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WTA Elite Zhuhai must change or die

Matt Zemek

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Geoff Burke - USA TODAY Sports

The WTA’s love affair with China is not an innocent love affair. It is — like most love affairs which are morally wrong — hurting other people. Hyperbole? No… but if you’re unsure, I’ll explain.

The WTA Elite Zhuhai tournament just concluded. I actually like the idea of having a second year-end tournament for the players who missed Shenzhen and the WTA Finals. Why not give more tennis players a chance to earn money (emphasis on money, not rankings points) and build confidence for next season?

That’s good.

What isn’t good: rewarding players at this second-tier year-end event more than the players who earned a berth in the WTA Finals.

Yet, the WTA Elite Zhuhai event does exactly that.

Players who make the WTA Finals in Shenzhen but lose all three round-robin matches still get generously compensated in money for each match. Spreading more money to more players in Zhuhai is perfectly fine.

This is not about money. This is about rankings points, which reflect the quality of the work done by a player throughout a season. These points can and do affect the seedings — and therefore, the draws — for big tournaments such as the Australian Open, which is the next big tournament any of these WTA players will play.

So, tell me how it is fair to give the Zhuhai participants a shot at 700 rankings points? That is what Aryna Sabalenka earned for winning all four matches in Zhuhai: two round-robin matches, a semifinal, and a final. Had Kiki Bertens — also 3-0 in Zhuhai entering the final — won, she would have claimed the 700-point haul.

We have seen three players at the WTA Finals already need medical attention during their first round-robin matches: Belinda Bencic, Bianca Andreescu, and Simona Halep. They are all being asked to play elite players. Bencic in particular has to face Petra Kvitova and then Naomi Osaka.

The tough draw at the eight-player, year-end championship event makes it very realistic that a player will go 0-3 and not get a rankings points boost.

Sabalenka and Bertens, both top-four seeds at the 12-player Zhuhai event, played a far weaker level of competition and made significant points gains, with Sabalenka gaining the full 700-point prize.

How significant is a 700-point haul on the WTA Tour?

A 700-point prize is more points than a Premier Mandatory runner-up finish. It is almost as many points as a major semifinal.

WHAT?

In no rational universe should a SECOND-TIER tournament confer such a points banquet on the champion.

Zhuhai should be given a smaller amount of points than a Premier — more than an International is fair enough, but not on the same plane as a Premier tournament.

Give Zhuhai players generous amounts of money, but points? That is unfair to the WTA Finals participants who lose ground in points and watched their seedings suffer at the 2020 Australian Open.

Tennis remains dumb. That is the theme for the day — or is it the week, or month, or year, or decade, or century?

All of the above? Oui. #OuiTweets

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Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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