Indian Wells and other tennis tournaments have come under fire for restricting access to on-site sports journalists.
On Thursday (March 2), tennis journalist Ben Rothenberg expressed deep frustration over various tournaments dwindling down the press freedom on the pretext of Covid restrictions. This included preventing journalists from having inside access to tennis players and their teams.
“It doesn’t rank high in the press freedom concerns, globally, but it is *deeply* frustrating and disheartening how many tennis tournaments used the pandemic as cover to roll back and restrict access for on-site journalists, blocking off areas where coaches and other sources are,” Ben Rothenberg said.
The journalist listed one of the most prominent tournaments on the ATP and WTA tour – the upcoming Indian Wells Open (March 6- 19) to be the latest event to cut down on deeper access for reporters, causing them to cancel their trip altogether.
“Indian Wells is the most recent offender, having hid behind lingering Covid concerns last year. That is not a cheap or nearby tournament to cover for most anyone, and cutting off access is going to mean a lot fewer reporters decide to make the trip there,” he said.
“There just aren’t stars who are reliably playing and driving interest” – Tennis journalist reasons the need for first-hand access to tournaments such as Indian Wells
Ben Rothenberg also made a remark about the sport’s plummeting TV ratings in recent times. He suggested that this was a result of the lack of consistent and established tennis stars – with Roger Federer’s recent retirement, Rafael Nadal’s withdrawals due to injury and uncertainty over Novak Djokovic’s participation at Indian Wells due to Covid restrictions in the States.
“The professional tennis tours’ popularity is not exactly at a high-water mark right now, if the tournaments and tours haven’t noticed (see TV ratings for tournaments, Break Point, etc). There just aren’t stars who are reliably playing and driving interest right now like before,” he said.
He observed that this created an even greater need for the sport to have journalists bringing first-hand stories about new and promising players to the forefront. Rothenberg further stated that the lack of interesting storylines due to restricted access made it difficult for journalists involved with the sport to find editors and outlets interested in second-hand accounts during the change-of-guard period.
“Restricting access and opportunities to hear and tell stories is deeply unhelpful as journalists struggle to find editors and outlets interested in tennis stories during this down period,” he said.