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‘You have been heard’: WTA apologises to players for Cancún conditions

The Women’s Tennis Association has conceded that this year’s edition of the tour finals is “not a perfect event” and signalled changes to the operation of the circuit after a series of complaints from leading players regarding how they are treated.

In a letter to the players leaked to Sports Illustrated, the WTA chief executive, Steve Simon, said the late selection of Cancún in Mexico to host the showpiece tournament was “based on a number of complicated factors”.

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“It is clear you are not happy with the decision to be here in Cancún. I understand that and you have been heard,” he wrote after thanking the players for attending a meeting at the Mexican resort. “It is not a perfect event, we understand the conditions are a challenge and the WTA accepts responsibility for that.”

Cancún was chosen for the $9m (£7.3m) tournament less than two months before it started, on 29 October. The delay followed consideration of staging it in Saudi Arabia. The finals bring together the top eight singles players and doubles partnerships to conclude the season.

The world No 1, Aryna Sabalenka, criticised the WTA over the court conditions after the opening day and said she felt disrespected by the standard of organisation at the prestigious event.

The complaints have brought to a head widespread dissatisfaction with the way the WTA has been managing the tour. The Athletic reported that 21 of the best players in the world had recently written a letter to Simon outlining their grievances. The website said the players wanted higher pay, a more flexible schedule to ease their physical and mental burden, expanded childcare and representation from the independent Professional Tennis Players Association on the WTA council.


The WTA’s letter said it would consider several proposals to reduce the mandatory commitment of top players to participate in certain tournaments at its next board meeting. It also told the players that a wide range of other issues “that you identified in your letter” would be reviewed.

“A great deal is being done and there is a great deal of alignment in the areas you have raised and what is being worked on,” Simon wrote. There was no immediate reply to a request for comment from the WTA.

Meanwhile on the court, Jessica Pegula stretched her winning streak to eight matches and clinched a spot in the semi-finals with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Maria Sakkari on Thursday night. Pegula, the fifth seed, has not lost a set in Cancún. Against Sakkari, the American dominated second serves – winning 11 out of 19 of her own and 19 of 30 second-serve returns (Sakkari won only eight of 19).

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Jessica Pegula hits a backhand return during her win over Maria SakkariJessica Pegula hits a backhand return during her win over Maria Sakkari, her eighth in a row. Photograph: Fred Mullane/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Pegula also made almost half as many unforced errors – 18 to Sakkari’s 35 – on a windy evening that featured some rain early and a lot later on. The 29-year-old Pegula will play in the semi-finals on Saturdaytoday.

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“Getting through 3-0 is a cool accomplishment,” she said, “especially coming off of last year, where it was the opposite.” Sakkari, ranked No 9, was already eliminated before playing Pegula; she lost all three matches, not winning a set.

Aryna Sabalenka advanced to the semi-finals on Friday by completing victory over Elena Rybakina, who is knocked out. Sabalenka led 6-2, 3-5 overnight when the match was paused due to stormy weather. She eventually triumphed 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 against Kazakhstan’s Rybakina.

“I didn’t really think a lot about this match,” Sabalenka said. “I was just like, whatever. I’m going to go out there and do everything I can and if I win, I win and if I lose, I go home on vacation,” she said with a laugh. I was just trying to play as good as I can.”