For the first time in history, the seaside city of Cancun in Mexico is hosting the Women’s Tennis Masters from October 29 to November 6. This event has faced significant disruptions due to hasty organization and challenging weather conditions.
Tennis in turmoil. While the organization of the Paris-Bercy Masters 1000 has received criticism from players and spectators, the WTA Masters in Cancun is facing even harsher scrutiny. As the last tournament of the season, it brings together the top eight players of the year. The previous edition was won by Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia in Fort Worth, Texas.
A Destination Chosen Late
While Saudi Arabia initially seemed to be the chosen location for the event, women’s tennis legends Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert expressed their opposition. On the other hand, American player Jessica Pegula (ranked 5th) and Tunisian player Ons Jabeur (ranked 7th) believed that hosting the tournament could help improve conditions for women in the kingdom.
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On September 7, the WTA announced in a press release that after carefully considering various offers, they had chosen Cancun as the host city. The decision was based on several factors, including logistical support for the players, transportation accessibility, public capacity, and a commitment to the promotion of women’s tennis.
A Truncated Preparation
Due to the late selection of Cancun as the venue, there was a significant challenge in preparing the site within a limited timeframe of under two months. When the players arrived for training, construction work was still ongoing. Only two courts were available for the top eight players in the world. The central court, which was being finalized until the last minute, opened its doors just one day before the start of the tournament on Sunday, October 29. “I only had the opportunity to practice on the center court for the first time a day before the start of the tournament,” expressed Aryna Sabalenka, the world No. 1.
Organizing a tournament during the rainy season was a questionable decision. However, it was the chosen path. The players have been struggling with torrential rains, violent squalls, and flying sand. Sabalenka expressed her disappointment with the WTA and the overall experience of the finals. She felt that the WTA was disrespecting her and the situation was unacceptable considering the high stakes involved. Martina Navratilova, with 18 Grand Slam titles, also criticized the WTA and its management, suggesting that it may be time for new leadership.
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The inclement weather has directly affected the court conditions, leading to a lack of confidence among the players due to irregular ball bounces. The level of organization falls far short of expectations for a tournament that is meant to crown the best player of the season.
In addition to the challenging playing conditions, the tournament has also suffered from low attendance. The stands have not been filled, partly due to the delayed opening of the ticket office.
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In a letter to the players, the WTA acknowledged that the competition was “not perfect” and explained that the choice of venue was complex and based on multiple factors. Steve Simon, the head of the WTA, expressed understanding and assured the players that their concerns were heard.
The tournament, originally scheduled to conclude on Sunday, November 5, was postponed to Monday due to the interruption of the second semi-final between Aryna Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek. This match is crucial in determining the world’s top-ranked player.