Strength to strength: Hong Kong Tennis Open gets glowing progress report as local starlets get their chance to shine
WTA vice-president says Hong Kong event is going from strength to strength as third edition approaches
A top WTA official has given a glowing assessment of the progress made by organisers of the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open ahead of its third outing next month.
Melissa Pine, vice-president of WTA Asia-Pacific, told the Post that organisers had done “exceptional things” with the event and praised it as a great stop on the calendar.
“It was the second highest attended ‘International’ event on the WTA last year so that is an exceptional outcome,” said Pine. “I’ve been there and have been in that stadium and it is a fantastic location. The stadium has a great feeling to it. To have such an event in the middle of the city is unique and it’s special.
Hong Kong returned to the WTA calendar in 2014 after an absence of 21 years.
“I have seen a huge improvement in the event in the last couple of years, so I have no doubt given the commitment of the organisers and the passion they have that the Open is going to continue to be a top event.”
Last month organisers of the competition revealed to the Post they had ambitions to see the event elevated to the more illustrious “Premier” tier of events within the medium to long-term future.
Pine, who has overseen the huge success of the WTA’s blue riband event, the WTA Finals, since it was moved to Singapore in 2014, also praised the strength of the roster for this year’s tournament.
“The player line-up this year with three former world number ones, the current world number one, Caroline Wozniacki, Venus Williams, Jelena Jankovic ... just goes to show that the players really enjoy Hong Kong,” Pine said. “I think that the event will just continue to go from strength to strength.”
Pine will be in Hong Kong later this week to lead a clinic alongside Hong Kong player Zhang Ling as part of the WTA’s Future Stars program, which aims to encourage youngsters to engage in the sport.
Tennis’ popularity in Asia is at an all-time high with 19 events on the regional swing of the Tour currently compared to just two back in 2008 and the WTA is looking to capitalise on its popularity to boost take-up at junior level, as well as partnering social services to work with underprivileged children.
“We have more events in Asia than we ever had before, and that is a really great sign,” Pine said. “The support that we’ve had with Future Stars is another sure sign that interest in the sport is growing, more players are coming into the game. Tennis is really on an upward trajectory in this region. I think there’s a great future ahead for Asian tennis and we look forward to contributing to that legacy.”
As part of the Future Stars initiative, Hong Kong’s youngsters will be given the chance to measure themselves against the best in the region at October’s WTA Finals in Singapore.
Two local players will be selected at under-14 and under-16 level to represent the city against 17 other countries in the region.
“They will have mentoring opportunities from the stars, they will participate in official ceremonies, they will receive autographs, tennis racquets from their idols and this is a really life-changing opportunity for these girls.”