Pine vows a tennis show like no other in S'pore
Canadians are cool and I'm not being cheeky here.
They are relaxed and friendly and engaging, and their famous flag with the famous maple leaf share the colours of Singapore.
Melissa Pine is cool.
She's charming and engaging and she adores Bruce Springsteen.
And I guess she's also become an "adopted" Singaporean, if you like.
The Canadian is tournament director of the season-ending Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Finals, which will be on show here for the next five years.
She is charged to turn the tournament with the richest prize purse into the same kind of roaring success she managed at its previous home in Istanbul.
I pointed out that it will be tough to do, considering the conservative nature of Singapore's fans.
But, she said: "Heh, I was at the finals of the recent Asian netball championships and don't tell me that Singaporeans can't get loud, because that was loud.
"That's what we are looking to replicate, that noise, that excitement, that fanfare."
Pine has tremendous tools at her disposal to get Singaporeans screaming and dancing and providing an electric atmosphere for the likes of Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Canada's very own Eugenie Bouchard, 20, the new darling of women's tennis.
She said: "I think that, obviously, we've heard probably similar things that you've said, but we are certainly prepared for a huge fan engagement aspect at our event.
"Our in-stadium experience is going to be enhanced more than it has ever been.
"We have off-court productions that have done Super Bowl half-time shows. We have engaged local talent and acts that are really going to enhance the in-stadium experience.
"We are really excited about the show that's going to be put on and I think the fans of Singapore are really going to embrace it.
"I know that it's in them, and we are going to pull it out of them."
I met Pine after her guest-speaker stint at lunch on Thursday with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce at Fairmont Hotel.
"Her people" at the event were clearly proud of her.
Under her stewardship, the WTA Finals in Istanbul became a record-breaking success in terms of fan turnout and digital and social media interaction.
The BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SCglobal will be held from Oct 17 to 26 and will be held at the Indoor Stadium at the Sports Hub.
It is a tournament that features the world's top eight women's singles players and top eight doubles pairs and offers US$6.5 million in total prize money.
It is considered the fifth Slam of the women's game, after the four Majors.
On the day I met Pine, the WTA announced a new tournament in Zhuhai, China from 2015 that will be held the week after the WTA Finals here, with prize money of US$2.15 million.
With an already packed calendar, I wondered if the players were being taxed too much?
"We have a sports science and medicine and player development department within the WTA and their whole mandate is the wellbeing of players," said Pine.
"The players' schedules are monitored to ensure their health and wellness are optimised."
The 36-year-old added: "The key is that we also balance that with what we call providing jobs.
"Every event is an opportunity for these women to get out and earn a living, right.
"There're so many great women out there you've never heard of and these tournaments give them opportunities to play and earn a living.
"We look at it both ways. We want players that stay healthy, that they are playing the best players on the biggest stages, and also jobs for players we might not know about."
Pine hit tennis balls against the wall in her basement during the long six-month winters at her home in St John's, Newfoundland.
She is a former Canadian NCAA tennis star and was ranked No. 1 in singles in British Columbia in 2002.
She clearly holds the current players on Tour in high regard, including the stars.
"These players are role models on and off the court. These women are businesswomen as well as global superstar athletes.
"They understand that to have such a robust Tour requires a lot of different entities to be put together," she revealed.
"It requires sponsorships, it requires fans, it takes so much to make it the a successful Tour that it is.
"These women understand giving back to charity is so important because the sponsor is putting up the money.
"They understand that giving back their time is critically important and so they're great giving back their time and support. They understand that it all fits in together and you can't work without partners, fans, sponsors."
There were 40 cities that expressed interest in hosting the WTA Finals after Istanbul.
It was whittled down to 10, and then three - Tianjin, Monterrey and Singapore.
Pine says Singapore hands down blew away the competition.
"I think, overall, Singapore was clearly the winner in every aspect, infrastructure being a huge one with the Sports Hub, which is in incredible, the vision of Sport Singapore and its Vision 2030 which speaks of equality and empowerment," she said.
"And also the city itself, very safe, very clean, so many entertainment and shopping and activities that players can partake in while they are here.
"They are so many elements that you look at and Singapore is just such a vibrant city and offers so many elements that it was a no-brainer."
Pine is clearly in Singapore's court.
"Asian tennis has never been in a better position than it is right now. Obviously Li Na, her success, has contributed to that. Right now, in terms of events, there are more WTA events in Asia than ever before. Outside of the WTA Finals, we have 21 events in Asia, that’s almost 40 per cent of our tournaments in Asia right now. "
- Pine, on the legacy of China’s newly-retired Li Na, who has also helped inspire rising stars like Zarina Diyas and Zheng Saisa
"When a city demonstrates that it can showcase an incredible world-class event, it says a lot. Obviously the fact that Singapore has taken this Formula race to new heights, that cannot be a bad thing, right."
- Pine on whether the Singapore Formula 1 night race influenced the decisionmakers in their choice of Singapore for the WTA Finals
MELISSA PINE goes 10 for 10
1 George St Pierre or Steve Nash?
I have to say Steve Nash because I don't know who...
2 Canadian beer is...
3 Beach holiday or winter holiday?
Beach holiday AAALLL the way.
Maybe because I grew up in the snow, that's why I love Singapore.
4 Serve and volley or the baseline game?
Serve and volley
5 Bruce Springsteen or Marvin Gaye?
Bruce Springsteen. I've seen him many times in concerts. He is amazing.
6 You want people to play sports because...
It proves a healthy lifestyle and provides for a healthy mind and body.
7 Tennis is better than Formula 1 because...
It is accessible to everybody. And we have the most inspiring female role models in the world.
8 Best city in Canada?
9 Best place you've been in Singapore?
The first thing that comes to my mind is Pulau Ubin.
10 Why the obsession with ice-hockey?
Probably because there's a lot of ice, and because it's a very cold country. A lot of it has to do with our history. We're born with it in our blood.