again is structured a little bit differently. But I do see this tournament continuing on its growth trajectory.
If you take the general growth of women's tennis around the world, Canada is one of the beacons. You have the Premier Mandatories, four of them, then the Premier 5s, so it's one of the top nine.
The western tournaments are the traditional tennis markets, then you see a lot of emergence of the east, specifically in Asia, specifically in China. You see that the east looks towards the west to learn how a tennis event is run. Together the popularity keeps growing.
It's sometimes tough in my role because you try to balance. You always try to do what's best for the sport. There's a lot of demand for women's tennis. Tournaments have left markets in Europe. Tournaments have left the United States. That is what's harder to keep up than the men, I would honestly say. It's harder for traditional tournaments to keep up with the cash infusion that new markets receive than it is to keep up with the ATP.
Q. In other words, you do not see in the short-term this tournament becoming a Premium Mandatory [sic]?
MICKY LAWLER: Mandatory? No, no. But that's not because of any weakness here. It's because there are only four, and they're not going anywhere. But the five exclusive club of the Premier 5s are also not going anywhere. They also keep growing in tandem with those mandatory events.
I think the field here is extremely strong. You certainly have a top product. Is there a reason to seek one of those Premier Mandatories? I don't think so.
Q. Why are the Premier Mandatories capped at four? This tournament could offer more prize money, has offered more prize money, but the WTA has turned it down.
MICKY LAWLER: It has?
Q. I mean, I was told that Tennis Canada was willing to put the same amount of prize money as the men's tournament, and the WTA said that would throw everything out of whack with the other tournaments.
MICKY LAWLER: Well, that's news to me because I don't think the WTA can set caps when it comes to prize money. We try to work within a structure.
Is this tournament in a position where the WTA tries to limit it? Absolutely not.
Q. So this tournament could offer more prize money if they wanted to?
MICKY LAWLER: Sure.
Q. That's not the impression that Stacey Allaster used to give. I was told if this tournament offered more money than, say, Cincinnati, it would be unfair to Cincinnati.
MICKY LAWLER: Well, there are a lot of legal issues in terms of setting prices that the WTA would never get into.
As far as changing the player commitment, the reason why the player commitment is set in the manner that it is is because there are so many players, there are so many tournaments. The players travel around the world all year round, and they have a very hectic existence. You know that there are injuries that happen. We put a lot of stress on the athletes. We need to balance that as well as the rest of the WTA Tour.
So asking the players to play one more premier mandatory then does bring things into a lack of balance. We've spent a lot of time looking at that. We continue to.
If there is an opportunity to add another tournament, then we need to see what corrections we need to be made in another area. But we are always looking at maximizing the opportunity for each city and for the athletes, trying to maintain a healthy balance, if that makes sense.
Q. Yesterday there was the injury to Buzarnescu. After the match, as Svitolina mentioned, she thought it took a long time. Turns out, it was only two and a half minutes. She still thought it took long. She figured, like, what if there is a player that has a heart attack or something. What is your response on how the WTA handles medical situations?
MICKY LAWLER: The WTA has to work within the facility. The facility has training rooms in one place. The trainers are busy in those training rooms. Then they come on court as fast as they can.
It's not like in football, for example, where the entire team is either on the bench or on the field, and everybody is on the field. This is a little bit different.
Two and a half minutes. We reviewed the footage very extensively, and the trainer ran from the training room to the court. It took her two and a half minutes. She's carrying a lot of equipment.
When you're in that moment, I don't know if you've ever been in a serious situation, a crisis situation like that, but it seems to go on forever. I think treatment was given fast. It was done well. She was taken to the hospital. I don't know what we could have done better.
When the trainers are not busy in the training room, they are courtside. They are often courtside. But sometimes they can't be. Again, you need to do the best that you can to balance treatment everywhere.
I thought yesterday was horrifically unfortunate, but the team did a great job. Two and a half minutes may have seemed like 20 minutes, but it was two and a half minutes.
You guys are tough.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
MICKY LAWLER: Thank you. And I will absolutely take on this media issue.
Q. It's a question of professionalism, respect for the press.
MICKY LAWLER: You're right. I started in that job.
Q. This organization has not had a lot of respect for the media over the years.
MICKY LAWLER: Well, I'm very sad to hear that, that that's your perception, because we do a lot of work.
Q. That's my reality.
MICKY LAWLER: Well, I am sorry this is your reality. I can tell you the work -- we do so much work for the media. Let's take this up. Let's see if we can improve on this issue. I promise you that we are going to do our best.
What I wanted to tell you was I started in 1986 in that job. I know how frustrating it can be to get the player to the media, and the player has lots of priorities.
Q. It's, again, they're setting the time.
MICKY LAWLER: Yes.
Q. They're setting the time. We're not setting the time. We're not asking them to be here at a certain time. They're telling us to be here at a certain time. They should be here.
MICKY LAWLER: Absolutely.
Q. Thank you.
MICKY LAWLER: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports