The WTA has put one of its most important markets in the world in the freezer, China, as it has decided to suspend all its tournaments in that country due to concern about taking its players without safety guarantees after several weeks without clarifying the case of the tennis player Peng Shuai.
“I announce the immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong. From a good conscience, I do not see how to ask our athletes to participate in tournaments when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has apparently been pressured to retract her allegations of sexual abuse, “he stated Steve Simon, president of the WTA, in a statement released this Wednesday.
For the WTA, Shuai’s comeback a week ago against him International Olympic Committee (COI), in a video call made in front of the president of said body, Thomas Bach, is not a sufficient argument to guarantee your freedoms as a person in China. The top president of women’s tennis points out that he fears that Shuai is restrained by the Chinese government and given the lack of a thorough investigation, he does not want to risk other tennis players to travel to that country.
“The WTA will do everything possible to protect its players. Together with us, I hope that world leaders will continue to advocate for justice for Peng and all women, regardless of the economic consequences, ”Simon stressed in the statement.
The economic repercussions would be strong if China does not stay within the WTA Tour. China is the country with the largest number of tournaments within the season, as it has nine in total (six of level 250, one of 500 and two more than Masters 1000), in addition to a current contract for the Finals, which includes the period 2022-2030. Only USA owns nine other tournaments (not counting the Grand Slams), while Australia it is third in order with seven.
According to their own statements by the WTA leaders, the Finals, which have been held only once in China (in 2019), yielded an economic spill of 150 million dollars, so breaking this link that has until 2030 would mean a loss of 1,350 million, not counting the gains that the other nine tournaments may leave between level 250 and the Masters 1000, which undoubtedly raise the figure.
Various world tennis stars, from Chris Evert until Novak Djokovic and several Western countries, notably France and the United States, but also the European Union and the United Nations (UN) have asked Beijing to release more information about the fate of Peng Shuai, but this has not happened.
Among the first to react to the decision of the WTA president on the suspension of China was the Czech tennis player, Petra Kvitova, who tweeted an emoji in applause, while the French Alizé Cornet He praised the decision by noting in another tweet: “What a leader!”
Shenzen, Anning, Zhengzhou, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Beijing, Tianjing, Nanchang and Honk Kong are the venues that host at least one tournament for China within the WTA Tour, with Wuhan and Beijing being the most recognized because they are Masters 1000 category, which it shows a greater presence of elite tennis players and, therefore, higher prices at the box office.
In total, the WTA Tour had been made up of 70 events during 2021, although 18 were totally canceled in venues such as China, Japan, Thailand and Morocco. Of those 70, 16 were based in an Asian country, which represents 22% of the season.
One of the most important tournaments, the Finals, were removed to Guadalajara, Mexico, which took place on the smallest stage in the event’s history since 1972 (with capacity for 6,500 spectators) and with a notable reduction from 14 to 5 million. dollars in the prize money, but leaving satisfied WTA authorities such as Micky Lawler, who did not rule out that, when the event ended his contract with China, he could return to Mexico, although for now the Asian giant is suspended from the highest level of women’s tennis.