Public Criticisms, Letters And Demands - Is The WTA In A Crisis? - UBITENNIS
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Public Criticisms, Letters And Demands – Is The WTA In A Crisis?

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Steve Simon has been CEO of the WTA Tour since 2015

The WTA Finals is regarded as the pinnacle event of the women’s Tour but this year’s edition has already been marred by controversy.

Multiple players have voiced their frustration with the organisation of this year’s event with the court not being fully ready until the same weekend the tournament began. On Saturday during media day, many voiced their disappointment with not being able to have enough time to practice on the main court before the event started. Then on the first day of the competition, world No.1 Aryna Sabalenka accused the WTA of being disrespectful towards its players and said she felt ‘unsafe playing on the court.’ 24 hours on from that, Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousva accused her governing body of not listening to players’ concerns

The players are not happy but their frustration isn’t just with the circumstances surrounding this year’s WTA Finals. 

Sports website The Athletic has revealed that a three-page letter signed by players was sent to the WTA earlier this month during the China Open. In it were requests for a review into the need for 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 PTPA is an independent body co-founded by Novak Djokovic that campaigns for players to have a greater say in the decision-making process of the sport. 

Among those to sign the letter, which has been seen by The Athletic but not Ubitennis, are Sabalenka, Ons Jabeur and Elena Rybakina. It is claimed that more than 20 ‘leading players’ have signed this letter. The request was for the WTA to address the issues stated by October 13th but they didn’t do so for unknown reasons. 

On top of the pressure being pilled on the WTA, Iga Swiatek has also sent her own letter to the governing body regarding her concerns. This was confirmed by the Pole’s spokesperson, Paula Wolecka. 

In a bid to ease tensions, the WTA offered two meetings with its CEO Steve Simon. Among the ‘talking points’ which players can ask questions on concerns Saudi Arabia. A somewhat unsurprising decision considering the likelihood that the WTA Finals will be held in Saudi Arabia from 2024 onwards. Ubitennis also understands that a WTA official visited the country earlier this month to inspect possible venues.  

Saudi Arabia is becoming a heavyweight in the world of sport and is likely to stage the FIFA 2034 World Cup. However, critics have accused the country of using sport to cover up its wrongdoing and human rights violations. One of those concerns centres around homosexuality which is forbidden in Saudi Arabia which bases a lot of its legal framework on Islamic law. On the topic of gay players having concerns about playing in Saudi Arabia, The Athletic reports that the WTA allegedly told players to say the following:-

“I’m happy to play wherever the WTA Finals is hosted, it’s a prestigious event.’ 

The criticisms place Simon’s position as head of the WTA in the spotlight, which he has held since 2015. Last week he denied a claim made by the Kazakh Tennis Federation Vice President, Yuri Polsky, that his organisation could go bankrupt within the next couple of years. 

“The WTA is in a healthy financial position, a merger with the ATP is not under consideration and we are excited for our future during which we will continue to grow and expand women’s tennis,” Simon said in a statement to Sport Poland.
“Earlier this year, the WTA announced an increase of $400M in compensation to players over the next 10 years maintaining the WTA’s position as the leading women’s sports organisation globally.”

Simon has yet to speak publically with the media about the current situation on Tour.

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Emma Raducanu Confident Of Full Fitness Ahead Of Grass Swing

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Emma Raducanu - Cincinnati 2022 (foto Twitter @cincytennis)

Emma Raducanu has no regrets about her decision to skip the French Open and now believes she is in a ‘really fit place’ ahead of Wimbledon. 

The former US Open champion opted to end her clay season earlier than other players to focus on fitness and training with her coach. Raducanu stated earlier this year that her primary focus in 2024 is on her health after undergoing a series of wrist and ankle surgeries last year which sidelined her for months. 

Raducanu will return to action this week at the Nottingham Open, which is the event where she made her WTA main draw debut back in 2021. Despite her lack of match play in recent weeks, the Brit is feeling good and relishing her return to the grass.

“Body-wise, physical-wise, I feel really healthy,” she said on Monday.
“I’ve done amazing work with my trainer over the last few months, since surgery. I’m in a really fit place. I’m healthy and just looking forward to starting playing.”

Shedding more light on her health, Raducanu says she has full confidence in her wrists and believes they are in top condition. Making her feel more at ease when playing matches on the Tour. 

“I think my wrists are actually in a better position than they ever were. So there’s zero doubt or apprehension whether I’m hitting the ball or designing my schedule,” she explained.
“It’s more about being proactive and not wanting to put yourself in any unnecessary situations. I don’t need to rush and try to win the French Open, it wasn’t my goal this year.
“I had to prioritise where I wanted to target and it was just a good block for me to get some physical work done.”

Raducanu has played seven WTA events so far this season with her best run being to the quarter-finals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, where she was beaten by world No.1 Iga Swiatek. The 21-year-old is currently ranked 209th in the world. 

At the Nottingham Open, she will play her first match on Tuesday against Japanese qualifier Ena Shibahara. 

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Russian World No.78 Elina Avanesyan To Switch Nationalities

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Image via https://x.com/WTAMeridaOpen/

A week after losing her fourth round match at the French Open, a government minister has confirmed that Elina Avanesyan is in the process of changing the nationality of who she plays for. 

The 21-year-old is switching her aligence from Russia to Armenia, according to Armenia’s deputy Minister of International Affairs and communication. Karen Giloyan has told the news agency Armenpress that Avanesyan will soon be representing his country. However, the tennis player has yet to comment on the matter.  Avanesyan was born in Russia but has Armenian parents.

“Elina Avanesyan will compete under the Armenian flag, but there is nothing official yet. We are waiting for her to get the citizenship of the Republic of Armenia so that everything will be official,” Giloyan told Armenpress.

Such a development would be a massive coup for the Armenian tennis federation which currently doesn’t have a player ranked inside the top 500 on either the men’s or women’s Tour. The country has a population of less than 3M. Perhaps their best-known player is Sargis Sargsian who reached the top 40 back in 2004. Others on the Tour also have Armenian heritage but don’t represent the country such as Karen Khachanov.  

Avanesyan is currently ranked 78th in the world, which is 18 places below her career high. This season, she has scored high-profile wins over Maria Sakkari at the Australian Open, Ons Jabeur in Charleston and Qinwen Zhang at the French Open. 

She has yet to play in the final of a WTA tournament.

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Iga Looks To Be In A league All to Herself At Paris

Iga Swiatek claimed her fourth Roland Garros title in Paris.

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(@Eurosport - Twitter)

Just call her Iga. No other identification is needed.

As the years go by, Iga’s notoriety is sure to grow.

She’s probably already earned a spot in tennis’ Hall of Fame.

Yes, Iga Swiatek is a name to remember. A hero in her native Poland, a superstar in the world of sports.

IGA WAS JUST TOO GOOD

Iga just added to her stardom Saturday with an impressive 6-2, 6-1 victory over little-known Italian Jasmine Paolini to win her third straight French Open title. This was Paolini’s chance to make a name for herself, but she didn’t have the game to make it happen.

Iga was just too good. She made it look too easy.

Paolini could hit some great ground strokes, but when she looked up a bigger shot was on its way back. Iga doesn’t look like a power hitter, but she is.

WINNING 10 CONSECUTIVE GAMES

The 23-year-old Polish Wonder finished the first set winning five straight games, then started the second set winning five more games in succession. The 28-year-old Paolini didn’t seem to have a clue on how to upend Swiatek.

It took just 78 minutes for Iga to win her fifth Grand Slam title.

She’s a lot like her French Open hero, Rafa Nadal.

She takes every match seriously.

SWIATEK OWNS THE RED CLAY

No wonder Iga owns a 35-2 record at Roland Garos. Or that she has won 21 straight matches. Or that she owns a 5-0 record in Grand Slam finals.

She only dominated opponents, except for Naomi Osaka in the second round. Swiatek escaped a match point in that one and didn’t look back.

Iga’s game should be just as superb on the green grass of upcoming Wimbledon.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.

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