Mexico City: The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has conceded that this year’s edition of the tour Finals was “not a perfect event” and signalled changes to the operation of the circuit after a series of complaints from top players about how they are treated.
In a letter to the players leaked to Sports Illustrated, WTA chief Steve Simon said the late selection of the Mexican resort of Cancun to host the WTA’s showpiece tournament was “based on a number of complicated factors”.
“It is clear you are not happy with the decision to be here in Cancun. I understand that and you have been heard,” he wrote after thanking the players for attending a meeting in Cancun.
“It is not a perfect event, we understand the conditions are a challenge and the WTA accepts responsibility for that.”
Sabalenka criticises the standard
Cancun was named as venue for the $9 million tournament, which brings together the top eight singles players and doubles partnerships to conclude the season, less than two months before it started on October 29.
World No 1 Aryna Sabalenka blasted the WTA over the court conditions after the opening day of group play and said she felt “disrespected” by the standard of organisation at the prestigious event.
The complaints about the Cancun event have brought to a head widespread dissatisfaction with the way the WTA has been managing the tour.
The Athletic reported that 21 of the best players in the world had recently written a letter to Simon outlining their grievances.
The website said the players wanted higher pay, a more flexible schedule to ease their physical and mental burden, expanded childcare and representation from the independent Professional Tennis Players Association on the WTA council.
The WTA’s letter said it would consider several proposals to reduce the mandatory commitment of top players to participate in certain tournaments at its next board meeting.
Wide range of issues
The letter also told the players that a wide range of other issues “that you identified in your letter” would be reviewed.
“A great deal is being done and there is a great deal of alignment in the areas you have raised and what is being worked on,” Simon wrote. There was no immediate reply to a request for comment from the WTA.
The WTA Finals conclude on Sunday.
Sabalenka grabbed a 6-2 3-5 lead over fourth-ranked Elena Rybakina and boosted her chances of securing a semi-final berth before play was suspended due to rain on Thursday night.
Sabalenka, who powered past Greek Maria Sakkari but lost to Jessica Pegula, put on a dominant performance in the first set against the big-serving Kazakh as rain caused multiple interruptions in what was a rematch of the Australian Open final.
Rybakina found her groove during the second set before play was suspended for the night in Mexico.
“Play is suspended for the night due to rain,” the WTA said on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Race for world No 1 spot hots up
Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek are in contention for the year-end No 1 singles ranking. The Australian Open champion overtook the four-time major winner Swiatek and captured the top spot after the US Open.
The 25-year-old Sabalenka will retain the No 1 spot if she goes undefeated in round-robin play or makes the final.
American Pegula booked a semi-final spot at the season-ending tournament with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Sakkari, who came into the match knowing she was already eliminated.