Wimbledon: Birmingham grass-court tournament downgraded after WTA event switch to Berlin

  • Posted: Sep 18, 2019

The United Kingdom’s biggest women-only grass-court event is to be downgraded from next summer, with Wimbledon supporting a new tournament in Berlin.

The Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham, a Premier status competition on the WTA Tour since 2014, is to return to being categorised as an International event.

The change means lower prize money and ranking points for players.

Ashleigh Barty become world number one after winning the tournament in June.

The French Open champion was in a field that included Naomi Osaka, Karolina Pliskova and Venus Williams.

The tournament – held two weeks before Wimbledon, putting it up against the men’s event at Queen’s Club – is one that makes significant losses.

Prize money in recent years has not been matched by a similar increases in ticket sales or sponsorship.

The reduction in prize funds for the 38-year-old event represents a drop of about £600,000 from around £800,000 to approximately £200,000 – a significant sum for the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), which reported a loss of £8.8m in May.

LTA chief executive Scott Lloyd said the event will still “provide opportunities for tennis fans to get closer to the sport”.

“We have worked closely with the All England Lawn Tennis Club on the plans for next year’s grass-court season,” he said.

“The Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham will continue to be one of the LTA’s major events next season.”

Birmingham will now have to compete with Berlin to try to attract players.

Other changes the grass-court season will include a new men’s event in Majorca and a proposed women’s tournament in Bad Homburg, Germany, backed by former Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber.

The other British tournaments in Nottingham and Eastbourne are unaffected by the changes.

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