Steve Simon is the new head honcho for women's tennis -- but just who is he?
The new chief executive officer of the Women’s Tennis Association is Steve Simon — and superstars like Serena Williams and Billie Jean King have already weighed in on his appointment.
Simon said he “jumped on” the position quickly after being offered it, and he’ll have the support of WTA founder King, and he also received a quick endorsement from Serena, according to an ESPN report.
Simon, 60, has gotten support from other top names in the game, with Serena Williams calling him the “right person for the job.”
Simon is no stranger to the WTA, having been tournament director and chief operating officer since 2004. He’s also played plenty of tennis himself — he played at Long Beach State, and also played on the Challenger and satellite circuits, before ultimately deciding to hang it up and work for athletic apparel company Adidas.
Simon said in an interview with ESPN that he had been called by the WTA board shortly after the former head, Stacey Allaster, opted to step down. They wanted to know if he wanted the position, to which Simon replied with an immediate yes. He said people don’t get opportunities like this very often, so it’s important to “jump on it.”
Simon was also asked about Serena Williams’ return to the Indian Wells tournament — Simon accepted a job at the tournament all the way back in 1989, which first got him his start in organized women’s tennis. He said he was “very pleased” with it and she “handled it like a pro.”
He added that the WTA is prepared for the eventual end of the Williams Sisters era, as they reach their mid 30s and begin to feel the effects of age. Serena Williams recently announced that she would be resting her injuries and sit out the remainder of the year. Simon noted that such transitions are commonplace in sports.
Simon said it’s not necessarily important that Americans be at or near the top of women’s tennis, even though the United States is such a huge market. He said ultimately tennis is an international sport, and European and Asian-Pacific players are just as important, as well as those from other regions of the world. He pointed to men’s tennis, which is dominated by international stars like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Billie Jean King — famous for winning the “Battle of the Sexes” against Bobby Riggs in 1973 — set up the Women’s Tennis Association that same year.
The WTA govers the WTA Tour, which is the worldwide professional tennis tour meant for women. The Association of Tennis Professionals governs the men’s game.
The WTA is headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida, with European headquarters in London and Asia-Pacific headquarters located in Beijing.
The Battle of the Sexes happened the same year, helping to promote the WTA. It was a series of notable tennis matches between a male and a female player, with the first being Bobby Riggs, a 55-year-old tennis player, versus Margaret Court, the second featuring Riggs and King — with that match being dubbed the official Battle of the Sexes due to King’s surprising victory.
Riggs was one of the best tennis players of the 1940s, formerly holding a No. 1 ranking, but he had been retired for 22 years by the time he faced off against Court and King. Court was the first to play Riggs when King initially declined. Court, at 30 years old, was the best female player in the world, but she fell in straight sets to Riggs, 6-2 and 6-1.
After Riggs win, he began to taunt other female tennis players, so King accepted and played on Sept. 20, just a couple months after the founding of the WTA. King won in three sets, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, prompting Riggs to say, “I underestimated you.”