WTA adds 2 new tourneys to replace Citi Open

Tennis

The WTA has launched a second, new tennis event after negotiations to host both an ATP and WTA draw as usual at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. collapsed. The Top Seed Open in Lexington, Kentucky, will take place during the same time frame (Aug. 10-16) as another new WTA event, the Prague Open.

“As the WTA Tour looks to return to competition in 2020, we are pleased to provide additional playing opportunities for our athletes,” Steve Simon, WTA Chairman and CEO, said in a WTA press release. “We are delighted to welcome the teams in Prague and Lexington onto the 2020 provisional calendar and look forward to the return of women’s professional tennis.”

Having the two events simultaneously means that in these uncertain times of travel restrictions and other safety protocols, players who are from or already in the U.S. will have a tournament to play, while their European counterparts will also have the opportunity to compete in a comparable event in Prague that week.

Both events will overlap with the Citi Open, which has hosted a combined field since a WTA draw was added in 2011. The WTA competition is a bottom-tier International event, while the men’s division has been a tier two ATP event, second only to Masters 1000s in prestige. Partly for that reason, the WTA field has generally been overshadowed by the strong ATP presence.

“Given the unique circumstances and requirements this year, we understand and support [player and event management firm] Octagon and the WTA’s decision to hold the tournament as a completely separate event in 2020,” Citi Open officials wrote in a tweet. “We wish them and the local organizers in Lexington, Kentucky all the best for a safe and successful tournament.”

The WTA champions at the Citi Open since 2011 include Grand Slam champions Sloane Stephens and Svetlana Kuznetsova, but the men’s event was created in 1969, and has produced more well-known winners, among them Juan Martin del Poro, Alexander Zverev, Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi.

Spokespersons for the Citi Open as well as the WTA have told ESPN that the financial burdens created by a COVID-19 pandemic that rules out the presence of paying spectators and calls for major investments in health-related measures made the costs associated with holding a combined event prohibitive. Sources also told ESPN that the WTA was leery that it would have to play second-fiddle to the ATP in Washington D.C., especially with Lexington in the wings prepared to host a stand-alone WTA event of the same International.

Citi Open officials have not given up on women’s tennis, though. Their statement ended with the promise: “We still plan to present women’s tennis during this year’s Citi Open and look forward to hosting the women’s tournament in Washington, D.C. next year and long into the future.”

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