THE last-minute scramble to find a host for the year-ending WTA finals was a disaster, according to several players.

Former World No.3 Elina Svitolina was just one not happy with the WTA’s decision to host the WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico.

Several players labelled the court conditions ‘unsafe’ as many others criticised the training facilities.

And the weather also had a major negative impact on the event. Cancun is always vulnerable to wind and rain in October/November. So why the WTA go there?

In all honesty, the cash-strapped WTA had little choice – there was, at such a late stage, no other option.

“I saw the court was not ready, I don’t know why the WTA wanted to host it in Cancun,” Svitolina said last week.

“It’s a shame for the best eight players in the world to be playing in these conditions, it’s terrible for our sport to be honest.”

WTA CEO Steve Simon has since apologised in an open letter to platers.

But the damage has already been done and there is zero chance Cancun will be asked to host the event again.

But it didn’t end there…

Polish channel Canal+ Sport was pretty brutal in its assessment of the conditions.

And they copped some feedback from organisers, but stuck by their earlier critical remarks.

“It’s our job to show you what’s on the ground, the station said.

“What’s more – some people from the WTA are already starting to snoop around, saying that they don’t like it, that we’re telling the truth. Well, that’s too bad.

“This is our role here. That’s why we came here, not for a holiday.”

As for Simon? Martina Navratilova has already called for him to go.

The United Cup is in danger as Saudi Arabia attempts to hijack a major event for the desert kingdom Photo: Tennis Australia/ Dan Peled

SAUDI sports washing continues at a pace, with tennis now firmly in the middle eastern regimes sights.

And tennis authorities are falling over themselves to cash in.

The ATP seems happy to hand a Masters 1000 tournament to the desert kingdom, the second highest-level tournament category in tennis after the Grand Slams.

And the cash-strapped WTA is on its knees begging for support with the WTA Finals being offered up after a disastrous Cancun event.

So far, the Saudis have secured hosting rights to stage the Next Gen ATP Finals and talks to buy either Miami or Madrid are progressing well.

Such an event could of course have a major impact on the lead-up to the Australian Open, as GST’s Bill Scott confirmed on Wednesday.

Outlined to start in January 2025, the Saudi tournament would finish just days before the start of the Australian Open, threatening a number of existing lead-in events such as the United Cup mixed national teams event.

The United Cup will be held next year in Perth and Sydney in January while other players warm up at the Adelaide International or in Auckland.

And how much are the Saudis paying? According to reports, around half a billion dollars.

MEANWHILE, in New York the owner of the Mets baseball team, hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen, has unveiled a $8 billion plan for a 50-acre casino, hotel and music complex in Queens, next to the US Tennis Center.

‘Metropolitan Park’ would encompass 20 acres of green space with Cohen claiming it would generate $130 billion in economic impact over the next three decades in an area.

“It’s time the world’s greatest city got the sports and entertainment park it deserves,” Cohen said.

Cohen’s big plan though might see the light of day – he has still to persuade Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State legislature – both of which are yet to be convinced.

Sunday flashback… Bjorn Borg displays more than tennis moves in this memorable shot from the past.
Emma Raducanu and Coco Gauff at the Australian Oopen in January. Photo: Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd

EMMA Raducanu turns 21 tomorrow and will never be in the world’s top 10 again.

A brave prediction or solid forecast?

Raducanu is still injured – possibly the longest sick note in tennis history – and is now ranked at 285.

But get this, she still pulls £10 million in off-court deals from companies like Nike, Porsche, Vodafone and Evian.

Will she name her comeback in 2024? Many had hoped so, but in a recent interview for Amazon Prime, Raducanu told Laura Robson her recovery was still ongoing.

Naomi Osaka will play Brisbane as a warmup to her Australian Open return in January. Photo: MARK PETERSON/TENNIS AUSTRALIA

ONE player who is making a comeback is Former No.1 Naomi Osaka.

She will will kick off her comeback at the Brisbane International in January.

Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka has also been confirmed for Brisbane.

But Aussie Nick Kyrgios has told Brisbane officials it will be a “wait and see” approach as he returns from injury.
Kyrgios, 28, has played only one match this year after a stunning 2022 that saw him reach the Wimbledon final and a US Open quarter-final.

Aussie John Millman has announced he is to retire after the 2024 Australian Open.
Matteo Berrettini is lining up Swede Thomas Enqvist as his new coach. Photo: Tennis Australia/ SCOTT DAVIS

COACHING merry-go-round… Italian Matteo Berrettini is rumoured to have teamed up Thomas Enqvist as his new coach for 2024.

Berrettini is still recovering from an injury sustained at the US Open ion September.

And Andy Murray has split with long-time coach Ivan Lendl for a third time.

“Ivan has been by my side at the biggest moments in my career and I can’t thank him enough for all that he’s helped me achieve,” Murray said.

CONGRATS to Belinda Bencic, who announced on social media during the week she is to become a mom.

“Expecting our little miracle soon!” she wrote in Instagram in a joint post with boyfriend Martin Hromkovic. “We can’t wait to meet you.”

Bencic gave no hint of a due date, she last played in September in San Diego.

Stefanos Tsitsipas with girlfriend Paula Badosa at the Davis Cup in September.

AND staying with the tennis relationship theme, Paula Badosa admitted last week criticism over her dating Stefanos Tsitsipas has hurt.

For some reason their relationship has attracted negative headlines, with some saying his poor court performances are because has focused too much on his new girlfriend.

“That has hurt me a lot because with the whole issue of the injury, I have actually been able to dedicate myself quite a bit to helping him,” she told El Pais.

“We both love tennis and he is also a super-working person, we are very similar in the goals we set for ourselves.

“We talk a lot about tennis and we help each other a lot.

“I can understand that we are public figures and that we are exposed, but in the end, we are two 25-year-olds and all this is delicate, because it is an innocent relationship.”

AND finally….

Seeing double? No, just another Alcaraz coming through the system.

Carlos Alcaraz’s younger brother Jaime recently finished as the runner-up at the Rafa Nadal Tour Masters event in Mallorca.

Jaime Alcaraz, 12, had a great campaign at the under-12 tournament, eventually falling 6-0, 6-1 to Russian Stefan Shangichev.