WTA Finals gets a 10 rating
Crowd figure set to cross 100,000 mark; Allaster game to celebrate SG50 at next year's event
Local tennis fans could be in for a treat when the BNP Paribas Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Finals Singapore presented by SC Global returns next year.
After a press conference yesterday where she reviewed this WTA season and announced plans for 2015, WTA chairman and chief executive Stacey Allaster told The New Paper she was keen for next year's tournament to commemorate Singapore's 50th birthday bash.
She said: "Well, we haven't had conversations yet with the Government, but certainly we look forward to celebrating SG50 and finding ways to integrate that into the 2015 Finals."
The Republic is the new home of WTA's annual and most prestigious event until 2018.
Canadian Allaster is game to tweak the Finals, a "sport entertainment spectacle", as she calls it.
Before yesterday's semi-finals, total attendance at Singapore's first WTA Finals was about 92,000. It looks set to cross the 100,000 mark by the end of today's final.
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Said Allaster: "To give you context, the last time the WTA Finals had 100,000 fans participating, was... the Madison Square Garden.
"So we're back in the Garden days, as we are here today in this Garden City.
"We were at the 100,000 mark in 1991, 1992 and 1993, when Martina (Navratilova) was playing. How cool is that."
Allaster rates the first Singapore Finals as "10 out of 10".
"It's exceeded our expectations," said the 51-year-old.
"Our goal was to have a 10-day sport entertainment spectacle (and we have) fans loving it, sponsors saying how exceptional the value is we are delivering. And this is Year One.
"Now that Singapore knows what it has, how amazing our athletes are on the court, and the overall experience - the Fan Fest, the Rising Stars and Future Stars, how close they can get to the athletes, these legends... It's magic."
Allaster is confident buzz around the Finals will be even bigger next year.
"We're taking notes about what we can do to improve the experience for our fans in 2015.
"Holding the tournament draw ceremony at the Marina Bay Sands ice rink? That can be a massive show. We knew it would be good, but not that good.
"Have more fan engagement. More dialogue with the players.
"The draw itself is pretty basic, but it's the opportunity for the fans to get close. That's what we want to do. Accessibility."
It hasn't all gone perfectly, though.
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On Wednesday afternoon, the doubles quarter-final between Anastasia Rodionova and Alla Kudryavtseva and Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova was temporarily halted because of rain which leaked through the roof after a heavy downpour.
A day earlier, world No. 8 Caroline Wozniacki took umbrage with the Singapore Indoor Stadium's roof lights, which malfunctioned and started spinning during her match with Maria Sharapova.
Allaster said: "The lights issue was dealt with immediately. And... (at) 'live' events, there'll always be something.
"But what's most important is that it was corrected immediately. And that's all that matters to me.
"Certainly, the roof is a concern. Obviously, we don't want to have a roof that drops water on the court because that's how an athlete can get injured.
"So that will be something in the post-event that we'll chat about. But... in the grand scheme of everything, it is a detail that is easily addressed."
Allaster also announced yesterday that the WTA is considering setting up its own World Cup, separate from the existing Fed Cup organised by the International Tennis Federation.
She stressed that the WTA has not decided if it will push through with the idea, but initial plans are for a five-day event held in one city, with seven invited teams based on rankings, and one wild card.
She said: "We believe we have a responsibility and I think the demand is there. If we don't do it, someone else is going to do it."