Massive boost for Hong Kong Tennis Open as it’s revealed that US Open champion Sloane Stephens is set to participate
Organisers reveal that first-time grand-slam winning American will compete in Victoria Park event as she pursues WTA Finals ranking points
Neutral tennis fans weren’t the only ones delighted to see a rank outsider come through the field to blast her way to a maiden grand slam when American Sloane Stephens secured a stunning triumph at the US Open.
Organisers of the Hong Kong Tennis Open were equally thrilled after they confirmed on Sunday that the 24-year-old American is set to join the event in October.
Stephens, the world number 83 as she claimed the women’s title at Flushing Meadows, will join Venus Williams, who she eliminated in the semi-final in New York, defending HKTO champion Caroline Wozniacki and British number one Johanna Konta at the Victoria Park tournament.
“We are absolutely delighted to see Sloane enter the tournament and it goes without saying that we look forward to having her,” said HKTO tournament director Christopher Lai.
“It is truly inspirational to see her coming back from injury and recovering so strong to win a major. She is an absolute role model.
“We are seeing an extremely strong field this year and it’s arguably the strongest since the start of the tournament in 2014 with no less than five of the world’s best 13 competing.”
Stephens mauled compatriot Madison Keys 6-0, 6-3 in the final of the US Open on Saturday to claim a first grand slam title of her career.
The Florida-native was sidelined by a foot injury towards the end of last season and her recovery from the subsequent surgery saw her world ranking sink to 957 this season before she began her comeback with runs to the semi-finals at the Canadian Open and the Cincinnati Masters.
She missed the Australian and French Opens this season before being eliminated in the first round at Wimbledon. But her form peaked at the right time during her hugely impressive run to the title at Flushing Meadows.
Stephens scooped a whopping US$3.7 million (HK$28.9 million) payday after her win on Saturday. The total prize fund for the Hong Kong Open stands at US$500,000, but the event is well positioned on the WTA calendar offering a valuable cache of ranking points ahead of the lucrative end-of-season finals in Singapore later in October.
Lai says the chance to make up for an injury-affected season and an outside chance of reaching the WTA Finals led to Stephens opting to play on the Asian swing of the tour.
“She actually only appeared in eight tournaments ahead of the US Open. She was injured and came back really well during the summer in Canada and Cincinnati. As part of a comeback she will want to do well on the Asian swing of the season,” Lai said.
The HKTO tournament organisers were set to announce Stephens’ participation as part of a second tranche of players in a release on Wednesday.
The initial announcement of participating players usually consists of those that the organisers have actively pursued, while the secondary announcement features players who have opted to join the event with an eye on securing points to help them qualify for Singapore.
“[Stephens] entered by herself – we didn’t know earlier. We were approached before the deadline, which was at the end of August,” said Lai.
“She wants to make Singapore so the Asian swing of the tour will be important for her.
“The Hong Kong Tennis Open is positioned so that players need the points from our tournament to qualify for Singapore, which is an advantage for us,” added Lai.