February 29, 2024

Open Court


A 10-year stay in Shenzhen for the WTA Finals that was to pay out $140 million in prize money has been cursed from the start.


It’s too soon to tell exactly what the significance of a press release from the General Administration of Sport of China means.

But in a long document published Thursday that outlines the country’s return to holding safe sporting events, one paragraph stands out.

Here it is (through Google Translate – so we’ll take it for what it is, and hope for the best):

“(4) Scientifically cope with the impact of Western countries “with epidemic relief” and earnestly carry out the Beijing Winter Olympics test competition and related preparations. The 14th National Winter Games, Asian Beach Games and other large-scale comprehensive sports games will be carefully adjusted. Except for Beijing Olympic Winter Games and other important events, in principle, no other international sports events and events will be held within this year.”

If that is indeed the case, and there is no tennis, the ATP would be hugely impacted.

The WTA would be devastated.

WTA says decision not final

Thursday afternoon, the WTA issued a statement addressing this fairly serious news.

“To our knowledge, the report that has been circulated regarding a principle on international sporting events in China does not represent a final decision. The WTA continues to work closely with our events in China and the CTA and we will advise when we have more information. We remain on track with our decision timeline regarding the 2020 WTA Tour provisional calendar, which will be by the end of July.”

Big-money WTA Tour finals a revenue linchpin

Ashleigh Barty capped off her 2019 season with a win at the WTA Tour finals, which were in their first year of a 10-year deal in Shenzhen. There were issues with the event – such as the bespoke arena promised for the tournament not being ready, and shaky attendance. But the event generates a major chunk of the annual revenue for the WTA Tour.

So far, there have been several smaller WTA tour events in Asia already cancelled due to the coronavirus: Tashkent, Hong Kong, Tianjin,

But there was still hope the major ones could be played, albeit with the caveat “draw size to be determined”.

The Premier Mandatory in Beijing and the Premier 5 in Wuhan remained on the schedule. And so did the WTA Tour Finals, which are to hold their second edition in their new home in Shenzhen the week of Nov. 8.

The second-tier finals in Zhuhai, and an International-level event in Guangzhou were to be held the two weeks after Shenzhen.

On the ATP side, all tournaments after the rescheduled French Open remain “TBD” on the schedule. But they include 250-level tournaments in Chengdu and Zhuhai, the 500-level China Open in Beijing and, most crucially, the Masters 1000 tournament in Shanghai, China scheduled for the week of Oct. 11.

At first glance, it appears that the events prioritized in China are those related to Olympic test events and qualifications, as Beijing will host the Winter Olympics in 2022. And that “other large-scale comprehensive sports games will be adjusted (in terms of scale and, most likely, without fans).

Will the WTA tournament in Wuhan, which had started to gain a little momentum on the attendance side last year, be a victim of the coronavirus in 2020?

Will these tennis events fall into that list of exceptions? It’s a pretty significant thing for professional tennis – again, especially the WTA Tour.

No doubt more information will emerge as the day goes along.

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