Singapore seals record deal to host WTA event
Singapore yesterday won the right to host the showpiece WTA Championships from next year in a record five-year agreement, which looks set to give a huge boost to tennis in Asia.
They beat rival bids from China's Tianjin and Monterrey in Mexico for the season finale, which next year will boast a purse of US$6.5 million (HK$50 million), its largest yet.
The arrival of the tournament, the biggest in the Asia-Pacific region after the Australian Open grand slam, comes with Asian tennis still expanding on the back of Li Na's historic French Open win in 2011.
"This is the largest and most significant WTA Championships partnership in our history," Stacey Allaster, chairwoman and chief executive of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), said. "It's a record breaker."
The season-ending event features the top eight women's players and from next year, the eight leading women's doubles pairs. Former winners include current champion Serena Williams, Martina Navratilova and Maria Sharapova.
It is also a major addition to the portfolio of sports events in Singapore, alongside its Formula One Grand Prix and international golf tournaments.
Including the WTA Championships, next year the women's tour will hold a record 23 events in the Asia-Pacific zone, marking the first time the region will have hosted more tournaments than any other part of the world.
Allaster said the impact of Li's win was only just being felt and would continue to reverberate for years, as more Asian women players come to prominence.
"If we look 10 years down the road we will see the impact of Li Na winning the first Grand Slam for the Asia-Pacific, where there will be so many young players in this territory saying 'If Li Na can do it, I can do it'," she said.
"So I think we will see more Asian players in the next decade."
The announcement follows a year-long process which attracted interest from 40 potential hosts.
The championships will be held at the 7,500-seat Singapore Indoor Stadium, part of a US$1 billion sports hub now being built on the outskirts of the city centre, which will feature a 55,000-seat main venue.