WTA Finals head to Fort Worth

The Women’s Tennis Association has announced its 2022 season-ending WTA Finals will be held in Fort Worth, Texas, adding it is committed to returning the event to China next year.

The 2022 WTA Finals will take place from October 31 to November 7 at Dickies Arena, a 14,000-seat venue which opened in October 2019.

“The Dickies Arena and the city of Fort Worth has a proven track record of hosting world class sporting and entertainment events, and we are excited to bring the WTA’s showpiece tournament back to the United States for the first time since 2005,” said Steve Simon, WTA chairman and CEO.

“This location and venue for the 2022 WTA Finals will provide a fantastic experience for players and fans alike and offer a fitting finale as another exciting season on the Hologic WTA Tour comes to a close.”

The WTA relocated the 2021 Finals from the Chinese city of Shenzhen to Guadalajara, Mexico. Shenzhen first staged the WTA Finals in 2019 as part of a long-term deal with the WTA. The WTA did not give a specific reason for the relocation to Guadalajara but the decision came amid the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The WTA said that Shenzhen would return as host in 2022 and would continue staging the event until 2030.

The WTA Finals did not go ahead in 2020 due to COVID-19 and the status of last year’s event had been uncertain after the WTA in July 2021 cancelled its Asia swing of tournaments because of the pandemic.

In yesterday’s (Tuesday’s) announcement, the WTA said that following the 2022 Finals in Fort Worth, the event is thereafter due to return to Shenzhen in cooperation with long-term partner Gemdale. A number of international sporting events have been relocated from China of late due to the country’s ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

However, the WTA in December suspended all tournaments in China and Hong Kong amid concerns over the safety of Chinese player Peng Shuai. On November 2, Peng posted on social media an allegation of sexual assault against a top Chinese government official, former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli. The post was taken down and Peng was subsequently not seen or heard from for around two weeks.

On November 17, the China Global Television Network published a statement claiming to be from Peng which said the player was not missing or unsafe. Following the release of the statement, Simon sought “independent and verifiable proof” that Peng was safe.

Peng later held a video call with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach but the lack of clarity regarding her safety or whereabouts has now prompted the WTA to take serious action. Peng has since appeared at some public events, and denied ever making the accusation.

Image: Dickies Arena