With two-and-a-half months to go until the inaugural Women's Tennis Association Tallinn Open, there is still plenty of work to be done, with one of the first headaches to overcome being an apparent lack of tennis balls, not only in Estonia, but globally, organizers say.
Around 5,000 tennis balls are needed for the tournament, to be held at the Forus Tennis Centre in Tondi, but, leaving aside their apparent plentiful supply at the current, ongoing Wimbledon Championships, there is apparently a shortage, while production levels worldwide are low also, compounded by the other issues facing the economy and the security situation, making finding WTA-approved products a challenge, Allar Hint, director of the Estonian Tennis Association said.
Meanwhile, CEO of the WTA Steve Simon, and Vice President Fabrizio Sestini, welcomed Tallinn's addition to the WTA calendar via a video-linked press conference coinciding with the domestic championships.
Sestini said: "Now is the best time to hold a tournament in Estonia, when you have top players Anett Kontaveit and Kaia Kanepi and some strong, young players coming through. In addition, Estonia has a high tennis culture. I hope that this tournament will find a place in the calendar for many years to come," said Sestini.
Allar Hint said both the WTA and the City of Tallinn should be thanked for the opportunity to organize the event. "We are not organizing the tournament alone. The relationship with the WTA has been very strong and supportive."
"We both want this tournament to stay on the calendar," he added.
Tallinn Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) said making a supportive decision had not been hard to do.
Also speaking at the press conference, he said: "Organizing an international tournament in Tallinn is an honor for us."
"Each event has its own economic impact, but I think that the main goal is that top sport is, so to speak, the engine of mass sports. The more resources we give to top sport, the more we develop children's and youth sports. Naturally there is also a pragmatic aspect to this, because every such event boosts the reputation of the City of Tallinn and encourages other sub-associations to organize competitions here. In addition, it attracts tourists, who will spend money here. We are also proud of the fact that the whole world can see the City of Tallinn on the TV", before thanking the tennis association for coming to the city leaders' talk with the initiative.
A €400,000 grant, more than the more usual sum of €100,000 given to such events and the sum that will be provided in future years, was given to allow the tournament to go ahead, the mayor added.
Estonia's tennis association said that China stopping holding WTA tournaments and the exit of Russian WTA tournaments, such as that held in St. Petersburg late in the season, from the calendar, following the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, was the reason why Tallinn got an opening in the calendar.
The event will be at the first-tier WTA250 level.
Regarding players from Russia and Belarus, the position of the organizers is that while they should be barred, a government decision is needed on the matter, since the WTA itself will not impose a ban (organizers of the Wimbledon Championships, for instance, made the decision themselves in April to ban players from the two countries).
It is still too early to say who will be playing at the Tallinn Open, and registration closes four weeks before the start of the competition.
Additionally, only one world top 10 player is permitted at WTA250 events – to give other players a chance – meaning if local player Anett Kontaveit remains in the top 10 (she is currently ranked third – ed.) as of the competition, she will get automatic entry.
Negotiations are also underway with top Latvian player Jelena Ostapenko, who defeated Kontaveit in the final of last year's Eastbourne Tournament, in England, while top Swedish player Rebecca Peterson, who has Estonian roots, is likely also to be playing.
News that Tallinn may host a WTA tournament first became public in February, while the competition was confirmed in May. Tickets for the tournament went on sale at the end of last month, while over 200 local children have so far applied to be ballgirls and ballboys at the tournament. Tallinn is also bidding to become European capital of sport for 2025.
Editor: Andrew Whyte