February 19, 2024

Open Court


More calendar changes for the WTA Tour

Last week’s WTA drama was the cancellation of a tournament in Debrecen, Hungary.

That event, moved a few weeks prior from Budapest, ran into significant logistical problems and now will not be held.

It wasn’t the only problematic situation with a new tournament site the WTA has had to deal with.

The purchasers of the tournament license for Nürnberg, which was held the week before the French Open, planned to move it about 250 miles northwest to Cologne.

They still might, but that tournament also won’t be held in 2020.

So this week, Tennis.Life has learned that the WTA will push back the clay-court event in Rabat, Morocco.

Originally scheduled for the week of April 27 – May 2, the (lengthily-named) Grand Prix De SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryen will take place three weeks later.

The WTA event in Rabat, Morocco has been backed up three weeks and will replace the non-active tournament in Cologne on the calendar the week before the French Open.

That will restore the two WTA playing opportunities for players making their final preparations before Roland Garros.


What was three, is now two

It makes sense, on a numbers level. The week of April 27 is one of the relatively rare weeks during which there are three tournaments on the docket.

Two (Rabat and Prague) are International-level tournaments. The third tournament in Anning, China – also on clay, but geographically inconvenient to where the rest of the Tour is during that period – is a 125K.

The WTA International in Prague should be more popular this year, with all the changes.

There’s an issue with that, as well.

Given the Kumming Open is in China – with all that’s going on there amid the coronavirus fears – it’s hard to guarantee it will go on.

(The previous week, the Xi’An Open 125K also is scheduled for China. Xi’An is less than 500 miles from Wuhan).

Overall, it’s been quite a tough year for stability on the women’s tour.

The week before Prague (and Anning), there will be a clay-court tournament in Istanbul, Turkey.

That event had already had a bit of a roller-coaster existence – even a surface change. But it was history when it was transferred to Bad Homberg, Germany, moved back a couple of months, and changed to grass for 2020.

But then the WTA event in Lugano, Switzerland (which only began in 2017) was pushed back a couple of weeks and moved to Istanbul. So that gave Turkey back its women’s event.

The cruelest month

April is a complicated month as it is. It begins with the terrific Charleston tournament, on the green Har-Tru but a long way from the clay-court swing in Europe.

On the plus side, that tournament appears to be getting a well-deserved quality field in 2020.

The new-look Fed Cup finals in Budapest take place in the middle of the month. So there will be almost nowhere to play at the top level for players who aren’t playing Fed Cup.

The Finals will include the eight winners of the playoff ties going on this weekend, plus 2019 finalists Australia and France, wild card Czech Republic and hosts Hungary. 

The teams that don’t advance this weekend will compete in playoff ties to give themselves another opportunity to try to quality in 2021.

Beyond that (and the 125K in China), the pickings are slim.

(Players can always fly all the way back to the U.S. and play on the Har-Tru in Palm Harbor, Fla., where there is a $100,000 ITF that week).

More doubles in Dubai

The cancellation of the Debrecen tournament led to some changes at the competing tournament in Dubai.

The qualifying draw was expanded from 32 to 48. Those 16 spots were reserved for players left out in the cold by the abrupt cancellation in Hungary. The resulting expansion of qualifiers from four to six boosted the main singles draw from 28 to 30.

Initially, there was no provision made for the doubles players.

But that has been addressed. We’re told the 16-team draw in Dubai will be expanded to 28 teams.

That adds 10 teams who will have direct entry – 21 in all, plus on-site sign-ins and wild cards.

Among the top 16 singles players entered in Debrecen who originally would have been transferred to the Dubai qualifying, some have dropped out.

Those include Alizé Cornet, Iga Swiatek, Viktoria Kuzmova, Zhu Lin, Laura Siegemund, Arantxa Rus, Kristie Ahn and Paula Badosa.

A few (Kuzmova and Badosa among them) entered a concurrent $60,000 ITF tournament in Cairo, Egypt.

Did you get all that straight? Tune in next week.

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