The Mexican city of Cancun will host next month’s WTA Finals, with the belated decision confirm a venue for the event sparking criticism for the governing body of the women’s game.
It has taken until seven weeks before the event for the WTA to confirm a venue for its showpiece tournament featuring the top eight singles players and doubles pairs of the season.
Saudi Arabia had been the favourite but that prospect was criticised by leading figures Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova among others and ultimately the governing body has decided to head for less controversial waters.
Guadalajara stepped in to host the 2021 edition after a long-term, lucrative agreement with Shenzhen was disrupted by Covid and was widely praised for high attendance and the atmosphere generated.
The same could not be said for last year’s tournament in Fort Worth, Texas, which was also decided at late notice and played in front of sparse crowds.
Having initially said it intended to head back to Shenzhen this year, the WTA was instead left searching for another host, with the one-off agreement with Cancun indicating Saudi Arabia may not be off the table for the future.
The tournament will run from October 29 to November 5, and WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon said: “I would like to extend my appreciation to the Cancun tournament organisers GS Sports Management for their commitment in hosting the WTA Finals this year.
“This edition of the WTA Finals will provide a fantastic experience for players and fans alike, offer a fitting finale for the 2023 Hologic WTA Tour, and enable us to continue building a strong future for women’s tennis.”
While not referencing Saudi Arabia directly, the statement added: “The WTA weighed a number of competitive bids through a thorough process, in close consultation with the WTA Players’ Council.
“Venue and partnership choices are based on multiple factors including player logistics, travel accessibility, venue capacity, and a commitment to supporting and showcasing women’s tennis.”
The choice of the Latin American city means players involved in the Billie Jean King Cup Finals immediately afterwards in Seville again face a very quick turnaround for a prestigious event on a different continent.
Questions have been asked over how players will play in Seville and then be in good shape to play in Cancun, with direct flight from the Spanish city to Mexico in short supply.
This deal with Cancun is just for 2023, so there remains a possibility that the WTA could expand their relationship with Saudi Arabia next year.
Yet the decision will be welcomed by those who has campaigned against increased involvement from Saudi Arabia and WTA chiefs will hope to attract bigger crowds than they managed for last year’s WTA Finals in Texas.
Steve Simon, WTA Chairman and CEO, said, “I would like to extend my appreciation to the Cancun tournament organizers GS Sports Management for their commitment in hosting the WTA Finals this year.
“This edition of the WTA Finals will provide a fantastic experience for players and fans alike, offer a fitting finale for the 2023 Hologic WTA Tour and enable us to continue building a strong future for women’s tennis.”
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