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Keely O’Brien Prevails as a Tennis Tournament Director

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Fornaciari further pointed to the gender split of the contributor category in the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Of the 46 people who have been voted in for affecting the sport in a role beyond playing, only five have been women, compared with 41 men.

“Keely has earned my respect because she has good judgment and she’s a fair person,” Fornaciari said. “She treats everyone with a high level of respect, from the sponsors to players to people on her staff. That’s why she deserves this position and her stature in the game.”

O’Brien’s promotion goes against the trend of tournament director positions going to former men’s players. Within the last two years, three of the biggest combined ATP-WTA tournaments have awarded the tournament director role to former or soon-to-retire male players: Tommy Haas in Indian Wells, Calif.; James Blake in Miami; and Feliciano Lopez in Madrid.

Many of these appointments have seemed to be primarily as figureheads, with the recent players given relatively few operational responsibilities.

Andrea Petkovic, a current women’s player, said she thought women might be more tentative about raising their hands for a job they did not feel qualified for.

“Men are probably more comfortable filling the space with their presence,” she said. “I think women are less comfortable just being there. I think women would be more like ‘What would be my job description? Oh, I can’t do that right now.’ Men are more comfortable in just doing things, which I like, and I think more women should do the same.”

O’Brien, similarly, hopes that more women will have the nerve to go for the top spots.

“That actually could be the scenario: It may not just be that there is a focus on the guys getting the positions, if the women are not putting their names in,” she said. “Like I said, this job wasn’t going to be for me if I wasn’t confident and made sure that they knew I was the best person for this job.

“So if they’re not putting their name in, they’d better. They have to be hungry, because it is competitive.”


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