CANCUN, Mexico — Three-time major title winner Iga Swiatek and reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova joined the chorus of competitors at the WTA Finals criticizing the playing conditions at the season-ending championship for women’s tennis.
The chief complaints — no fewer than half of the eight singles players have spoken out, and Monday was just the second day of action — are that the temporary outdoor hard court in Cancun, built atop a golf course, does not allow for solid footing, the balls bounce oddly and the surface wasn’t ready early enough to allow for sufficient practice time before matches began.
After her victory in round-robin play on Sunday, No. 1-ranked Aryna Sabalenka called the conditions at the season-ending championship “another level of disrespect.”
The WTA defended the court as meeting its “strict performance standards.”
“Obviously it’s not a positive thing for any of us,” Swiatek said after defeating Vondrousova 7-6 (3), 6-0 on Monday.
“For sure, it’s not comfortable — and the fact that we also didn’t have time to practice on this court,” Swiatek said.
Vondrousova was a little more blunt, saying: “The court is, honestly, very bad. … It’s very crazy.”
She added that it’s “like bad clay or grass courts” and “I don’t think this court is very good for the WTA Finals, to be honest.”
The venue for this year’s WTA Finals was not announced until last month, under a one-year agreement with Cancun.
“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 after beating Maria Sakkari 6-0, 6-1.
“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 in action on Sunday, 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.”
Each of the past five editions of the WTA Finals has been held in a different city.
“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.