Tennis

WTA Finals to move to China

Singapore to host season-ending women's tournament for the last time this year

Singapore will not remain the host city of the WTA Finals after this year as the season-ending tournament will move to Shenzhen, China, The Straits Times (ST) understands.

Ms Sarah Clements, vice-president, Tennis (Asia) at Lagardere Sports, confirmed the end of Singapore's run as host yesterday and said: "It has been a wonderful journey, and we would like to wish the WTA as well as the next host city every success. We are focused on delivering a spectacular Grand Finale for our fans and partners this October."

According to a statement from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), Lagardere and Sport Singapore (SportSG), the national sports agency, "evaluated the opportunity of a potential extension and decided not to pursue this".

Sources revealed that the decision appears to stem from the inability of all parties involved to agree on the value and price of the Finals.

However, in 2016, Women's Tennis Association (WTA) chief executive Steve Simon had revealed that he was keen to find a fixed venue for the tournament and said then that Singapore would be a place the WTA "would be very proud to call home".

His predecessor, Stacey Allaster, had also heaped praise on the city's organisers following the inaugural edition in 2014.

Then, she had called it "the best WTA Finals in the history of the WTA".

In a statement yesterday, STB chief executive Lionel Yeo noted the impact the tournament had made, saying that the US$7 million (S$9.26 million) event, which features the top eight women's singles players and doubles teams, "has contributed to Singapore's existing suite of vibrant lifestyle offerings and helped put us on the tennis world map with good branding benefits".

This included last year's concert by the Backstreet Boys and the inaugural tennis week, which saw community engagement efforts.

"With the support of Lagardere Sports and partners including BNP Paribas and SC Global, we have achieved our objectives of making the WTA Finals one of the most highly anticipated and successful sporting events not just in Singapore but also in the region," he added.

Lim Teck Yin, chief executive officer of SportSG, noted that "having the WTA Finals in Singapore for the last four years has proven to be beneficial in raising the overall profile of the sport of tennis here, as well as inspiring our athletes, youth and community-at-large with a host of global sports role models".

But one source, who had attended the previous iteration of the Finals when it was hosted in Istanbul, Turkey, from 2011 to 2013, told ST: "Singapore did a far better job at putting together fringe events, and the Singapore Sports Hub is an incredibly accessible venue with a mall attached, the huge difference is that unlike Turkey, there isn't a tournament-going psyche in Singapore, which the organisers did their best to tackle."

It is understood that the WTA board held a vote and decided to award the Chinese city the rights to host the season finale from next year till 2028. The city's Longgang Sports Centre hosts two annual tournaments (one each for men and women).

This year's women's event, the Jan 1-6 WTA Shenzhen Open, had a prize purse of US$750,000 (S$992,000) and a line-up that included world No. 1 and eventual winner Simona Halep, 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko and former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova.

A representative for the WTA Shenzhen Open told ST yesterday that the season finale would take place in a "new stadium in Shenzhen".

This year's event takes place from Oct 21 to 28 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Tennis