Budapest’s Billie Jean King Cup deal terminated

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) is seeking a new host for the finals of its Billie Jean King Cup tournament after an agreement with Budapest was terminated.

The event formerly known as the Fed Cup had initially been due to take place in March 2020 on indoor clay courts at the Hungarian capital’s Laszlo Papp Arena (pictured). The tournament was then rescheduled for April 13-18 this year before it was pushed back again until later in 2021.

The latest delay, announced in February, came amid continued uncertainty and the challenges caused by the pandemic, with the ITF stating it was “unfeasible” to stage a competition of its scale on the scheduled April dates.

No new dates had been set and Budapest’s agreement with the ITF has now been terminated. ITF president Dave Haggerty confirmed the news in a statement to the Reuters news agency.

“We have been working closely with the Hungarian government and the Hungarian Tennis Association (HTA) to review all feasible options to reschedule this year’s finals,” said Haggerty.

“After working together in good faith for the past year, we were surprised and disappointed to be informed that the HTA no longer considers it possible to hold the event in Budapest. Given the timing, the ITF has been left with no other option than to end the hosting agreement with Hungary and explore an alternative solution.”

Reuters reports that the HTA informed the ITF on April 22 that Budapest would not be capable of hosting the finals due to safety reasons.

Budapest was awarded hosting rights to the tournament in 2019, when the event was restructured into a 12-nation competition. The tournament was renamed last year in honour of women’s tennis icon Billie Jean King, who helped the United States win the inaugural Fed Cup in 1963.

Budapest will also be a host city during this summer’s rescheduled UEFA European Championships and the city is aiming to welcome spectators to the Puskás Aréna at full capacity.

In other news, up to 1,000 fans per day are set to be permitted for matches on the main show courts at this year’s edition of the French Open grand slam.

Sports Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said that smaller venues on the Roland Garros site will be permitted to open at 35% capacity for the event, which will run from May 30 to June 13. Capacity is then set to rise to 5,000 on the three show courts from June 9, when the limit for smaller courts will also increase to 65%.

It was announced last month that the French Open would be postponed by a week to maximise fan attendance. The 2020 event was postponed due to the pandemic but went ahead with limited fan attendance from September 21 to October 11.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced last week that sports venues will be able to reopen from May 19 as the country seeks to come out of its latest COVID-19 lockdown.

On May 19, outdoor sporting venues can reopen with capacity capped at 1,000, while cultural venues such as museums, cinemas, and theatres can allow a maximum capacity of 800 indoor and 1,000 outdoor. This will be based on the epidemiological situation across France, with areas where the incidence rate is over 400 cases per 100,000 not being allowed to proceed.

Image: Hu Totya/CC BY-SA 3.0/Edited for size