FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Billie Jean King gets why No. 1-ranked Iga Swiatek decided to skip the Billie Jean King Cup Finals because they are right after — and half a world away from — the WTA Finals.
King just figures she would have made a different choice.
“I can totally understand her reasoning. I personally wouldn’t agree with it. But you know what? It’s about her. She’s the one that’s having to deal with reality now; I don’t,” King, the owner of 18 Grand Slam singles titles and a two-time inductee into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, said Tuesday during a video conference. “We’ll miss her.”
Swiatek, a 21-year-old from Poland with three major trophies, announced last month she would play in the WTA Finals happening now in Fort Worth, Texas, and skip the International Tennis Federation’s 12-nation team competition named in honor of King that will be held in Glasgow, Scotland, from Nov. 8-13.
Complaining that the “situation is not safe for our health and could cause injury,” she said she was disappointed the sport’s governing bodies “didn’t come to an agreement on something as basic as the calendar of tournaments.”
WTA CEO Steve Simon acknowledged Tuesday that Swiatek is “not wrong.”
“This is a very tough schedule and a tough turnaround,” Simon said. “It’s something that we’re already talking about to see how we can fix that in the future.”
Swiatek leads women’s tennis with eight titles and a 64-8 record in 2022. She played her opening round-robin match Tuesday at the WTA Finals.
“I would have liked her to wait a little longer (to decide about the BJK Cup Finals), because you never know how you’re going to do. I mean, you just don’t know. And this is where you have to figure out for yourself what’s important to you,” King said. “For me, this would be a no-brainer.”
The WTA Finals were supposed to be held in Shenzhen, China, but were moved as part of the suspension of all tournaments in that country because of concerns about the safety of Peng Shuai, a Grand Slam doubles champion who accused a former Chinese government official of sexual assault, and COVID-19 restrictions there.
The selection of Fort Worth as a substitute site for just this year was announced in September. Simon said he would have preferred that the WTA Finals end on an earlier date, but the Texas arena had a concert scheduled last week that prevented access to the venue before Friday for setup that included installation of a temporary court.
Two members of the U.S. roster for the BJK Cup are at the WTA Finals, Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff.
“We definitely knew (it) was a tough turnaround. But I think for me, it’s more of just a good problem to have. Of course, it’s not ideal,” Pegula said. “Everyone makes their own kind of personal decision as far as (what is) physically healthy, mentally-wise what they need to do, but hopefully, it’s just for this year.”
The other 10 countries in the BJK Cup Finals are Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Czech Republic, Italy, Kazakhstan, Spain, Slovakia and Switzerland.
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