Whilst the best players in the world are currently competing in Indian Wells, the ATP is at a cross-roads due to the impending departure of ATP President Chris Kermode at the end of this season. It is clear that many players are frustrated with current their current treatment by the sport’s governing bodies. Vasek Pospisil, a member of the Player Council, voiced his dissatisfaction with Kermode thus:
“Start acting and running like a business not like a bunch of scared kids … we need a CEO that first and foremost represents OUR interests.”
But the ATP needs unity and stability now more than ever. Enter Anne Worcester, an individual who has the experience necessary to undertake this challenge successfully.
Worcester Grew Up with Tennis In Her Blood
To understand Anne Worcester and her involvement with tennis, one needs to go back to before she could walk. As a toddler, Worcester would witness her parents hit the ball back and forth on public courts in Long Island, New York.
“One of my favorite baby photos is me in a stroller at the public tennis courts while my parents played,” says Worcester. “They taught tennis as a second profession and they also taught my siblings and me as well as our friends. They are responsible for my passion for the game and all the good that comes from it.”
Before battling severe osteoarthritis, Worcester was an avid tennis player. One of her best friends had a clay court at their house, where Worcester would create many of her childhood memories.
“I learned to play tennis on our family friends’ red clay court, so I have to say that this surface will always have a special place in my heart,” states Worcester. “That same friend was my key influencer in going to Duke University so lots of wonderful memories at their court and home.”
As WTA CEO, Worcester Becomes Pioneer in Women’s Tennis
After serving on the Women’s Player Council, Worcester became the WTA’s first female CEO. A title that at one time was deemed to be impossible. It may not have been possible if Worcester hadn’t taken an entry level job at a company which eventually merged with others to form the sport marketing giant IMG.
“The only entry level position in the whole company happened to be in racquet sports,” said Worcester. “No benefits and no job security past three months. I said I’ll do it. And so I moved to Boston and set up shop and within a week I just knew I had found my niche in life.”
While the job of WTA CEO accelerated her career development and partnerships, it came with obstacles. In the mid 1990’s, tennis was still a sport dominated by men, where male players were paid significantly more than their female counterparts. But Worcester never lost faith that she could make an impact. Her passion for building relationships with the players directly made her a pioneer as the leader of the WTA.
“I have always worked in this very male-dominated business but I have never felt any disadvantage from it. Opportunities are never handed to you, they have to be seized,” affirms Worcester. “I do think I have had wonderful opportunities offered up, but then you have to act on it. It doesn’t come in a gift box with a ribbon tied around it.”
Worcester Puts New Haven On the Tennis Map
Worcester stepped down from her role as WTA CEO in 1997, when she was pregnant with her second child. But she wasn’t away from the game long, taking up the role of tournament director in 1998 at the longstanding New Haven event. In her capacity as tournament director, Worcester was responsible for bringing this event onto the international stage. She also served as the Chief Marketing Officer of Market New Haven, a partnership that has accelerated the growth of the New Haven brand around the world.
“I am super proud to be the tournament director of a large-scale international women’s sporting event and especially a women’s pro tennis event,” says Worcester. “At the CT Open, we wrap the live, world-class tennis with a festival of fun and exciting activities all week long. There is truly something for everyone, even those who do not play or follow tennis!”
Over the years, the top women’s players in the game have come to New Haven, in preparation for the US Open, which begins a week later. Petra Kvitova, two-time Wimbledon champion and last year’s winner of the Connecticut Open, believes the reason why the tournament gets such a competitive draw is because of Worcester.
“She’s an inspiration for us, for women,” said Kvitova, one of four Top 15 players who competed in this year’s Connecticut Open. “She’s still improving. She always has a great tournament—it’s always about the director.”
Anne Worcester Faces Critical Juncture in Career
Careers in tennis are filled with uncertainty. One moment you are playing your best; the next the career is over. For Anne Worcester, that moment came on February 1st. The Connecticut Open, the tournament that Worcester directed for 20 years, was being sold to APG, which is now hosting a Premier event in Zhengzhou City, China, this September.
This new tournament presents a unique opportunity for the WTA Tour to further the flourishing growth in Asia. But at the price of leaving behind a city and tournament that has been entrenched into women’s tennis culture for decades. And it leaves Anne Worcester looking for a new opportunity.
But that opportunity could be staring both her and the ATP, who must surely consider Worcester to become the organization’s next president, in the face. There are very few individuals like Worcester, that have the uncanny ability to effectively implement a holistic approach in their leadership. She continues to be a champion in driving the popularity and economic success of women’s tennis, which she could surely translate into continuing the brand growth for the ATP Tour.
“There is very few sports that can help with building a brand, entertaining a client, connecting with the correct demographic and social responsibility programs all in one fell swoop, and that’s how we’ve been successful,” says Worcester.
Make The Right Call ATP; Make Anne Worcester President
There was a clear divide amongst the ATP’s players on the issue of ousting Kermode. While Pospisil has been amongst his most vocal critics, publicly calling out Kermode’s leadership, others, such as Stan Wawrinka, have been supportive of the former President. While Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer offered tepid support for Kermode, Novak Djokovic, world #1 and President of the Player Council, is thought to have been against renewing Kermode’s contract. He has certainly been clear in his desire for a players union separate from the ATP.
“The governance structure of the ATP favours the interests of the tournaments and its [their] owners,” states Pospisil. “It’s time for a change and it can be achieved by staying unified and demanding what we deserve for our hard work”.
A move to hire Worcester to be President could be considered transformational as no woman has ever led a major male sports organization. But Worcester has a proven track record and a wealth of experience managing tennis players and tournaments. Her ability to cultivate relationships, from star tennis players to lucrative sponsors, has surely prepared her perfectly for the opportunity to be on the side of the ATP Tour’s competitors.
“I have had the good fortune of making lasting friendships through tennis. Retired players such as Martina Navratilova, Pam Shriver, Lindsay Davenport and many more…we have all grown up together in tennis and are friends for life,” says Worcester.
The instability of the ATP can only hurt its attempts at continuing progress. But a unifying, powerful influence like Anne Worcester will go a long way in strengthening its brand, while protecting the product on the court. Surely then, it’s a no brainer.
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