Remember when there was NO professional tennis in Chicago?
Well, with the release of the final chunk of the WTA Tour’s 2021 schedule, there now will be … three women’s professional tournaments in the Windy City in the space of six weeks.
One of each: first a 125K, then a 250 the week before the US Open (both already announced).
To complete the trifecta, the city will host a 500-level tournament the week of Sept. 27 – two weeks after the end of the US Open, and the week before the rescheduled Indian Wells tournament.
All that comes from the release of the final chunk of the WTA Tour’s 2021 season.
There has been no word about the fate of the WTA Tour Finals.
Portoroz is back
The seaside city of Portoroz, Slovenia used to host a WTA Tour event, played on clay after Wimbledon. It lasted from 2005 to 2010, and then the license was relocated to various places after that.
The city was due to have a 125K tournament in 2021. But that has been upgraded to a 250, and will take place on hard courts the week of Sept. 13 – immediately after the US Open.
Portoroz’s weather isn’t nearly as nice in September as it is in July (meaning, not as hot). So it might actually be even more pleasant.
That same week, the BNP Paribas Luxembourg will return.
Traditionally held in mid-October, Luxembourg was cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic.
The Kremlin Cup in Moscow will be back in its regular week, after also being cancelled in 2020.
Meanwhile, the new 500 tournament in Ostrava, Czech Republic that obligingly filled a huge hole in the fall schedule a year ago, will return.
Remember the stencil of the city on the court, with the exclamation points? (!!!)
But the dates will be a little earlier; it will be held the week of Sept. 20.
The tournament in Linz, Austria that – unlike nearly all the others, was able to knock itself out to happen in 2020 – gets a bit of short shrift.
Last year, it probably took a big financial hit as it was held without fans. And it was very late in the season – the week of Nov. 9, a month ahead of its usual slot.
In 2021, it’s back in its normal dates – except those dates fall during the second week of the rescheduled Indian Wells tournament. That’s truly unfortunate for them.
New: Canary Islands
There are plenty of ITF tournaments in the Canary Islands.
But the WTA Tour will head there, to Tenerife, the week of Oct. 18.
Here’s a handy map, if you don’t know where it is.
Notably, nearby Gran Canaria Island – the next one over, to the east, a short boat ride away – is the home of … the fabulous Carla Suárez Navarro.
Coincidence or not, you can already imagine a scenario where Suárez Navarro finally says goodbye to tennis, on her terms. Right at home.
There won’t be a dry eye. Already getting a little dusty here just thinking about it.
During final week of the “regular season”, Oct, 25, the WTA Tour will head to two more new frontiers: Courmayeur, Italy and … TBA
The Courmayeur event is on hard court – on those dates, you’d think that would be indoors. The “TBA” tournament will be an outlier, played on clay according to the WTA Tour sked.
There are plenty of Challenger events in Italy for the men (one reason they seem to have developed so many talented prospects lately). And the Next-Gen Finals and, starting in 2021, the ATP Finals will be held there.
For the women … not so much. But here’s one.
Courmayeur is in the Aosta Valley of Italy. And if the name sounds more French than Italian, that’s because it’s right near both the French and Swiss borders.
One Asian event salvaged
There will be no Wuhan, no Beijing, no Tokyo.
But the Hana Bank Open in Seoul, South Korea will return in 2021 – a bit of a outlier in this scattershot schedule and one that likely will principally attract players from that part of the world.
Meanwhile, the fate of the Tour Finals remains unclear.
The Tour’s showpiece event (and biggest revenue generator), when last held, had moved to its new home in Shenzhen, China under a 10-year deal that was to offer the WTA a lot of money (and the players a lot of prize money).
But there is no news (which means they don’t have an alternate location, in all likelihood).
The quote from WTA CEO Steve Simon goes thusly:
“We are excited about the conclusion of the 2021 season and look forward to providing further information about the WTA Finals in due course.”
A lot of travel, a little logic
The schedule, which hops from the U.S. to Europe (or Korea), back to the U.S. again – and then back to Europe – means that the top players will probably pick and choose very carefully.
A player who wants to play a lot can go from the US Open to Portoroz and Ostrava, and then return to America for the 500 in Chicago and then Indian Wells.
If they want more, they can return to Europe and play Linz (if they’re out early in the desert), the 500 in Moscow and the new event in Italy.
Since we don’t know what the travel conditions will be going forward, this may or may not make any sense at all. And no one really knows what the landscape is going to look like at these various places in terms of fans.
(It’s best not to even think that far ahead).
Still, props to the WTA for coming up with solutions to keep its players on the court. At the same time, it also will expose women’s tennis to parts of the world that haven’t had the opportunity to see it live.