The WTA Tour just finished a three-tournament week with simultaneous tour stops in Dubai, Memphis, and Bogota. The Dubai event was held on an outdoor hardcourt, Memphis was on an indoor hardcourt, and Bogota was on clay. This smorgasbord of court surfaces may seem ideal, but it is an overloaded week that creates an awkward situation for players’ schedules. For the next two weeks, leading up to the mandatory event in Indian Wells, the tour has planned only one event in Mexico each week. There is a clay court event in Acapulco followed by a smaller hardcourt event in Monterrey. This scheduling seems to make little sense, as the players are not even in the midst of the clay season yet. The events in Bogota and Acapulco would seem to be distractions that would take players off their rhythm rather than help them build toward the huge hardcourt events in Indian Wells and Miami before they transition to clay. Nonetheless, going into these very important events, the Mexican clay court events in Acapulco and Monterrey are the only tour option.
Many of the best players, who were not raised in South America or continental Europe, avoid clay courts like the plague. For those players who do not feel comfortable on the clay, there is little option before Indian Wells begins. Perhaps this is the reason why the $50,000 ITF hardcourt event in Clearwater, FL this week possesses such a deep field. These players still want matchplay on a hard surface, and so they have turned to the ITF circuit, but this is not a realistic option for many of the higher ranked players. If they want to play at all, like Venus Williams, they have to play an event on red clay and then try readapt. The hard-to-clay transition can be difficult, as made clear by Williams’ first two matches in Acapulco, where she barely scraped by Nuria Llagostera-Vives and Greta Arn in three sets.
The WTA is often beholden to any number of competing interests when creating the tour schedule. Many events only have specific weeks in which they can take place, and the tour still has to try to create cohesive seasons throughout the year. Still, this current calendar stretch is marked by awkwardly placed clay events, with some weeks overloaded by events and other weeks too bare. It seems, though, that with slight tweaking the tour could create a more sensible schedule for this time of year. The Columbian and Mexican clay tournaments should be moved after Miami, where they can be in line with the US green clay events as part of an American clay swing before the tour moves to Europe. The Memphis event also seems to be strangely placed as it is ignored by those who want more ranking points at Dubai and by those who prefer the clay, who go to Bogota. Were the Memphis event paired with the Monterrey event and moved closer to Indian Wells week, it would not be overshadowed by Dubai and would be more effectively placed as a warmup event.
As the schedule currently stands, the Bogota and Acapulco tournaments are out of place, which is bad for both the events and the tour. If they were placed along with the clay court season, they would receive a better commitment from the players. They would not just be aberration tournaments drawing a handful of clay court enthusiasts. With better placement, they could actually be part of a cohesive tour schedule.