WTA blasted for ‘disrespectful’ conditions as players band together with demands
Aryna Sabalenka and Marketa Vondrousova have slammed the conditions at this week’s WTA Finals after the stadium was completed just one day before the tournament started. World No 1 Sabalenka said she felt “disrespected” by the WTA in an impassioned statement while the Wimbledon champion claimed that the courts were already unfit when they started practising on Sunday.
Sabalenka slammed the WTA for leaving the construction of the court to the last minute following her opening-round match on Sunday and later took to Instagram to expand on her frustrations. “I’m happy that I was able to stay focused tonight, overcome the conditions, and play well,” the world No 1 wroteafter beating Maria Sakkari.
“I have to say though that I am very disappointed with the WTA and the experience so far at the WTA Finals. As I said in my press conference tonight, as a player I really feel disrespected by the WTA. I think most of us do. This is not the level of organisation we expect for the Finals. To be honest, I don’t feel safe moving on this court a lot of the time, the bounce is not consistent at all, and we weren’t able to practice on this court until yesterday for the first time. It’s just not acceptable to me with so much on the line and so much at stake.”
In a statement on Tuesday, the WTA said: “We’re pleased to host the WTA Finals in Cancun for the first time and worked hard to construct a stadium where the world’s top eight women’s tennis players and doubles teams compete head-to-head. The team has worked diligently on an expedited timeline amid weather challenges to ensure the stadium and court meet our strict performance standards. We look forward to this week ahead and playing in front of the energetic fans here in Cancun.”
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But Sabalenka isn’t the only player to hit out at the court at this year’s WTA Finals, where the host city was selected just six weeks prior to the start of the tournament. Vondrousova – who qualified for the first time – also took to Instagram where she claimed that players didn’t feel as though the women’s tour was listening to them.
The world No 6 wrote: “My first WTA Finals is not at all what I imagined. We work hard all year to get to the Finals and in the end it’s just a disappointment. Stadium is not at all ready for the matches and to me it feels like the people from WTA are absolutely not interested in how we- who are supposed to play on that court feel. We do not feel that anyone listens to us and is interested in our opinion. Very sad.”
Vondrousova also elaborated on the issues with the court. “There are terrible bumps. If you want to play it quickly, it’s not possible at all. It bounces all over the place. With her spins, it’s hard to chase it there. I think the court is really bad,” she told Radiozurnal Sport.
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With tensions boiling over in Cancun, The Athletic has reported that a group of players sent a joint letter to the WTA calling for higher pay, flexible scheduling, expanded childcare, and the chance to have a representative of the Professional Tennis Players Association on the WTA Player Council.
According to the publication, Sabalenka and Vondrousova are among the 21 stars who signed the letter. The players reportedly requested a formal written response by Friday, October 13 but were instead offered two meetings with leaders of the WTA, including chief executive Steve Simon.
Players met with Simon and co on October 16 and again in Cancun on October 26 but, according to The Athletic, two top players “were so frustrated they left last Thursday’s meeting before its conclusion.” In response, the WTA told the publication that “players have always been equal decision-makers to ensure a strong direction for women’s tennis”.
The tour added: “We’re proud of these efforts and look forward to continuing to have these very important conversations with players and tournaments to keep building a strong future for women’s tennis.” It comes four months after the WTA announced a pathway to equal pay at shared WTA and ATP tournaments by 2027 and at single-week WTA 1000 and 500 events by 2033.
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