Hong Kong WTA event “postponed indefinitely”

The Hong Kong Open, scheduled for Oct. 5-13, has been “postponed indefinitely” because of the ongoing protests in that part of the world.

Victoria Park is the host site. But it has been referred to as “ground zero” for the anti-government protests that have been going on for three months now.

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It’s just the latest in a series of events that were scheduled for the area that have been postponed.

The tournament issued this statement on its website.

“In light of the present situation, Hong Kong Tennis Association and the WTA are announcing a postponement of the 2019 Hong Kong Tennis Open. The event will no longer take place during 5-13 October.

The Open is the flagship event on our annual calendar and one of the most popular International sporting events in the city, attracting thousands of local fans and overseas travellers every year.

As the winner of the WTA International event of the year award in 2018, we strive to maintain a high standard of the event for all participants, players and the fans in particular. However, after extensive discussions with our key stakeholders, we conclude that a smooth running of the tournament can be better assured at a later time.

The event organisers and WTA are in active discussion on identifying an alternate week for the hosting of the event. Further announcement will be made in due course.

We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused to our players, fans, partners and supporters. We will announce ticket refund procedures via the event website, www.hktennisopen.hk, on 16 September 2019.”

Wiped off the WTA Tour website

The Hong Kong Open, which was to hold its sixth edition, won’t be held this year – at least not in its current week, because of the protests in that part of the world.

The tournament was named the best “international-level” event for 2018 (it helped that it tripled the prize money for the standard International event, which is $250,000, to $750,000 for the 2018 edition).

It’s hard to figure where else they can fit in this event, as the Asian fall is already full (there are three events this week alone). 

As well, there’s no way to know when the protests will end, and therefore when the conditions will be adequate to host the event again.

The reaction by the WTA on this is … curious.

There is no mention on the website about this event being postponed – no brief or official statement. (In their defense, their players made a whole lot of news Thursday. They also managed to put up a brief today about the “official reasons” Bianca Andreescu and Belinda Bencic withdrew from next week’s tournament in Osaka).

And yet, everything related to the tournament is completely wiped off the website. It’s not on the schedule. It’s hard to access the tournament page.

If you go to it from a Google search, you get … this. 

Kong

You can find last year’s page, but you really have to look.

As well, (thanks to Carolyn Nichols for the heads up), there remains an ITF seniors’ event scheduled for later the same month at Victoria Park in Hong Kong.

The WTA may come up against a similar situation next month with its inaugural Tour Finals in Shenzhen, which is right across the harbor from Hong Kong.

According to this piece in the Guardian last month, the Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre – which is hosting the first edition as the permanent stadium won’t be ready on time – had been hosting more than 100 paramilitary vehicles. They were parked in adjacent soccer stadium.

What will the players do?

The deadline hasn’t yet hit for the tournament, which is one of several post-US Open tournaments that have much more short-term deadlines than the typical six-weeks window.

The idea is to allow players who still have a shot at qualifying for Shenzhen to add last-minute tournaments to their calendar – and therefore improve the fields for these fall events.

Kong
The Hong Kong Open Facebook page announces the postponement, but hasn’t yet taken down its banner. (Facebook)

Linz, Austria (with $250,000 in prize money) and Tianjin, which offers double that purse, are the other options that week.

It’s hard to tell exactly who had signed up for Hong Kong. But we do know for sure that Americans Venus Williams, Sofia Kenin and Amanda Anisimova, as well as Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic, had entered because they are also entered in Tianjin, but that event is listed as their second choice.

So far, Qiang Wang is the top-ranked player entered in Tianjin (even though she was a finalist in Hong Kong a year ago). 

We’ll see who else enters those events in the next few days.

Dayana Yastremska, currently ranked a career-high No. 30, is the defending champion in Hong Kong.

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