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The WTA Tour consists of tournaments held all over the globe, as I’m sure you are aware. The tour hosts tournaments in some of the most beautiful cities, countries, and continents on the planet. And the fact that the WTA Tour ‘follows the sun’ makes it a traveler’s paradise. However, there are some places that the WTA Tour hasn’t yet ventured to – for numerous reasons. Yet in the case of China, the WTA Tour has hosted tournaments in this country in the past.
In fact, the WTA Tour has enjoyed a very successful partnership with China in years gone by. And by all intents and purposes, it seems as though this has been a fruitful partnership for both China and the WTA Tour. But with that said, the WTA Tour hasn’t stepped foot in China since 2019. Of course, this has already changed in 2023, as several tournaments have been held in China in September alone. And as we cross over into October, the biggest of the bunch is unfolding as we speak – the WTA China Open, a 1000-level event. This is played in tandem with the ATP event, for which you can track the ATP China Open schedule if you’d like to watch.
Now, there are many tennis fans who are thrilled about the return of the WTA Tour to China. However, there are others who do not support the decision, for events that I have detailed below. Yet in order to give you the most comprehensive answer, I’ve covered the reasons in their entirety. So please read on to see why the return of the WTA China Open is both exciting and concerning, depending on which side of the fence you sit on.
Why the WTA China Open wasn’t held for four years
As noted above, the WTA China Open hasn’t been played since 2019. This event is played in Beijing, and in years gone by, the tournament has grown to be one of the most anticipated events of the season. However, following the last edition of the WTA China Open, which was played in 2019, this all changed. And for those who’d like to know why, let me give you the two distinctive reasons right now.
While the world now seems to be back to normal, the COVID-19 pandemic will live long in the memory of those who were badly affected. With that said, COVID-19 impacted countries and people all over the world in one way or another. On that note, this was the main reason that the WTA China Open was not held in 2020. As I’m sure you will remember, at that moment in time, many countries were facing a complete lockdown, and it just wasn’t possible to host professional sporting events.
This wasn’t just true for tennis either – it was true for many professional sports across the board. Yet COVID-19 was only responsible for the absence of the WTA China Open in 2020 and 2021.
The concerning situation involving Peng Shuai
The other, more sinister reason that the WTA China Open hasn’t been played since 2019 is due to the concerning and distressing situation that involved Peng Shuai. While you might not have followed the story closely at the time, in short, Peng Shuai made some serious allegations against the Chinese Vice Premier, Zhang Gaoli. These allegations were made online in November 2021, and Peng Shuai then seemed to simply ‘disappear’ from public view.
As a top doubles player, the WTA Tour was understandably concerned about the situation, as were tennis fans around the world. And despite reassurances through channels such as email, state media, or individual interviews, the truth is that the WTA Tour just didn’t know whether she was safe or not. Of course, when such things happen, it’s normal to fear the worst.
As a result, since the WTA Tour was dissatisfied with the ‘proof’ that Peng Shuai was safe, they chose to suspend all tournaments in China from December 2021.
The decision to return and host the 2023 WTA China Open
Given that the WTA China Open 2023 is back in action, and with other tournaments being played in China in previous weeks, the WTA Tour has obviously made a full return to China. However, there is still concern over the situation with Peng Shuai, and for some tennis fans, the decision to return to China is too soon. Then again, as stressed by Steve Simon, the CEO of the WTA – he feels that the WTA’s requests for further clarity over Shuai’s wellbeing just won’t be met.
And while this might be a long-standing red flag for many, Simon has chosen to initiate a return to China and start to focus on the mission to grow women’s tennis in this region.
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