Linz, Feb. 11, 2023 – In its long history, the Upper Austria Ladies Linz has not only welcomed 18 of the world’s 28 No. 1s, but this year the tournament is also playing host to the President of the Hologic WTA Tour. After arriving in Linz on Wednesday, Micky Lawler has been visiting the time-honored event where she headlined Austria’s first ever Women’s Sport Symposium ‘Advantage Ladies’ initiated by Sport Austria and the Austrian Tennis Association. Joining her at the annual conference to spark dialogue about gender equality in sport were the Tournament Director Sandra Reichel, Tournament Ambassador Barbara Schett and various top national and regional representatives across the government and sport, such as the Federal Vice Chancellor and Minister of Sport, Werner Kogler, and the Federal Minister of Women’s Affairs, Susanne Raab. Whilst taking time off for a spot of sightseeing around the beautiful city on the River Danube accompanied by the Tournament Founder Peter-Michael Reichel, Micky Lawler also sat down with the media.
…the new Design Center venue:
“I have never been to the old location, but the players could not ask for a better set-up at the Design Center. Having the hotel nearby is also a bonus in its convenience. The whole set-up here in Linz is so well-structured. The venue looks ageless and really well laid-out with beautiful conference facilities, nice restaurants for visitors and plenty of room for players.”
…the importance of the Upper Austria Ladies Linz for the WTA and why the players love returning:
“I’ve been hearing about Linz for thirty-two years. As the second oldest indoor event, Linz is a flagship Hologic WTA tournament in our 50-year history. The Austrian market is fundamental to our sport.
“Many of our players have broken through in Linz, and the latest one is Coco Gauff in 2019. The Reichels are a great family and very important for the Hologic WTA Tour. Peter-Michael Reichel has been on the Hologic WTA Tour board for many years and Sandra was a player and then a tournament director. The Upper Austria Ladies Linz event is the perfect WTA story with the ultimate bonus of having Barbara Schett-Eagle as the tournament ambassador.
“Linz is one of the pillars of our Tour. The team here is part of WTA’s extended family. I know this sounds a little sentimental but that is because of what this event means to all of us who have dedicated so much to women’s tennis. The players come to Linz because they feel welcomed so warmly here. Feeling right at home in Linz is so important when you spend the year traveling. The season is long and very demanding. So, when you have a week during which things feel so right, it is appreciated greatly.”
…where she sees the Linz event in the future:
“To me, it’s a fantastic event and we are lucky to have it on the calendar. The WTA has evolved so much over the past fifty years. Linz has played an important role in that evolution. It is key for every stakeholder of the WTA to be able to rely on those that have built the Tour’s solid foundation. Linz has seen us through many uncertain times, including the financial crisis of 2008 and the global Covid-19 pandemic. Our fans, our sponsors, our media partners and broadcasters have all been able to count on the ‘here to stay’ reliability of Linz. The Upper Austria Ladies Linz tournament has gone from strength to strength as each generation passed. The reason for this is that the team continues to do a phenomenal job, which encourages continued support from the players. We at the WTA are very grateful to be able to maintain a position of importance in the European market, where tennis was born.”
…the chances of the Upper Austria Ladies Linz becoming a WTA 500 tournament:
“I wish I had a crystal ball that could show us all the right answers. There is a process that involves careful consideration to achieve the right balance between all of the equally important elements that make up the Hologic WTA Tour. We expect to have those right answers soon. Does Linz fulfill many of the characteristics of a 500 tournament? Yes, of course! At the end of the day, my own takeaways are that the Upper Austria Ladies Linz tournament is a very important event for Linz, for Austria, for Europe and for the global Hologic WTA Tour. Whether the distinction between 250 and 500 is the right one for the tournament is a decision by both the tournament and the WTA.”
…the players to watch out for and who might take over from Serena Williams:
“I don’t think there will ever be a second Serena Williams. For that matter, there will not be a second Iga Swiatek or a second Maria Sakkari. Superstars have earned their own constellation, and each one is different. The new generation will keep our sport moving forward. This has been one of the only consistencies over the past 50 years of the WTA. As each generation arrived, records were broken and women’s tennis has continued to blossom. Our history is made up of torch bearers who have never failed to amaze and surprise.”
…what she would choose, if she had one wish:
“Equal opportunity and equal reward.
“We are strong in our differences. Let’s take that talent…that gift of nature and be unstoppable together.”
…the impact of the WTA’s Original 9 on tennis and other sports over the past 50 years:
“Without the Original 9 there would be no Hologic WTA Tour. They are the forever mothers of every generation of WTA players and tournaments. One could argue that the Original 9 paved the way for other women’s sports as well. They took the courageous stance to put it all on the line in order to do things the right way. With the help and guidance of Gladys Heldman and in the words of our first global sponsor, Virginia Slims, ‘we have come a long way.’ We owe it all to the Original 9.
“People are coming to realize that women’s sports are really fantastic to watch. We also have the opportunity to fill the stories behind the sports and the female athletes. It also makes it more interesting. People really appreciate what we have to offer. So, I think we’ve done a lot for other women’s sports too.”
…where she sees the WTA in 10 or 50 years:
“More growth, equality, true equality. I think true equality is absolutely coming and then there will be more story.”