Simon said his boycott proved ineffective. But when the tour released its fall schedule earlier this month, it did not allow for the finals, although it included several tournaments in China. Tour officials have said they intend to hold the event there, but negotiations with the Chinese are continuing over the details of their existing 10-year deal that guarantees nearly $150 million in prize money.
There’s also the broader question of whether the WTA Tour can be further unified with the men’s tour, a move that experts say is vital to maximizing the potential of professional tennis. And hovering over all of this is what role, if any, Saudi Arabia can play in the sport.
Saudi Arabia, whose LIV Golf circuit recently agreed to a merger with golf’s PGA Tour, already hosts a lucrative men’s exhibition event, but has so far shown an inclination to increase its investments in tennis without the acrimony and litigation that accompanied its aggressive drive in golf.
Saudi Arabia is one of the leading candidates to host the ATP Next Gen Finals, a season-ending tournament for under-21s that has been held in Milan since its inception in 2017, according to people with knowledge. of the bidding process. The proposal to host the competition, due to start later this year, includes a plan to launch a similar women’s event.
The WTA has yet to commit to that or to hosting competitions in Saudi Arabia, where women recently won the right to drive and where a dismal human rights record includes the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Simon traveled to the kingdom earlier this year for talks with government officials, though it’s unclear if the WTA’s idea of further unification with the ATP includes a new tournament in Saudi Arabia.
For now, erasing the pay gap is the first step, although some players don’t understand the slow pace of change.
“I don’t see why we have to wait,” Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, who is ranked No. 6, said recently.
In response, Simon pointed to the deal the tour struck earlier this year with CVC Capital Partners, a private equity firm, which bought 20 percent of a WTA business subsidiary for $150 million. Much of the investment will be used to improve sales and marketing efforts at a time when many of its players remain unknown to casual sports fans.