The ITF is said to be ‘surprised and disappointed’ after the Hungarian Tennis Association (HTA) withdrew as the host of this year’s Billie Jean King Cup Finals, electing to terminate the contract it held with Budapest and now looking for a new venue.
The ITF will do everything in its power — for the sport, the players, nations, and the fans — to ensure this landmark competition in tennis and women’s sports will be held as soon as it is reasonably practicable. David Haggerty, ITF President
Budapest was due to host the women’s national team tournament at the Laszlo Papp Arena later this year, but the HTA has stated concerns over staging the event safely amid Covid-19, particularly over the emergence of new variants.
“We have been working closely with the Hungarian Government and the Hungarian Tennis Association (HTA) to review all feasible options to reschedule this year’s Finals,” said ITF President Dave Haggerty, according to the Reuters news agency.
“After working together in good faith for the past year, we were surprised and disappointed to be informed that the HTA no longer considers it possible to hold the event in Budapest.
“Given the timing, the ITF has been left with no other option than to end the hosting agreement with Hungary and explore an alternative solution.”
After the Fed Cup was overhauled and renamed the Billie Jean King Cup Finals, Budapest was chosen to host the revamped finals in April 2020, but the event was postponed to 13-18 April this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and then, the date was pushed back again in February due to health concerns.
At that time, the ITF said that extensive work had been undertaken to ensure the finals could take place in April in compliance with national health regulations and with strict Covid-19 protocols in place.
A number of scenarios were considered for the event, which features 60 athletes, plus coaches and support staff, including playing matches behind closed doors, but it was ultimately decided that it would be unfeasible to host an event of this scale indoors on the scheduled dates under the current circumstances.
A new date has yet to be set and now the ITF has been given an additional task of finding a new venue.
“The ITF will do everything in its power — for the sport, the players, nations, and the fans — to ensure this landmark competition in tennis and women’s sports will be held as soon as it is reasonably practicable,” Haggerty added.
Budapest is also scheduled to host games at this summer’s rescheduled Uefa Euro 2020, with organisers stating last month that they were aiming to host spectators at full capacity, subject to spectators fulfilling strict stadium entry requirements.
The Fed Cup was rebranded as the Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas last September, as a tribute to the iconic female tennis player who helped the US win the inaugural tournament in 1963.
When announcing the rebrand, the ITF also unveiled new sponsorship deals with technology giant Microsoft and steel distributor Magellan Corporation.
BNP Paribas also extended its backing and retained its presence within the official tournament name, an arrangement that dates back to 2005.