The highly anticipated 2023 edition of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Finals has been officially announced to take place in Cancun, Mexico. This one-year agreement brings an end to widespread speculation that the event might be held in Saudi Arabia, sparking controversy among fans and players alike. The tournament, which will feature the top eight singles players and doubles teams, will mark a return to Mexico after its successful staging in Guadalajara in 2021.
A Fantastic Experience for Players and Fans Alike
Steve Simon, WTA Chairman and CEO, expressed his excitement for the upcoming edition, stating that it will provide a “fantastic experience” for both players and fans. This tournament is set to offer a fitting finale for the 2023 WTA Tour, while also contributing to the growth and development of women’s tennis as a whole. The decision to select Cancun as the host city demonstrates the WTA’s commitment to creating a strong future for the sport.
Recent rumors surrounding the potential relocation of the WTA Finals to Saudi Arabia have been put to rest with the announcement of Cancun as the host city. Although social media had been abuzz with speculation following the ATP Tour’s decision to hold the Next Gen Finals in Jeddah from 2023-27, the WTA has avoided the controversies associated with the Gulf state. Concerns over Saudi Arabia’s stance on women’s and LGBTQIA+ rights have raised accusations of sportswashing, making it a challenging choice for hosting women’s tour events.
As previously stated, Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights issues has prompted skepticism and backlash within the tennis world. Steve Simon himself acknowledged the “big issues” associated with choosing Saudi Arabia as a host country. However, the WTA has refrained from definitively ruling out the possibility of holding the tournament there in the future. While no decision has been made yet, the controversy surrounding Saudi Arabia’s record has been a significant factor in selecting Cancun as the venue for the 2023 edition.
Tunisian world No. 5 Ons Jabeur, who made history as the first Arab player to reach a Grand Slam final, expressed her support for the idea of hosting the WTA Finals in Saudi Arabia. Jabeur believes that such a move would encourage more Arab women to participate in tennis, helping to bridge the representation gap in the sport. However, retired tennis legend and current ESPN analyst Chris Evert voiced her preference against Saudi Arabia as a host country, highlighting the complexities of the decision.
A Change in Location
The last two editions of the WTA Finals have seen a change in location due to various reasons. In 2021, the tournament moved from its original host city of Shenzhen, China, to Guadalajara, Mexico, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Asian swing of tournaments was removed from the WTA calendar as a precautionary measure. Moreover, the 2022 edition was initially planned for a return to Shenzhen, but concerns over former doubles world No. 1 Peng Shuai prompted the suspension of tournaments in China. Consequently, the event was moved to Fort Worth, Texas. However, the WTA has since resumed operations in China this year.
Throughout its history, the WTA Finals have been held in various cities across the globe. Los Angeles hosted the tournament from 2002 to 2005, followed by rotations among cities like Madrid, Doha, Istanbul, and Singapore. These different locations reflect the international reach and growing popularity of women’s tennis. Now, with the exciting move to Cancun, the WTA continues to diversify its geographical footprint.
Timing and Prioritization of Players
The 2023 WTA Finals will conclude two days before the commencement of the Billie Jean King Cup finals in Seville, Spain. This schedule allows players to participate in both prestigious events seamlessly. However, it is worth noting that world No. 1 Iga Swiatek chose to skip the Billie Jean King Cup finals last year due to scheduling conflicts. Swiatek called for tennis governing bodies to prioritize creating a better schedule to avoid such conflicts in the future. The WTA, in consultation with the WTA Players’ Council, is committed to carefully considering competitive bids and optimizing scheduling to ensure the best experience for players.
The announcement of Cancun as the host city for the 2023 WTA Finals brings with it a wave of excitement and anticipation. By selecting Cancun, the WTA has made a statement about the values it upholds as an organization, emphasizing its commitment to women’s tennis and the overall fan experience. As players and fans eagerly await the tournament, it is clear that the WTA Finals in Cancun will not only serve as a thrilling culmination of the 2023 season but also lay the groundwork for an even stronger future for women’s tennis around the world.