June 24, 2024

Open Court



While it appeared at the end of last week that the WTA Tour had come to terms with the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. to hold its tournament there the week of Aug. 10, there has been a twist in the tale.

On Thursday, the WTA announced that it would hold an event in Lexington, Kentucky that same week – the week of Aug. 10.

It will be a $225,000 US, International-level tournament, to be called the Top Seed Open presented by Bluegrass Orthopaedics. There will be no fans allowed on site.

The standard purse for an International-level tournament on the WTA Tour is $250,000; there will be 10 per cent drop from the usual rate, for obvious reasons.

And so the Citi Open will go ahead, but with only the men’s 500-level tournament on site, with a terrific field on tap if everything continues to go according to play.

The Tour also confirmed another event it already had on its schedule, the same week in Prague, Czech Republic on red clay.

“As the WTA Tour looks to return to competition in 2020, we are pleased to provide additional playing opportunities for our athletes. We are delighted to welcome the teams in Prague and Lexington onto the 2020 provisional calendar and look forward to the return of women’s professional tennis,” was the quote from WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon.

We requested clarification from the WTA on what, exactly, the new tournament in Kentucky will be. Is it the Citi Open, relocated for a year? Is it a new tournament altogether, to replace the Citi Open or, perhaps, audition for the slot the week before the US Open that has been looking for takers (Albany, NY was set to host an inaugural event in 2020, before the pandemic).

From a WTA spokesperson: “

Or is it just a one-year, standalone event – a “pandemic special”, if you will?

“The announcement and addition of Lexington addresses the 2020 provisional calendar only. (The) 2021 calendar has not yet been created so it would be premature to speculate what the 2021 calendar will look like.”

Meanwhile, the Citi Open put out this statement that could be taken … a lot of different ways. It’s hard to fathom that the WTA could choose to have to create an entirely new event in Kentucky, when it’s already well established in D.C.

And you also wonder what they mean by planning to “present women’s tennis” during the Citi Open. Do they plan to make it the “Coco Gauff Show” again? Because you would think that, per the WTA rules, their players wouldn’t be allowed to play an exhibition event the same week as two official WTA Tour events are being held. (At least not without a hefty fine).

Sigh; tennis is a mess.

Chris Clarey of the New York Times reports that the Octagon agency is involved.

In fact, though, despite Simon’s statement, these two events are not “additional playing opportunities” in the traditional sense.

The Kentucky event is “instead” of the Citi Open. As well, there had been a $100,000 ITF tournament planned for that same city the previous week (the week of Aug. 3). The Top Seed club is located in Nicholasville, which is just outside Lexington proper.

But the ITF was cancelled, along with another $100,000 tournament in Landisville, Pa. the week of Aug. 10 and another one with a slightly lower purse in Concord, Mass. the week of Aug. 17. Two other men’s ITF tournaments in August were also cancelled, as announced by the USTA on Monday.

The Prague tournament’s original slot was at the end of April, in the early part of the original European red clay-court season. So, in effect, it’s a standing event, merely rescheduled as were several other clay events from the spring including the big tournaments in Madrid and Rome, and the French Open.

Dry run last week

A fundraising exhibition was held at the Top Seed Club last week – soon, they’ll gear up for their first-ever WTA Tour event.

Last weekend, the Top Seed club hosted an eight-woman exhibition called the Young Kings Scholarship Tournament that featured Cici Bellis, Jessica Pegula, Caty McNally, Genie Bouchard and Leylah Fernandez, to name a few.

Obviously it wasn’t on the same scale as a WTA Tour event. But the club does have experience hosting a good-sized tournament, as it had the Kentucky Open in its indoor facility in February.

The cancelled ITF tournament in Lexington scheduled for the week of Aug. 3 had more than 160 entries. Given the lack of events and the fact that the higher-ranked players are eager to play, not many of those entries are going to be able to squeeze into the new event.

And that leaves them pretty much shut out.

There isn’t a single ITF women’s tournament currently scheduled the weeks of Aug. 3 or Aug. 10. The week of Aug. 17, there are four tournaments – all in Europe, all at the entry-level $15,000 prize money point.

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