When the Top Seed Open launches the week of August 10, it will boast a 23-time major champion in its inaugural edition.
Officials announced Thursday that Serena Williams will make her return in Lexington, the first city in Kentucky to stage a WTA-level event. The American will be joined by countrywoman and 37th-ranked Sloane Stephens. The 2017 US Open champion is seeking her first title since capturing Miami in 2018.
Originally set to be held in Washington, D.C., Octagon and the WTA selected to move the tournament after failing to reach an agreement with the Citi Open, which has hosted both men and women for the past 10 years.
“After an exhaustive effort collaborating with all our stakeholders over many months, we committed to hosting the WTA tournament as part of our event in August so that we could provide opportunities for WTA players and continue to showcase women’s tennis in our community,” a statement from the Citi Open read. “However, given the unique circumstances and requirements this year, we understand and support Octagon and the WTA’s decision to hold the tournament as a separate event.”
Currently ranked No. 9, Serena was presumed to be the only Top 10 player permitted to enter. According to the WTA rule book, “International tournaments are allowed one Top 10 player to play singles and/or doubles.”
The WTA quickly addressed the matter, disclosing that for the remainder of 2020, International-level events would be allowed to accept two players ranked inside the Top 10.
Update to this rule via WTA:— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) July 16, 2020
International tournaments are now allowed two top-10 players, not just one. pic.twitter.com/gb1Tpc7zcY
This will be Serena’s first tour event since bowing out in the third round of the Australian Open, which saw her lose to Wang Qiang in a tough three-setter. She later helped the U.S. win its Fed Cup tie over Latvia, going 1- 1 in her singles matches.
In June, the American announced she will play the 2020 US Open. A six-time champion in New York, the 38-year-old has reached the past two finals at Flushing Meadows—losing to first-time major finalists Naomi Osaka in 2018 and Bianca Andreescu in 2019, respectively.
In January, Serena ended her trophy drought by claiming Auckland, her first title since winning the 2017 Australian Open over her sister Venus Williams.
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