Canceled Tournaments in China Are a Big Blow to Women’s Tennis

The WTA has a 10-year deal with Shenzhen, and the city is building a new 12,000-seat stadium to host the finals and other sporting events. Simon has said Shenzhen’s total investment in tennis infrastructure and the WTA Tour would likely amount to more than $1 billion.He said he did not expect the tour would rethink its focus on China. “We know there’s still a very strong commitment to us there,” he said. ”It’s just an unfortunate situation. We are disappointed in the decision but respect it.”

Though there have been plenty of shifts in the tennis calendar this year, with the French Open moving its starting date from May to September and Wimbledon being canceled, Simon said it was “very improbable” that the tour could move the 2020 finals to another country. He said the tour might add some events in the now-empty late season but that finding financing would be challenging. There is still a chance that the Asian tournaments in Seoul, South Korea, in early October and Tokyo in early November could be maintained, and Simon said they might be moved closer together to create a much smaller Asian swing.

The other six Chinese tournaments to be canceled by the WTA are the China Open in Beijing, the Wuhan Open, the Jiangxi Open in Nanchang, the Zhengzhou Open, the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai and the Guanghzhou Open.

The China Open is a premier mandatory event, the highest category of tournament on the regular WTA Tour (the four Grand Slam events operate independently). Three of the four premier mandatory events have been canceled in 2020 with only the Mutua Madrid Open, rescheduled for September, still a possibility. For now, the WTA Tour is set to resume on Aug. 3 after a five-month hiatus with a clay-court event in Palermo, Italy, followed by tournaments in Prague and Lexington, Ky.

Simon said he viewed those three events as a trial run for the rest of the tour as the virus continues to spread, especially in the United States. “I mean you have to expect there will be a positive case,” he said. “I think it’s how you manage it. You are going to have some, but you have to see if it’s something we’re able to control due to the uniqueness of how we have to operate.”

The WTA, which already has cut pay for its top employees during the pandemic and provided some financial relief to players, likely will need to dig into its reserves, which were estimated to be about half of the ATP’s before the pandemic. Under economic pressure, the WTA and ATP have had serious discussions about merging some commercial rights and much more tentative talks about a future merger.

The WTA Tour had total prize money of $179 million in 2019, including the four Grand Slam tournaments. That is up from $86 million in 2009. But this year will mark a big step backward with the tour shut down since March and with the cancellation of the Fed Cup team event and of Wimbledon, which did make some compensatory payouts this month to players who would have competed in the tournament. The United States Open, scheduled for Aug. 31 to Sept. 13 in New York, is still not certain to go ahead largely because of questions about quarantine requirements for players who would be heading back to Europe afterward.

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