Farm facing China
By demanding that the rape charges leveled by Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai against a former deputy prime minister “Subject to a full, transparent and uncensored investigation”, 66-year-old American Steve Simon is in a standoff with Beijing. And he does not intend to let go: not convinced by the reappearance of the sportswoman in the Chinese media, this discreet man, and until then unknown to the general public, assures that the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) is “Ready to withdraw [de Chine] its activities and to cope with all the complications that arise from it ” if the country refuses to cooperate. A commitment hailed by many personalities, a year after the NBA finally gave in to China, in a conflict triggered by a tweet of support for Hong Kong.
Savior of a tournament
Before arriving at the head of the WTA, Steve Simon led the American tournament in Indian Wells, where he entered as a commercial, from 2004 to 2015. According to the local newspaper Desert Sun, he applies a philosophy of “Constant change, innovation and improvement”. After helping to keep the tournament at its historic site early in his tenure, when threatened to relocate due to economic hardship, Steve Simon is making the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells one of the most popular competitions of the circuit – to the point where the event is sometimes referred to as “Fifth Grand Slam”. In 2014, a year before his departure, his career was crowned with the designation of Indian Wells as the players’ favorite tournament in the Masters 1000 category.
Promoter to Asia
Riding on the success of the Chinese Li Na at Roland Garros, in 2011, Steve Simon contributed to the development of the circuit in Asia – “Major continent in the tennis market”, according to the former president of the French Tennis Federation (FFT), Bernard Giudicelli. In 2018, he signed a juicy contract with the city of Shenzhen for the organization of ten editions of the Masters, where the best eight players of each season compete. “It’s a huge opportunity for us”, he confided to New York Times, by affirming that the organizers had pledged to invest nearly 1 billion dollars (888 million euros) for the competition, including the expenses of infrastructures and the sums awarded to the winners.
Estimated by its environment
Upon joining the WTA in 2015, Steve Simon received the support of several prominent players, including Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. “He has the professional skills, the relationships with the players and the intelligence required to run this circuit”, then estimated the Danish Caroline Wozniacki. His position in the Peng Shuai affair was also praised by Marion Bartoli and Billie Jean King. “He’s a real leader”, who has “The art of compromise without compromise”, entrust to World Bernard Giudicelli, who has dealt with him on several occasions. “It made it possible to keep the boat afloat thanks to the deal with the Chinese, but it is a deal which is fragile, as this crisis shows. “
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Peng Shuai case: who is Steve Simon, the president of the WTA