The storm around Magda Linette. The businessman thunders. “I can not believe”
Czech businessman Tomas Petera wanted to organize the WTA Finals 2023 tournament in Ostrava. In an interview with Sport.pl, he talks about the backstage of the negotiations with the WTA organization and responds to the interview of Magda Linette, who explained why Ostrava was rejected. – I can’t believe Linette said that. Those were very stupid words, says Petera.
This year’s WTA Finals tournament took place in Cancun in terrible conditions. The court was prepared at the last minute, so it was uneven, and the ball surprised the players when it bounced. In addition, the weather paralyzed the matches: it often rained and there was a strong wind. At one point, sand even blew onto the court from a nearby beach.
The 2023 Tournament of Champions did not have to end with such an organizational disaster. The Women’s Tennis Organization (WTA) had on the table, among others: a proposal from Czech businessman Tomas Petera. In an interview with Sport.pl, the Czech reveals the behind-the-scenes of the negotiations.
“I was convinced we would get this tournament”
– Our negotiations with the WTA were very advanced. We were in contact every day. They had assurances from us regarding the facility, hotels, money, and the right to play for all tennis players. The WTA also wanted to prepare the court in other colors, so we were ready to provide that. We took care of everything they asked us to do. Personally, I was 100 percent convinced that we would receive the right to host this tournament. But it happened differently, which was a huge surprise for me – Petera tells us.
The Czech businessman presented two proposals to the WTA. – One concerned the 2023 season, the other the following years. This year’s offer indicated Ostrava, because it was too late for other solutions. In my eyes it is embarrassing to talk about organizing such a tournament three months before it starts. It was already very late for that. In a normal world this is impossible, he says. Ultimately, Cancun was announced as the location of the WTA Finals two months before the start of the event.
Czech adds: “I have been organizing many large events together with my colleagues for 25 years, and in general, such events usually require 18 months of preparation. The key in such cases is always the arena and hotels around it. All this has to be ensured and appropriate dates found. For example, organizing An event at the O2 hall in Prague often requires booking two years in advance.
What did the conversations look like behind the scenes?
That’s why his proposal was for Ostrava. – I explained it in a conversation with Steve (Steve Simon – head of the WTA – editor’s note) that since we are talking so late, I can only organize it in Ostrava. I used my experiences and connections. I have very good relations with the owners of the local hockey club (HC Vitkovice – editor’s note). We would move four home matches of this team to another hall – says our interlocutor.
And what did the financial aspects look like? The prize pool of this year’s WTA Finals tournament was nine million dollars – an increase from five million a year earlier. At the same time, however, according to media reports, the WTA had to spend as much as six million dollars on the construction of a court in Cancun.
– The financial terms of our proposal included the following rules: I will pay for production and organizational matters, and the WTA will take care of the prize pool. We also decided that as part of the fee I will give them at least one million dollars, plus all sponsors cooperating with the WTA will also contribute – we hear from Petera.
His proposal to organize the Tournament of Champions in subsequent years was similar with one difference – the event would be held in Prague. The businessman does not know the official reasons behind the decision to reject his offer to organize the WTA Finals 2023. Media reports indicate that one of the factors was the inability to ensure participation for all tennis players.
What about Russian and Belarusian women? “It’s a lie”
In July, tennis players from Russia and Belarus were not allowed to play in the WTA 250 tournament in Prague. This was supposed to be the result of Czech national regulations, and the confusion was widely reported in the tennis community.
– WTA and Steve (Simon – editor’s note) received a letter from me from the Czech government. It was indicated that Aryna Sabalenka and other players would be allowed to perform in our country without any restrictions, except for the need to play without the flag or other national markings. Similar rules apply in tennis all over the world today, so these regulations were not unique in any way – explains Petera.
The Czech government allegedly signed the letter, which the businessman forwarded to the WTA. – At the same time, at that time in the Czech Republic, the rules regarding the right of entry for athletes from Russia and Belarus were changed. From that point on, teams from these countries were still not allowed to enter, but individual athletes were – the only requirements were the lack of a flag, national markings and a Schengen visa. Then I heard that Ostrava had been rejected as a candidate for the WTA Finals because some players could not play there. This is an absolute lie. We have guaranteed this possibility – says our interlocutor.
Magda Linette expressed similar words. The Polish tennis player was recently a member of the WTA Women’s Tennis Council. It is a group of several players who, on behalf of the others, talk to activists and present their opinions. – In Ostrava, the disadvantage was that we did not have a hundred percent guarantee that all the girls would be able to play. If even one was not allowed into the country, the tournament would not take place, which would result in a huge penalty. This is approximately the size of this entire investment – Linette said in an interview with the Interia portal.
Peter doesn’t shy away from reacting strongly. – I can’t believe Linette said that. Those were very stupid words. I really can’t believe it. Perhaps she received the wrong message from Steve (Simon – editor’s note) that Sabalenka would not be able to play. That’s the only way I can explain it, says the businessman.
Peter does not hide his even greater regret because he watched what the tournament in Cancun looked like for the eight best tennis players of this season. – It was a failure. Empty stands, and in Ostrava we would have full stands for 8.5 thousand spectators. This is because of the Czech players qualified for the tournament and, of course, Iga Świątek. We would 100 percent have sold out all tickets for the entire week of the tournament, he believes.
In Mexico, the Czech players Marketa Vondrousova and the pair Barbora Krejcikova – Katerina Siniakova played in the doubles competition. Karolina Muchova was also supposed to perform, but she withdrew at the last minute due to an injury. – Everyone remembers the experience from the WTA 500 tournaments in Ostrava. A lot of fans, and most of the players participating in the WTA Finals 2023, knew our hall and had played there before – emphasizes our interlocutor.
The businessman responds to Magda Linette
The problem with Ostrava was also supposed to be of a different nature. In the above-mentioned interview, Magda Linette admitted: “We knew that the court (in Cancun – editor’s note) would be built, we received a guarantee for it. We also knew that it would be in a beautiful place, and Ostrava did not have a five-star hotel. And we wanted it “I want the girls to be in a spectacular place in the season finale, that it will be a unique resort. And not in a three- or four-star hotel, in a gray place.”
What does Tomas Petera say about this? You can hear in his voice that he is hurt by the words of the Polish tennis player, he sounds nervous. – Let me put it this way: I organized Davis Cup and Federation Cup tournaments in Ostrava (today’s Billie Jean King Cup – editor’s note), three WTA 500 events. I also organized athletics competitions where Marion Jones, Michael Johnson and Usain Bolt took part. I have never heard any complaints about the hotels there. I don’t know why Linette said that. It was stupid, said the businessman.
He adds: “Most tennis players have always appreciated a hotel close to the hall where we organized tennis tournaments. The training courts are in the hall, it’s a good solution for athletes. Ok, I understand that Ostrava is not Prague. But on the other hand, players are there to play , rather than visiting the city. The most important things for them are the conditions of the facility, how to get to the court, logistics, and the quality of the surface.
Does the Czech businessman rule out the possibility of cooperation with the WTA in organizing the Tournament of Champions in the coming years? – After our proposal was rejected in such circumstances, I told myself that I would never cooperate with the WTA again. Today I calmed down a bit. I look at it from the perspective of the Czech players, their chance to play at home in such an important tournament. But again – we are almost halfway through November, and there is no decision on where the WTA Finals 2024 tournament will be held. There is not much time – he ends.
Iga Świątek turned out to be the best in Cancun. The doubles competition was won by Laura Siegemund/Wiera Zwonariowa. There is no Magda Linette in the new term of office of the WTA Women’s Tennis Council. Her place was taken by Australian Daria Saville.