WTA prides itself on championing equality and diversity
The main focus is always tennis but the WTA will not shy away from backing social causes
The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) prides itself on its efforts to promote equality and the empowerment of women.
Billie Jean King has been a trailblazer and a catalyst for social change, and continues to strive for equality and inclusion.
With all the talk around equal prize money, most people do not know that the WTA was eventually formed based on a US$1 (S$1.60) contract that King and eight other women signed in 1970.
This is one of my favourite stories to share as it transformed the pathway for women's professional sport, and I would not be where I am today if not for it.
King's dream was that any girl, anywhere in the world, should be able to earn a living playing tennis if she desired.
Back then, women were playing the same sport, drawing the same crowds, but were paid a fraction of what the men got.
The nine women stood up against the establishment and signed a US$1 contract to compete in a new women's professional tour, which was named the Virginia Slims Series.
The "Original 9", as they have since been immortalised, were Rosie Casals, Nancy Richey, Kerry Melville, Peaches Bartkowicz, Kristy Pigeon, Judy Dalton, Valerie Ziegenfuss, Julie Heldman and King.
King's dream was that any girl, anywhere in the world, should be able to earn a living playing tennis if she desired.Melissa Pine, on the vision of Billie Jean King who founded the WTA in 1973
The Virginia Slims Series made its debut in 1970 with 19 tournaments in the US and a total purse of US$309,100.
In 1973, King officially founded the WTA, uniting all of women's professional tennis. In the same year, the US Open offered equal prize money to men and women for the first time.
Just a few weeks later, King took on a notoriously chauvinistic Bobby Riggs in the famous Battle of the Sexes match at the Houston Astrodome - and beat him.
It was trailblazing. It was revolutionary. For women, for sports and for the world.
This year, the WTA offers a record US$139 million (S$190m) in prize money, with our top eight players at the end of the season playing for a cool US$7m in our crown jewel event, the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.
The WTA also features incredible diversity, with over 2,500 players representing nearly 100 nations who compete in 55 events and four Grand Slams in 31 countries.
In recent times, we have seen an amazing growth of the sport in Asia-Pacific.
Players such as China's Li Na, India's Sania Mirza and Taiwan's Chan Yung-jan have achieved breakthroughs, solidifying the fact that background and gender are no barriers to winning Grand Slams.
Having role models the next generation can look up to and identify with does wonders for the development of sport.
With the success of Li Na and Sania, tennis academies have sprouted in China and India, and the region's interest in the sport continues to grow.
The Asia-Pacific is represented by 13 players among the WTA top 100 this season and, among them, they have won six singles titles and eight doubles titles.
The opportunities within the region have also developed over the years.
This year, there are 19 WTA tour level tournaments in the Asia-Pacific which offer a total of US$24m in prize money.
The Asian Swing kicked in right after the US Open, with players competing in South Korea, Japan, China and Hong Kong, before the best eight play at the WTA Finals in Singapore.
Facilities and infrastructure have followed suit, and three of the world's top 10 largest tennis stadiums, each with a capacity for 15,000 fans, are in China.
The WTA has not shied away from taking a stand on social issues, especially when they have an impact on women and diversity, and is not afraid to tackle discussions around uncomfortable topics, and prompt change.
With the establishment of WTA Charities this year, the organisation aims to promote social causes with our tournaments, and our partners and players.
Being part of an organisation that has created such significant and positive social impact around the world is a privilege, and serving as the tournament director of the WTA Finals, an event that celebrates the pinnacle of performance in professional women's tennis, is an honour that I am incredibly grateful for.
Singapore is the first Asia-Pacific city to host the WTA Finals and the fourth edition will be held at the Indoor Stadium from Oct 22 to 29.
As we prepare for another exciting tussle featuring the best players in the women's game, I look forward to the legacy of the WTA continuing to flourish in this part of the world.
Melissa Pine is the vice-president of WTA Asia-Pacific and the tournament director of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. She is also a former NCAA player at Washington State University and served as assistant coach of the team post-graduation. To find out more about the WTA Finals, visit www.wtafinals.com