The WTA Tour has confirmed that they would be open to staging their season-end Finals in the United Kingdom as they continue to face issues with holding tournaments in China. The WTA Finals has been played in one-off locations over the last two years but the women’s tour boss Steve Simon recently confessed that they would explore new long-term host cities if problems with China continued, and the UK could be one of them after recent success in staging the Billie Jean King Cup Finals.
World-class tennis could soon be returning to British soil after the ATP Finals left its 12-year home at London’s O2 Arena for a new host city in Turin. The WTA could be forced to seek a new location for their version of the year-end championships after being left unable to compete in Shenzhen, which was supposed to stage the tournament for ten years from 2019.
On Tuesday, the women’s tour released their calendar for the 2023 season up to the US Open, leaving out the final portion of the season as uncertainties over returning to China remain as the country continues to use a zero-Covid policy while concerns remain for Peng Shuai, the former doubles world No 1 who accused Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault in November 2021, allegations that the former vice premier has denied.
The issues have left the WTA Finals’ multi-million dollar deal to stage the event in Shenzhen in turmoil as the city only held the event for one year before the pandemic hit and alternative locations were used, leaving players with just a fraction of the £12 million ($14 million) prize pot that was offered in China. And WTA CEO and Chairman Steve Simon has since told NYT: “If it looks like we can’t go back to China or aren’t ready to go back, then I do think we will carve out a multiyear situation, because we need to for the business.”
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Following Simon’s admission, the WTA has now told Express Sport that they would welcome discussions to stage the WTA Finals in the UK if a new host location is needed. “The WTA’s priority for the WTA Finals is providing a world-class sporting event for players, partners and fans,” a spokesperson told Express Sport.
“We will make our decision in the next several months about the location of the WTA Finals for next year. If we are in a position to seek a new location, we welcome any discussions from interested parties in the UK or other countries that share the passion to create an industry-leading event to showcase women’s tennis.”
It comes after the LTA recently saw success in staging the BJK Cup Finals – the women’s tennis equivalent of the World Cup – at Glasgow’s Emirates Arena last week, while also hosting the group stage of the men’s version – the Davis Cup – of the tournament back in September. But the British tennis governing body revealed that they were not yet considering a bid for the WTA Finals.
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“There are no current plans to bid to host the WTA finals, however we remain open to opportunities to bring other major events to this country – as we have done this year with the Davis Cup Group Stage Finals and Billie Jean King Cup Finals,” an LTA spokesperson confirmed to Express Sport.
Whatever happens, the women’s tour will be keen to seek a solution after world No 1 Iga Swiatek hit out at the poor crowd turnout in Fort Worth, this year’s last-minute host of the Finals, as well as the lower prize pot on offer at the tournament with the WTA only able to offer £4.3m ($5m) this year without the financial support that China offers.
And the UK could be the perfect home for the WTA Finals thanks to the increased interest in women’s tennis on British soil following Emma Raducanu’s heroics at the 2021 US Open and the BJK Cup team’s recent run to the semi-final, their best result in 41 years.