Estonia may host WTA 250 tennis tournament
Estonia may be in the running to host a Women's Tennis Association (WTA) 250 women's tennis tournament, chief of the national tennis association Allar Hint said on Monday.
The WTA has made the proposal to the Estonian authorities, Hint added, while the news comes after a recent run of success for both of Estonia's top women's players, Anett Kontaveit and Kaia Kanepi.
Hint said Monday that: "Naturally, Estonia has long dreamed of organizing a WTA tournament, but we have been realistic: A lot of good fortune is needed to get the opportunity.
An answer was needed to the WTA proposal in the next 10 days, Hint added.
"This unique opportunity has now arisen for Estonia, and Estonia is expected to reply by February 18. The international rights holder usually makes agreements for a period of five years, but taking into consideration Estonia's size, they are ready to sign the agreement for three years," Hint continued, noting that both national and local government, as well as the private sector and relevant sports associations, would need to get on board with the proposed event, given its likely budget.
Sport in Estonia falls under the culture ministry's remit, and minister Tiit Terik (Center) noted his support for the event on his social media account, adding that he would raise it with the cabinet.
"In the same way as with the WRC stages at the rally (Rally Estonia, a full WRC event since 2020-ed.), we have seen the benefits that a spectator-rich sporting event can have on Estonia's reputation and economy. Such a sporting event would be unique in our region to our region," Terik wrote
"Hopefully, in conjunction with the government, we will be able to find the best possible solution for organizing the most significant event in the world of tennis," he added.
Estonia has two top women's tennis players, Anett Kontaveit, currently 9th in the world, and Kaia Kanepi, now ranked 63rd after recent strong form in the Australian Open, where she reached the quarter finals, at the age of 36.
A second-tier International Tennis Federation (ITF) W25 tournament has been held in indoor hard courts in Haabneeme, in Viimsi, just outside Tallinn, most recently last November.
Rally Estonia had been held for several years prior to its becoming a full-calendar WRC event. Ott Tänak won the WRC drivers' championship, the first time any Estonian had done so, in 2019.
Estonian tennis association chief: Prerequisites in place, talks on-going
Allar Hint clarified the situation Tuesday morning, telling ERR that: "We do not yet have this tournament. We are in talks with the city [of Tallinn], the state and the WTA to get this tournament here. Although the prerequisites are there, it is necessary to put together the whole package."
Hint and Terik had met last week, and a memorandum is in the process of being prepared for submission to the cabinet.
Terik was unable to put a figure on the amount of support likely to be requested, adding that initially a figure of one million euros had been mentioned, though he hoped that this number would decrease. He would be speaking to the cabinet on February 17 he added.
Meanwhile, Tallinn deputy mayor Vadim Belobrovtsev (Center) told ERR that the city government, too, would be communicating with the tennis association.
Belobrovstev highlighted the European Figure Skating Championships as a recent example of the successful hosting of a sports event which received support from the capital's government.
Since the WTA 250 tournament would be held for at least three consecutive years, however, this means that the support would not be in the form of a one-off grant.
If Estonia's two top players continue at their level for a few more years, the tournament's length of stay on the international calendar may be prolonged, Hint said.
WTA tournaments are at the fourth level of elite competition, behind the four grand slam tournaments, the WTA 1000 and the WTA 500 events.
Kontaveit won two WTA 250 tournaments last year, in Romania and in Cleveland, Ohio.
This article was updated to include comment from Vadim Belobrovtsev and further comment from Tiit Terik and Allar Hint.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte