Last-Minute WTA Finals Frustrates The World's Top Players - UBITENNIS
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Last-Minute WTA Finals Frustrates The World’s Top Players



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The WTA Finals has always been billed as the pinnacle event of the women’s tour that offers the highest amount of prize money and ranking points outside of the Grand Slams. 


First held in 1972, the event features the eight highest-ranked players over the past 12 months based on their points won. The field is split into two groups of four with the top two of each group then progressing to the knockout stages. This year’s event is being held at the Plaza Quintana Roo in Cancun, Mexico. It is located within the Boulevard Kukulcan which is a popular destination for tourists due to its high-quality beaches and luxury hotels. However, not everything is as perfect as it looks. 

The WTA has come under criticism over its management of this year’s WTA Finals. There was no official confirmation that the event would be held in Mexico until last month. Leaving players having to make late changes to their scheduling with some having to pull out of the Billie Jean King Cup Finals which is taking place in Spain the week after. Furthermore, the stadium which will host every match wasn’t fully ready until the weekend the championships start. Players had the chance to train on practice courts before having a brief feel for the stadium. Although many are far from happy about the situation. 

“I’m not happy that we couldn’t practice on the match court, meaning like on the stadium,” top seed and world No.1 Aryna Sabalenka commented during her pre-tournament press conference. “I think this is not the level for the WTA Finals. We literally have one hour today, like 45 minutes, to try the stadium. This is something what I’m not happy with. I’m pretty sure the rest of the players also not happy.
“At the same time, yes, I know we’re all in the same conditions. But this is not conditions for the WTA Finals. So it’s not great. I mean, usually we need like three to four days to kind of like adjust to conditions. But we’ll see. I guess it is how it is. But I hope that next year WTA will do a better job.”

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Since 2019 no city has been selected to host the event for multiple years due to a variety of reasons. Shenzhen was set to host the event for years after signing a deal before the WTA postponed holding events in China amid concerns that former world No.1 Peng Shuai was being censored by authorities, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. Shuai accused a former government official of sexual assault. It was held in Mexico in 2021 and America in 2022. 

“It’s surprised me that we didn’t get a chance yet to practice,” Elena Rybakina said of the current situation. “I think that’s the only day now. I’m going to get the first hit in the evening. Tomorrow I have to play the match, so this is a bit disappointing.
“But it is what it is. I guess we’re going to try to do our best to show good tennis, which is not going to be I think that easy with such windy conditions. But overall, I mean, Mexico is really nice. I think we just try to do our best here.”

Ons Jabeur, who is the first Arab woman in history to win a WTA title, is more diplomatic in her criticism but admits that she hopes that history will not repeat itself in the future. Paying tribute to those who have been involved in the construction of the venue. 

“I mean, obviously as a player, I wish that the stadium was ready couple of days before in order to have a better preparation and everything,” she said.
“I don’t want to take the effort that the construction team had done for the past six weeks, I guess. I know they done a lot of hard work. I want to thank them for that.
“I’m not very happy that this is the first day we hit on the stadium. This is such a big event. We should have been able to be ready and hit on the court. Hopefully, this will never, ever, ever happen again. Like ever…” 

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Another to speak more positively is current Wimbledon champion Market Vondrousova who paid tribute to the work which is being done behind the scenes. 

“I feel like everybody’s doing what’s in their power. It was such a short notice to build everything. I feel like everybody’s really trying. At least we could play today on the centre court. Overall it’s great here. The hotel is great. People are amazing.” The Czech stated.
“I feel for us it’s a bit tough to not play on a centre court maybe a little bit more. Still, I feel like everybody’s trying really hard, so that’s great.”

As for coping with the current issues, Poland’s Iga Swiatek says the only thing she and her peers can do is focus on what they can control. 

“Today I had the chance to practice on the centre court for like 45 minutes for the first time,” she said. “It’s a little bit different than the practice courts.
“I guess to perform well here, you just have to kind of not care of everything that is going on around, just really focus on playing the best tennis possible.” 

Amid the last-minute events related to this year’s WTA Finals, it is expected that the same will not occur in 2024. It is understood that Saudi Arabia will become the home of the event on a multi-year deal which could even be announced during this year’s tournament. Something that could cause some backlash with Saudi Arabia accused of using sport to improve their reputation damaged by wrongdoing. However, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman previously told Fox News that he doesn’t care about such allegations as long as they improved his country’s GDP. 

It is understood that a new visit to Saudi Arabia by a WTA official recently occurred but for some unknown reason is being kept secret. 

The WTA Finals will get underway on Sunday with Rybakina against Jessica Pegula, followed by Sabalenka taking on Maria Sakkari. 


Iga Swiatek Criticises WTA’s Reform Of 2024 Calendar



Iga Swiatek has hit out at the WTA by claiming that only a handful of players were made aware of changes being made to the Tour calendar before they came into effect.


In recent weeks there has been an increase in frustration among players on the women’s Tour with letters being sent to the head of the WTA, Steve Simon, about their concerns. Swiatek has also sent her own letter to the governing body. According to The Athletic, some of the concerns that have been raised relates to higher pay on the Tour, adjustments to scheduling to help support players, expanded childcare and calls for a member of the PTPA to be present on the WTA Player’s Council.

The WTA has also been in the firing line concerning their management of the Tour finals which took place in Cancun last month and was won by Switek. Some of those who took part complained about the court conditions and lack of preparation they had. The stadium court wasn’t fully constructed until the same weekend the tournament began. 

Although, for the world No.1 her principle criticism concerns the 2024 calendar and the rules in place reagrding playing in mandatory events. Swiatek says some of the decisions have been made following discussions with ‘third parties’ and believes players are not being listened to. 

“There is room for improvement,” she said during an interview with newspaper Rzeczpospolita.
“As players, we are dissatisfied with the calendar for next year and the increase in the number of mandatory tournaments and restrictions related to withdrawing from them.’
“We want to change this. We need more balance and time to get back home. Sometimes, however, we beat our heads against the wall. Some decisions seem to be the result of promises made to third parties, federations and tournament organizers.’
“We find out about them after the fact. This causes frustration. Only a handful of players were aware of the calendar reform and the WTA cannot lead to such a situation again, since it considers itself an organization created for tennis players.”

The 22-year-old argues that these changes would give players more time to rest and see their families. Although Swiatek admits that she is in a more fortunate situation than some of her peers from a financial perspective. This season the Pole has earned $9,857,686 in prize money this year which is more than any other female player. 

“I hope that we will be able to change something – for example in the rules regarding withdrawing from tournaments,” she continued.
“Fortunately, I am in a situation where I can afford for my family to go on a trip with me, but not everyone can afford it. Many players rather save all their money to pay their coaches.’
“However, there is a difference between taking your family with you and returning home, when you can wash your clothes and spend time in the place where you grew up. I often miss Warsaw.”

Swiatek has won 68 out of 79 matches played this season, claiming six titles on the Tour. In the Grand Slams, she won the French Open, and reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and the fourth round at the other two. She currently has a 245-point lead over second-place Aryna Sabalenka in the WTA standings. 

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‘A Long Way to Go’ – Iga Swiatek Must Improve A Key Element Of Her Game, Says Navratilova



Martina Navratilova has hailed Iga Swiatek’s winning end to her season but believes the Pole needs to continue working on a certain aspect of her game to become a better player. 


Swiatek reclaimed the world No.1 ranking during the WTA Finals where she clinched the year-end title in Mexico. She closes out the year on an 11-match winning streak after also winning the China Open before playing at the WTA Finals. Overall, she has reached the semi-finals or better at 12 out of 17 Tour events played and has won 68 out of 79 matches during 2023. In the Grand Slams, she won the French Open, reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and the fourth round at the other two. 

Now sitting at the top of the WTA rankings with a 245-point lead over second place Aryna Sabalenka, Swiatek has begun her off-season which is the period that players normally use to work on their game. 

As to what she needs to work on, Navratilova believes a key issue for the four-time Grand Slam champion involves her volleying technique. Speaking to, Navratilova says there is ‘still a long way to go’ for the former world No.1 but adds that she will become a more formidable player on the Tour if she makes improvements. 

“The thing I’d target is getting to the net. I mean, she’s gotten better but there’s still a long way to go on the volley front, particularly that first volley — the transition volley, which is probably the most difficult shot in the game,” said Navratilova. 
“I think that’s where she can improve the most. Iga still has a tendency to run back to the baseline when she really should be going forward. And if she gets that going? Watch out. She can still get a few more mph on her serve, too. The groundstrokes are solid as a rock. And the drop shot — I think she had something like two drop shots all year. When she adds that and uses it at the right time — because with her topspin she really pushes people back behind the baseline — she’ll be even more deadly.”

Continuing her analysis, the 67-year-old believes Swiatek can also increase the speed of her serves even more. 

“She can still get a few more mph on her serve, too. The groundstrokes are solid as a rock. And the drop shot — I think she had something like two drop shots all year. When she adds that and uses it at the right time — because with her topspin she really pushes people back behind the baseline — she’ll be even more deadly.” She added. 

Navratilova has also highlighted areas that she believes other players need to work on. In her view, Sabalenka’s goal should be to work more on her movement during matches. Meanwhile, for US Open champion Coco Gauff, the development of her forehand will play an important part in her game. 

Swiatek ends the season with five WTA titles to her name. 

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Naomi Osaka Eager To Reclaim No.1 Spot, Says Coach




Naomi Osaka is targeting a return to the very top of the women’s game when she begins her comeback, according to a member of her team. 


Performance coach Florian Zitzelsberger has told that the four-time Grand Slam champion is ‘balanced and happy’ with herself after taking time away from the sport to give birth to her first child, a baby girl called Shai. The 26-year-old hasn’t played a competitive match on the Tour since the 2022 Pan Pacific Open and currently doesn’t have a ranking due to her inactivity. She has already confirmed her intention to resume her tennis career in 2024 but it is still unclear as to what her first tournament will be.

Providing a glimpse into Osaka’s current progress, Zitzelsberger says she is setting her sights on chasing after more Grand Slam titles. Zitzelsberger is the co-founder of Integralis Physiotherapie and has worked with Osaka in the past. He has also collaborated with the likes of Kevin Anderson, Julia Goerges and Petra Kvitova. 

“Where she is today is what makes working with her so inspiring,” he said. “She wants to get back to world No. 1, she wants to win Grand Slams. She gives me the impression of someone who is totally balanced and happy with herself. She’s very much grounded, mature and embracing the beauty of motherhood.”

In recent months there has been a growing trend of players returning to the sport after giving birth. Notable examples include Victoria Azarenka, Elina Svitolina and Caroline Wozniacki.

Zitzelsberger says his recent work with Osaka has been getting her back into shape and then working on certain areas of her game. 

“To reach the highest performance, we start by returning stability within the kinetic chain, which is typically lost somewhat during pregnancy and birth. The kinetic chain runs through the core, stomach and belly, and for a long time, her chain wasn’t playing tennis; it was growing a baby!” He explains. 
“Once that base is attained, we work on specific movement skills, whether that’s acceleration or deceleration, change of direction. The main objective is always strengthening to make the body strong, in addition to improving conditioning and mobility.”

Part of the training process has been trying to change what type of player Osaka is to adapt to the current level of the women’s Tour. After winning the 2021 Australian Open, she only reached one more Tour final which was the following year in Miami. During this period, she struggled with some injury issues and has been open about her experiences with mental health. 

“She’s obviously a great offense player, but I think things have changed in the game over the last half-decade where defense is getting more and more important,” Zitzelsberger commented.
We’re working to make Naomi into a player who can transition more effectively from defense to offense. That way, even if she’s getting pushed into a defensive position, she can still strike an offensive shot.”

Osaka has won seven WTA titles so far in her career and has earned more than $21M in prize money. 

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