Sofia Kenin sent world number one Ash Barty spinning out of the Melbourne Park semi-finals 7-6(6) 7-5 on Thursday, crushing Australian hopes of a first home-grown champion at the Grand Slam in 42 years. Photo: Hannah Mckay/Reuters
Sofia Kenin sent world number one Ash Barty spinning out of the Melbourne Park semi-finals 7-6(6) 7-5 on Thursday, crushing Australian hopes of a first home-grown champion at the Grand Slam in 42 years. Photo: Hannah Mckay/Reuters

WTA plan return to China and a full 2021 calendar

By Reuters Time of article published Dec 5, 2020

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By Sudipto Ganguly

MUMBAI - China is central to the WTA's plans for 2021 as women's tennis seeks to put a Covid-ravaged season behind it and hit the new year with a full bouquet of tournaments, tour chief Steve Simon told Reuters.

The WTA lost more than half its events in 2020 after a five-month shutdown of the tour in March. All its tournaments in the Asian swing were cancelled, resulting in a significant loss of revenue.

Despite the financial strain, the WTA kept its entire workforce in place and with support from its main sponsors, the women's governing body said it is in a strong position.

Simon feels the challenges will continue, but with news of effective vaccines around the corner says he expects some level of normality to return next year.

"We have the foresight now to know what we're dealing with," he said in an interview. "Contingency planning can be in place, things that we didn't have the advantage of in 2020.

"For 2021 we're planning our full calendar, our full complement of events which usually will fluctuate between 53 and 55 events a year."

With health protocols and dates for the Australian Open yet to be confirmed, the WTA is planning to start the 2021 season on Jan. 4 outside Australia before the players travel to Melbourne for quarantine ahead of the Grand Slam.

China was to have featured prominently in the 2020 calendar with three WTA 1000 events plus the season-ending WTA Finals in Shenzhen.

"We're confident we'll be able to be back over there from what we've heard so far," Simon said by telephone from the United States. Contingency measures will allow the WTA to "finish our year over there in our traditional way," he said.

ATP COLLABORATION

As part of a rebranding to better connect with fans, the WTA this week renamed its tournament categories from next season to align with the ATP in a sign of collaboration between the women's and men's tours.

"As I talked about the WTA coming together, I also believe the sport has come together and we're working together much more closely than we ever have before and there can only be positives that come from that," Simon said.

A merger between the men's and women's tours could simplify television contracts and sponsorship deals as viewers currently need different pay-TV platforms to watch matches.

A single TV platform would be the right way forward and Simon said he would "love" to see that happen in future.

Simon would also want to see a women's version of the team-based ATP Cup, the $15 million men's tournament which debuted in 2020 with top players from 24 nations competing in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney ahead of the Australian Open.

"I think we're open to many different concepts," Simon said. "But again, I think we're gonna have to get through 2021 at this point in time."

Reuters

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