WTA Finals to be held in Cancun, not Saudi Arabia

The 2023 edition of the WTA Finals will be held in Cancun, Mexico, from Oct. 29 to Nov. 5 under a one-year agreement, the women's tennis body announced Thursday, ending speculation that this year's event could be held in Saudi Arabia.

The season-ending tournament, which features the top eight singles players and doubles teams, returns to Mexico after one year, with the 2021 edition taking place in Guadalajara.

"This edition of the WTA Finals will provide a fantastic experience for players and fans alike, offer a fitting finale for the 2023 WTA Tour, and enable us to continue building a strong future for women's tennis," said Steve Simon, WTA chairman and CEO.

After the men's ATP Tour announced last month that the Next Gen Finals would be held in Jeddah from 2023-27, social media had been awash with rumors that the WTA Finals also could be headed to Saudi Arabia.

Simon previously said that the Gulf state presented "big issues" as a host for women's tour events, as Saudi Arabia's record on women's and LGBTQIA+ rights has led to accusations of sportswashing.

But the tour declined to deny outright recent rumors that the WTA Finals could go to Saudi Arabia in the future and said that no decision had been made yet.

Tunisian world No. 5 Ons Jabeur, the first Arab player to reach a Grand Slam final, had backed the idea as a way of bringing more Arab women into tennis.

Retired great and current ESPN analyst Chris Evert told reporters last month that she would prefer the WTA not to go to the Middle Eastern country.

The 2021 tournament was held in Guadalajara instead of in Shenzhen, China, after the WTA removed the Asian swing of tournaments from its calendar due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tournament was set to return to Shenzhen from 2022 until 2030, but the WTA then suspended tournaments in China due to concerns over former doubles world No. 1 Peng Shuai, with the event being moved to Fort Worth, Texas.

The WTA resumed operations in China earlier this year.

The tournament was held in Los Angeles 2002-05 and has since been held in cities that include Madrid; Doha, Qatar; Istanbul; and Singapore.

The WTA Finals will end two days before the beginning of the Billie Jean King Cup finals in Seville, Spain.

Last year, world No. 1 Iga Swiatek opted to skip the Billie Jean King Cup finals, citing the scheduling of the two tournaments and calling on tennis governing bodies to work on a better schedule.

"The WTA weighed a number of competitive bids through a thorough process, in close consultation with the WTA Players' Council," the WTA said Thursday.