CANCUN, Mexico (AP) — The women’s tennis tour defended the court built for the WTA Finals as meeting its “strict performance standards” after No. 1-ranked Aryna Sabalenka called the conditions at the season-ending championship “another level of disrespect.”
At least two of the eight singles players at the event that began Sunday complained about the temporary outdoor hard court in Cancun, including saying that it was not ready earlier to allow for more practice time before the competition.
“Honestly, it’s another level of disrespect from the WTA for the players, because sometimes they don’t even feel safe to move on this court. That’s not the level I expect from the WTA Finals,” Sabalenka said Sunday night after beating Maria Sakkari 6-0, 6-1 in one of the opening matches in round-robin play.
“Thank you for this challenge I’m facing right now, to kind of like learn how to adapt quick to the conditions. Thank you for that. But this is not something I expect from such a high- level tournament,” said Sabalenka, who won the Australian Open in January and was the runner-up to Coco Gauff at the U.S. Open in September. “And I’m really happy that I’m able to ignore all this.”
Another player who was in action on Day 1, 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, said after her straight-set loss to Jessica Pegula: “About the court, I don’t really want to talk, but of course, it’s not good. … Everything was late and (there was) no time to fix anything.”
The venue for this year’s WTA Finals was not announced until last month, under a one-year agreement with Cancun.
“We’re pleased to host the WTA Finals in Cancun for the first time and worked hard to construct a stadium where the world’s top eight women’s tennis players and doubles teams compete head-to-head. The team has worked diligently on an expedited timeline amid weather challenges to ensure the stadium and court meet our strict performance standards,” the tour said in a statement.
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