Hong Kong in the running for professional women's tournament

Government willing to meet the cost - several million dollars - to buy a licence fee for WTA event

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2012, 1:06pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2012, 5:17pm

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A professional tennis tournament could return to Hong Kong in 2014, with the government willing to bankroll the purchase of the event.

Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs Jonathan McKinley said the government would earmark resources, with the licence for the women’s event likely to cost several millions dollars.

“We have assured the [Hong Kong] tennis association that we will earmark resources to help them secure a recognised international tennis event for Hong Kong.

The process of securing and organising an event is up to the association, as the governing body for the game here.”
HKTA president Vincent Liang said they were looking at buying a WTA International Series tournament offering total prize money of US$220,000.

“We are still negotiating for the purchase of the event from the owner and the contract has not yet been concluded,” Liang said. “Even if we conclude the deal this year, we can only hold the event commencing in 2014.”

It is understood the owners of the tournament wishing to sell their licence are in Luxembourg which hosts a US$220,000 event, comprising a 32-draw singles and a 16-draw doubles tournament.

“The event is held around the end of October, but we hope to apply to the WTA to move it to the second week of September, which is one week before the Guangzhou Open,” Liang said.

The HKTA’s scope for purchasing a tournament has been narrowed due to the limited capacity at Victoria Park which can seat only around 3,600 spectators.

While a WTA International Series Event – the one the HKTA is looking at – needs a minimum capacity of 2,500 seats, a WTA Premier Event must have 5,000. The bigger WTA Premier 5 Event needs 7,500 seats, while a WTA Premier Mandatory Event calls for 10,000.Hong Kong once staged an official ATP event, the Salem Open, which was moved lock, stock and barrel to Beijing in 2002.

Before that there was the Marlboro Classic, an exhibition event that brought many of the big guns to town. With the ban on cigarette advertising, Marlboro was stubbed out and replaced in recent times by the Hong Kong Tennis Classic.

But the popular invitational event was cancelled in January due to a failure to unearth a title sponsor. Its future is still unclear.