The WTA has launched a second new tennis event after negotiations to host both an ATP and WTA draw as usual at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., collapsed. The Top Seed Open in Lexington, Kentucky, will take place during the same time frame (Aug. 10-16) as the Prague Open, another new WTA event.
"As the WTA Tour looks to return to competition in 2020, we are pleased to provide additional playing opportunities for our athletes," Steve Simon, WTA chairman and CEO, said in a WTA press release. "We are delighted to welcome the teams in Prague and Lexington onto the 2020 provisional calendar and look forward to the return of women's professional tennis."
Having the events simultaneously means that in times of travel restrictions and safety protocols, players who are in the U.S. will have a tournament, while their European counterparts also will have the opportunity to compete in a comparable event in Prague that week.
Both events will overlap with the Citi Open, which has hosted a combined field since a WTA draw was added in 2011. The WTA competition is a bottom-tier international event, while the men's division has been a Tier 2 ATP event, second only to Masters 1000s in prestige. Partly for that reason, the WTA field generally has been overshadowed by the strong ATP presence.
"Given the unique circumstances and requirements this year, we understand and support [player and event management firm] Octagon and the WTA's decision to hold the tournament as a completely separate event in 2020," Citi Open officials wrote in a tweet. "We wish them and the local organizers in Lexington, Kentucky, all the best for a safe and successful tournament."
The WTA champions at the Citi Open since 2011 include Grand Slam champions Sloane Stephens and Svetlana Kuznetsova. The men's event was created in 1969 and has produced well-known winners, among them Juan Martin del Potro, Alexander Zverev, Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi.
Spokespersons for the Citi Open and the WTA have told ESPN that financial burdens created by the pandemic, such as no paying spectators and the need for major investments in health-related measures, made the costs associated with a combined event prohibitive. Sources also told ESPN that the WTA was leery that it would have to play second-fiddle to the ATP in Washington, D.C., especially with Lexington prepared to host a stand-alone WTA event.
Citi Open officials have not given up on women's tennis, though. Their statement ended with the promise: "We still plan to present women's tennis during this year's Citi Open and look forward to hosting the women's tournament in Washington, D.C., next year and long into the future."