July 23, 2024

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MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

ATP Tour returns to Asia in the fall; WTA fall sked TBA

While many fans were focused on what the ATP intends to do in the case of Alexander Zverev’s attack on chair umpire Alessandro Germami late Tuesday night, the Tour quietly put out its tentative schedule for the rest of the 2022 season.

Perhaps it was already planned, but the timing was serendipitous nonetheless.

And in a corporate decision that’s sure to start tongues wagging, The Tour is returning to Asia in the fall – notably, to China – after an absence of two years because of the pandemic.

(Update: Thursday morning, the WTA also updated its 2022 schedule. But unlike the ATP, which filled in the blanks until the end of the season, the WTA only released its schedule through the US Open.

That means that that the fall Asian swing is still in limbo for the women. The WTA announced last December that it was “suspending” all of its tournaments in China because of the Peng Shuai situation. But, practically, the last time China hosted a WTA event was back in 2019, before the pandemic. So it’s hard to suspend what hasn’t been happening. When they release the rest of the 2022 schedule, we’ll know more).

The only notable change at the moment on the ATP side is that the 250 tournament in St. Petersburg is being relocated to … Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan after more than 25 years in Russia.

That oil-rich nation stepped in to host a closed-doors event in 2020 on a one-year license issued by the ATP, during the period where a lot of events were cancelling. It hosted again in 2021.

Will China be open for business? TBD

That tentative schedule – of course – depends on whether China opens up again and professional tennis tournaments can be held there.

That’s still up in the air at this juncture, especially after what we all witnessed at the just completed Winter Olympic Games in Beijing (with the Paralympics to come).

The text accompanying the schedule update makes zero mention of China, just some lovely prose:

“Today’s announcement marks a return to a regular Q3 and Q4 schedule of events, following extensive adjustments in previous seasons due to COVID-19. Following The Championships, Wimbledon, the ATP Tour will continue charting its course through marquee global cities, building towards the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan and the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals in Turin. All in, the season is set to feature 66 events across 30 countries.”

Shanghai axe last minute in 2021

It wasn’t long ago that the ATP was still maintaining that its Masters 1000 in Shanghai was going to be a go last October.

So much so, that Indian Wells – which had been cancelled in March but helpfully rescheduled to October to fill a big hole in the fall schedule had been prepared to go ahead with just the women, and then with a smaller men’s draw.

After the Shanghai Masters was a late scratch in 2021, they’ll do everything possible to make sure it’s a go in 2022.

(That there is a member of the ATP Tour Board heavily involved in the Shanghai tournament was probably not a minor detail).

In the end, it was not held. No doubt they will do everything they can to make sure it happens in 2022.

What will the WTA do?

The strong, universally-lauded statements about the WTA pulling its business out of China in the wake of the Peng Shuai affair remain just talk at this point.

It won’t be until September that the women’s tour actually has to convert talk to action. And there’s no indication yet concerning what they’ll do.

Going back to the last “normal” year, 2019, there was a tournament in Shenzhen to start the season. This year, the decision was made to focus all of the pre-Australian Open events in Australia (not that it seemed realistic that Shenzhen would be a go anyway, given the situation there).

Beyond that, there was a clay-court event in Anning in April.

And then, literally nothing until after the US Open.

After that, it got intensive.

The WTA has only released its schedule through Wimbledon.

Little in Asia so far in 2022

The WTA and ATP Tours haven’t had a single event in Asia so far in 2022 with the exception of two recent ATP Challengers in India.

As it was, the ITF had events only in Kazakhstan and Qatar with 2022 starts. But until a tournament this week, all of them had been cancelled. There has been nothing in China or Taipei or Korea or even Japan.

As a comparison, we looked at 2019.

In the first six months of 2019, there were 10 men’s ITF tournaments in China, three in Hong Kong, eight in Japan, four in Kazakhstan and four in Korea.

There’s no way to know what the landscape there will look like a few months from now. All we do know is that a lot of lower-ranked and aspiring players in that part of the world have nowhere to play at the moment.

The ATP does include a caveat going forward.

“The ATP continues to take a fluid approach to the calendar and the schedule remains subject to change. Any further updates will be communicated in due course.”


  

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