By the end of April, 2019 – the last full season on the WTA Tour – there had already been four 125K-level tournaments played.
With the pandemic, and all the uncertainty, only now is has the WTA finalized its schedule for 2021 at that level.
Open Court has obtained a copy of the schedule.
In all, there are 13 tournaments planned, beginning with a new event in St-Malo France the week of May 3.
As a comparison, there were 11 in all of 2019. And four of those were sponsored by Oracle in the U.S. Oracle has since discontinued its sponsorship of tennis at that level.
Another, in Guadalajara, was upgraded to a 250 in 2021.
So that’s a good effort to create playing opportunities at the lower levels. even if four of the 13 take place after the season is technically over on the WTA Tour.
Four of the events are in the U.S., while three are in France.
For those middle-ranked players who are close to getting a main-draw berth at the Australian Open, the temptation will be significant to keep on playing and populate those lower-level events.
The 2021 WTA 125K schedule
- May 3 – St-Malo, France
- May 31 – Bol, Croatia
- July 5 – Bastad, Sweden
- July 26 – Charleston S.C. and Belgrade, Serbia
- Aug. 16 – Chicago, IL
- Sept. 6 – Karlsruhe, Germany
- Sept. 13 – Portoroz, Slovenia
- Sept. 27 – Chicago, IL
- Nov. 1 – Buenos Aires, ARG and Midland, Michigan
- Dec. 6 – Angers, France
- Dec. 13 – Limoges, France
Alternatives during big events
The Bol tournament (which has been around for a long time) takes place the second week of Roland Garros. Bastad will be played on clay during the second week of Wimbledon. And the Karlsruhe event takes place the second week of the US Open.
The Charleston and Belgrade tournaments will be an option for the (many) players who aren’t at the scheduled Olympics in Tokyo.
The first Chicago event will be the same week as Cincinnati.
The Buenos Aires and Midland tournaments will go on the same week as the “second-tier” tour final in Zhuhai, China.
(Midland, a long-standing, early-season tournament at the $100K level on the ITF circuit, has postponed and upgraded for this year).
The second and third French events take place during the WTA Tour’s off-season.
“One Tournament per Week” rule
There have been a couple of modifications to the rules in recent weeks. They will have a impact specifically on the November 125K tournaments
Previously, a 125K tournament was only allowed to accept two players ranked between No. 11 and No. 50 competing in singles and doubles combined, if the event was scheduled the same week as a regular Tour event (including the Zhuhai year-end tournament).
After a rule change, as many as four will be allowed for the Buenos Aires and Midland events held during the Zhuhai tournament (as long as the player didn’t qualify for that event).
It has also modified a rule that allowed a player who competed in the main draw of a bigger event, if they had already lost, to play a 125 if that event pushed back the qualifying sign-in late enough for that to be feasible (or if there is no qualifying).
That’s obviously a pretty tiny loophole. But they’ve closed it.
Cincy qualies losers in Chicago?
Except here’s the thing: there remains a rule on the books (unless there’s been another change we’re unaware of) that players are not allowed to play two tournaments held the same week.
And it doesn’t specify that this only applies to main-draw players.
So, in the Chicago situation, for example (unless you consider qualifying not “part of the week”), the players who lose in Cincinnati over the weekend would not be allowed to make the quick hop to Chicago to compete in the 125K.
That would have an impact on the quality of the field, you would think.
So we’ll effort with the WTA to clarify that situation.