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WTA can weather revenue hit but no normalcy until 2022

TENNIS By Reuters | July 27th 2020
Tennis - WTA Tour Finals - Shenzhen Bay Sports Center - Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China - November 3, 2019. Hungary's Timea Babos and France's Kristina Mladenovic celebrate with the trophy after winning their doubles final match against Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei and Czech Republic's Barbora Strycova. [[REUTERS/Aly Song]

The WTA has a strategy in place to cope with the financial strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic but chief executive Steve Simon thinks the elite women's Tour will not return to any semblance of normality before 2022.

The WTA, which has lost a big chunk of tournaments since the forced shutdown in early March, will finally resume after a five-month break with the Palermo Open from Aug. 3.

All of its tournaments in China this year were cancelled on Friday after the country's Sports Ministry said it would not host any international events this year apart from 2022 Winter Olympic trials.

"The WTA is no different than any other business in this world and everybody's been affected financially by this," Simon told Reuters from the United States.

"And we've been hit hard, just as many other companies have been as well. If we're not operating and you're losing 50 to 60% of your year, your financials and your revenues are going to drop significantly.

"Do we have some big challenges financially? Absolutely. But we do have a strategy, we do have a plan in place that's going to allow us to operate."

Simon, who took over as the CEO in 2015, said the plans would evolve over the remainder of the year but it has ensured that the body would survive the economic crisis.

"And from a good news standpoint, our tournaments seem to be strong and stable as well, and are weathering it," he said.

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"You never know where you might lose one. But it appears that most of our calendar will stay intact if obviously the conditions allow for sporting events to be held going forward."

China featured prominently in the provisional calendar for the remainder of 2020 with seven tournaments, including the $14 million season-ending WTA Finals in Shenzhen.

With some 200,000 new COVID-19 cases being reported globally every day and international travel restrictions still in place, Simon said plans were changing on an hourly basis and visibility for the rest of the year remained clouded.

"I don't think that we will be back to what we used to take as 'normalcy' probably until 2022," he said. "So we're now also looking at how are we going to manage 2021, because I don't think this goes away as of January.

"There's a tremendous amount of planning and scenarios going in as to what that year might look like.

"But it is watching and monitoring and working with the health experts to get their opinions, and then try to put our plans in place as best as we can so that we can operate as efficiently and as healthy as we possibly can."

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