WTA Dealt Huge Blow By Chinese Tournament Cancellations

WASHINGTON, July 24, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

In a tennis season filled with uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic, Thursday evening’s announcement that the WTA Tour has cancelled all seven of its 2020 China events – including the WTA Finals in Shenzhen – is a huge blow, both in prestige as well as financially. Like a $14 million dollar blow for the WTA Finals, alone, with primary backing coming from Japanese cosmetics company Shiseido.

According to initial reporting by Christopher Clarey, tennis correspondent for The New York Times who broke the story, and later confirmed late Thursday night by the WTA website, a move by the Chinese government to cancel all non-Olympics-related sporting events for the remainder of the year, is the primary reason for the cancellation of the WTA’s tournaments scheduled for October and early November.

“We are extremely disappointed that our world-class events in China will not take place this year,” said WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon, in a statement on the WTA website. “Unfortunately, this decision also includes the cancellation of the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen and as result, the corresponding Porsche Race to Shenzhen. We do however respect the decision that has been made and are eager to return to China as soon as possible next season.”

The October and November Asian swing in China has become one of the WTA’s major markets as well as a key source of revenue. Last year’s WTA Finals champion Ashleigh Barty earned $4.5 million for her title victory in Shenzhen, the largest single pay day in tennis history.

In a recent interview with The New York Times, Simon said: “We at the WTA along with all other businesses in the world, whether it’s sport or outside of that, are being challenged financially through these times. We’re no different than anybody else. If we don’t have the finals, the hole that we have will certainly be bigger and deeper.”

According to Clarey’s reporting, the WTA does not have cancellation insurance that would apply in a pandemic. Simon is quoted as saying the chances of the WTA Finals moving to another location are “remote.”

Besides the WTA Finals, the other six tournaments in China that were cancelled include: the China Open in Beijing, the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open, the Jiangxi Open in Nanchang, the Zhengzhou Open, the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai and the Guangzhou Open.

Meanwhile, the ATP Tour’s China Open in Beijing and the Rolex Shanghai Masters, a Masters 1000 event, as well as events in Chengdu and Zhuhai are also effectively cancelled, too.