Tennis stars are speaking out amid poor playing conditions at the WTA finals
The GIST: The ongoing 2023 WTA Finals are serving as a tipping point for tennis’ biggest stars to call out the WTA for poor playing conditions and a lack of athlete protections or guaranteed salaries. Plus, an official letter sent out by players about these issues remains ignored. Double fault.
The details: On October 5th, a three-page letter signed by at least 20 of the WTA’s top players — including world No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka — was sent to the women's tennis organization. In addition to a more flexible calendar, higher pay, and improved childcare, athletes asked that the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) be formally recognized. The players requested a response by October 13th, but have yet to hear back.
- Also on the wish list is a new salary tier: $500K salary guarantees for Top 100 players, $200K for 101-175 rankings, and $100K for 175-250 rankings. This follows the ATP’s adoption of a similar pay structure for next year.
The union: The PTPA was started by Novak Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil after they experienced shortcomings of the ATP’s Players Council. Launched at the 2020 US Open, the association initially drew criticism from major tennis stars, the ATP, and the four Grand Slams, but quickly established itself.
- The decentralized nature of tennis makes the PTPA appear divisive to the ATP, but Djokovic and the union’s players have repeatedly attempted to work with the major tours — even if they are ignored. Sponsors aren’t ignoring the PTPA, however: Citi, CSM, and Tumi all endorsed the player organization.
The WTA Finals: This all comes as things fall apart at the WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico, where athletes are calling out poor playing conditions. Sabalenka felt disrespected by last-minute planning, which resulted in a lack of practice courts and a subpar playing surface that created some atrocious bounces.
- The Cancun venue was only announced in early September — it was delayed due to indecision about taking the competition to Saudi Arabia this year, where it is expected to be played in 2024. Watch this space.