WTA Finals, a nomadic tournament, lands in Mexico

After two decades of wandering the world, the WTA Finals had finally found a home, or so it seemed in 2019. It was the first year that ...


After two decades of wandering the world, the WTA Finals had finally found a home, or so it seemed in 2019.

It was the first year that the finals were held with great fanfare in Shenzhen, China, as part of a deal that would keep the tournament there. for 10 years.

The event has not returned since and it will be played on Wednesday in Guadalajara, Mexico, following a deal in September.

Tournament, which has been performed under different names over the years, has long been a bit of a nomad. It was held in Madison Square Garden from 1979 to 2000 and moved five times from 2001 to 2013. He then spent five years in Singapore.

The pandemic forced the cancellation of last year’s tournament, the first time it had not taken place since the final started almost 50 years ago, when the final was called the Virginia Slims Championships.

This year, with the Akron WTA Guadalajara Final, this means that some players will take part in one of the biggest tournaments outside of the Grand Slam in the third different city in the last three finals.

“Personally, I don’t care that the location changes every year; it’s always exciting to be able to participate in the event, ”said GarbiƱe Muguruza from Spain, who qualified three times from 2015 to 2017 and is one of eight players invited to play in singles this year.

For months, the WTA has been planning a return to Shenzhen, while having parallel talks with other cities, including Hong Kong.

“Knowing that the situation was far from clear, we had a plan A, a plan B and a plan C,” said Micky Lawler, president of the WTA. “We wanted to give our best players a chance to compete as they deserve to end 2021, but hosting events is really tough during a pandemic, and circumstances keep changing and are beyond your control. “

The tour finally took place with Plan D: Guadalajara.

“It’s very difficult to plan an event on this scale, and they offered a great solution in a market where we already had a tournament,” said Lawler, referring to the lower level tournament held there in March. . (The # 1 seed was ranked 46th Nadia Podoroska from Argentina.)

The WTA were impressed with the team that hosted this tournament, but there was also no Plan E, Lawler said. “It wasn’t a ‘pick between places’ situation,” she said. “It was ‘We don’t want a second year in a row without a WTA Finals, so let’s pull together all of our resources and make it work.’”

Lawler said Steve Simon, the general manager of the WTA, holds weekly board meetings and the tour has constant discussions with players and sponsors. “Everyone’s attitude was that it wasn’t what we planned, but they would support it because it was better than no tournament.”

While Lawler is certain there will be challenges – she points to a sudden Covid-related lockdown that began at a recent tournament in Moscow – she is confident they will be surmountable. Many players are certainly impatient for the tournament, even if there are obstacles. (The exception is Ashleigh Barty, the highest ranked player on the tour and the defending champion. She skips the tournament to avoid another stint in quarantine after returning to her native Australia.)

Karolina Pliskova said reaching the WTA Finals was always a personal goal early in the season. This is her fifth consecutive year at the tournament, making her the only player with Muguruza to have experience in the event. The singles newcomers are Paula Badosa, Anett Kontaveit, Barbora Krejcikova, Aryna Sabalenka, Maria Sakkari and Iga Swiatek.

Pliskova, who is the only person to have played in Singapore, Shenzhen and now Guadalajara in three consecutive WTA Finals, said the change of venue had erased some of his advantage.

“It’s better for players who have never played in the tournament because if it was in the same place every year, the players who had been there would know how the courts play and know all the activities and would feel more relaxed. “she said. “This year, everyone is basically starting over from zero. “

The biggest difference between Guadalajara and pretty much any other WTA Finals venue is the altitude. The city is around 5,000 feet above sea level, which will make the ball faster but harder to control, while also challenging players to catch their breath after long rallies.

“Altitude is a big factor, and that came out of conversations with the players, but everyone is in the same boat,” Lawler said, adding that it’s no different having a surface that favors some. players. “These players are the best of the best, so while some may like it less, they will adapt.”

Krejcikova said she had no experience playing at this altitude, but didn’t care how it would change the game. “I’m just happy to go to the WTA Finals,” she declared. “I’ve always wanted to play against the other top players to see where my level is.”

She said she believed the bigger hitters and servers could benefit from extra speed on their powerful shots, which would result in shorter points, but wouldn’t decide how to adjust her game until she got over it. lead there.

Muguruza said stronger players could benefit from the altitude. But the extra speed comes with a catch. “It will be those who can control their power who will have more opportunities,” she said, as the balls could easily sail lengthways or widths.

Pliskova said she could change the tension of her strings to give her more control or more spin.

“I don’t want to change too much – my game is my game – but I can change a bit,” she said, adding that someone who was good at defense could benefit if the players couldn’t control their shots, as long as they were in good enough condition to handle long points at that altitude.

Although the WTA hopes to bring the final to Shenzhen in 2022, it is hoped that this rare visit from the game’s top players will give the sport a boost in Mexico. Heather Bowler, spokesperson for the International Tennis Federation, said in an email that at the recreational and amateur level, Mexico has the lowest ratio of players to population and the lowest percentage of players.

“By bringing an elite level tournament, the WTA Finals will boost awareness and increase appetite for the game, so it’s definitely a good foundation to build on going forward,” she said. writes, “and the WTA should be a great catalyst. for sport in the region and for Mexico as a nation.

Lawler said that even if nothing is in the works, increased interest could eventually lead to bigger tournaments and more resources for young players in the region, creating a positive cycle. “If there is an appetite to build something in Mexico, we would do everything possible to support it,” she said.

Krejcikova said she thinks about how the sport and the players are seen by the girls at every tournament, but especially when it is a new place.

“I hope that we are good examples for them,” she said, “and that we can have a big impact on the younger generation in Mexico.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: WTA Finals, a nomadic tournament, lands in Mexico
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