WTA Tour set to return to China in 2023 following suspension over Peng Shuai situation
The sport’s governing body, WTA, is set to resume its China-bound tournament, China Open, in 2023 following a major overhaul of its decision-making bodies, including its chief executive.
WTA president and chief executive officer Stacey Allaster said the change was designed to “enable our sport to thrive and grow in China”.
“We can now offer fans a better experience, better quality for players and a stronger tournament,” she said. “We will build on our strong existing relationship with our partners in China and offer great growth opportunities over the next three years.”
Allaster said the WTA would be aiming to introduce three new products in the first year of the new cycle.
She said the tournaments would be designed “for the most part to be family and friend experiences for our audiences, with a focus on education and sport”.
“We are not taking a backseat to our partners, who have committed significant resources and support for this expansion into the market,” she said. “We recognise that China offers a tremendous opportunity for our sport and will be working together to drive momentum, awareness, and growth of the WTA in China.”
Allaster said the China Open – which has been running every January for the past 18 years – would see it return to a month-long format, with fewer tournaments and with a focus on family-friendly matches.
She said the focus would be on growing the fan base, which would be “expanded significantly” in the next three years.
“I am hopeful that we can provide the right context for our sport to thrive and grow in China,” she said.
The timing of the change is significant for the WTA, which has long courted Chinese audiences.
China Open had been due to return after a three-year suspension because of “lack of transparency” involving Peng Shuai, who runs an animal husbandry farm in China.
It has not been rescheduled to resume the tournament but will return following a review of the WTA’s decision-making.