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“We look forward to returning to China in 2022” – WTA chairman & CEO Steve Simon
For the second year in a row, there will be no WTA events in China in the post-US Open swing. But the tour’s chairman and CEO tells Tennis Majors that the WTA is optimistic women’s tennis will return to China in 2022
Steve Simon, the chairman and chief executive officer, says the WTA Tour is “looking forward to returning to China next year” after a second consecutive season of events were cancelled in the country because of the global Coronavirus pandemic.
In 2019, there were eight events in China alone during the post-US Open swing, including the WTA Elite Trophy, the WTA Premier 5 Wuhan Open, the WTA Premier Mandatory Beijing Open and the lucrative WTA Finals, which offered a record prize purse of £14 million. However, no events were held in 2020 in China because of the pandemic and the WTA Finals were also cancelled for the first time in WTA history.
The current situation in China, with borders still largely closed to foreign travellers, forced the WTA Tour to move the WTA Finals to Guadalajara, Mexico this year. The plan is for it to return to Shenzhen from 2022 to 2030 and Simon is optimistic that the China swing will happen next year.
“Our support in the Asia-Pacific region, especially China, has seen a rich history of growth and talent. With that in mind, we look forward to returning to China in 2022 with all of our event partners who continue to be strong supporters of the WTA, all culminating with our Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen,” Simon told Tennis Majors by email.
It’s the first time WTA official has been positive about 2022
Travel to China for non-residents remains closed. The Beijing Winter Olympics, in February 2022, will be the first big event open to international competitors in the country since the pandemic began but it will happen with strict protocols. Anyone who has not been fully vaccinated will have to quarantine for 21 days on arrival.
As the pandemic has shown, nothing is written in stone and tournaments remain at the mercy of government protocols. Nevertheless, this is the first time a WTA official has been so positive about a return to the Asia swing.
Meanwhile, as players chase ranking points in the coming weeks in a bid to qualify for the eight-woman WTA Finals in Guadalajara, Simon is looking forward to the season-ending finale returning to the calendar.
“This year’s WTA Finals is uniquely special,” he said. “From our partners, staff and players who have overcome challenges these past 18 months, we are very proud to culminate our journey in Guadalajara this season.
“Our players have worked and competed hard, week in and week out, and we want to honor that dedication with a WTA Finals they, and fans around the world, deserve. We’re embarking on a very exciting time in our sport with an amazing depth of talent. We are looking forward to these next few weeks as we announce more players in the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals.”
The WTA Finals will be held in Guadalajara from November 10-17. So far, world No 1 Ash Barty – the winner in 2019 – No 2 Aryna Sabalenka and French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova are the only players to have officially qualified.
WTA president Micky Lawler: “Name me one person who would have said no to China”
The pandemic has shone a light on the WTA’s reliance on China, two years after it signed a 10-year agreement with China to stage the WTA Finals in Shenzhen, who built a 12,000-seat stadium in the city to stage the event.
In the September issue of French Tennis Magazine, WTA president Micky Lawler admitted that events of the past 18 months had been difficult for the WTA, which was so reliant on China for income.
“It’s true that having tournaments in China from September to the end of the season has very hard consequences for us,” Lawler said. “But China represents a big opportunity for the WTA and the choice allowed us to make big steps forwards. Covid could not be anticipated. Please name me one person who would have said no to China?
“This was an opportunity for the whole of women sports, with unprecedented prize money records. We were proud when we announced it and still are.”