Asian swing is now serious business for women's tennis
WTA Tour is set to swing through a continent that has become a significant player in the women's game
She played like a champion all through the fortnight in New York and Angelique Kerber now holds two Grand Slam crowns, after her US Open victory added to her triumph at the Australian Open in January.
She is now our world No. 1, after Serena Williams' long reign and I'm sure fans in this part of the world are excited as we now head into a significant part of the WTA season: Our bona fide Asian swing.
From now till the end of the year, WTA players will be busy in Asia, doing battle at various stops culminating with the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global from Oct 23 to 30.
It is heartening that we now have a full-fledged Asian swing, especially when you think that the WTA footprint only formed in 2008 when we opened an office in Beijing with just two events in China.
Fast forward eight years and we now have eight events in China alone, with 19 of the 56 WTA tournaments being held in the Asia Pacific.
We have elite tournaments in places like Beijing with 1,000 points up for grabs on the Road to Singapore leaderboard, and there are also events in Tokyo, Tianjin, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Seoul, the list goes on. There are so many tournaments with significant prize money for players.
In 2008, there were 13 WTA events in the region, with a total prize money of around US$4.67 million.
The 19 events in the Asia Pacific today offers up a total of US$22,653,864.
Today, players know that if they had a slow start to the year, then the Asian portion of the calendar presents them a great opportunity to turn their fortunes around and earn enough points to qualify for the WTA Finals.
The WTA strategy has typically been to identify areas with growth potential and establish an infrastructure there.
When a big star emerges, it means you can really make the most of it if you have a presence in the location.
What was great with China was that we were there in 2008 and then Li Na hit the big time with her two Grand Slam titles (2011 French Open, 2014 Australian Open) and that worked out really well for us.
I believe this is what has really helped the sport grow in Asia - the emergence of top women players who were also really good role models.
Originally, it was women like Indonesia's Yayuk Basuki, who was actually in Singapore this week for a tennis clinic, Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn and Ai Sugiyama of Japan who flew the Asian flag with distinction in the WTA.
When Li Na emerged as a Grand Slam champion, it was the catalyst that changed the way people viewed the sport.
She also inspired a nation, and players around the continent.
You've seen it happen in the United States with Chris Evert and Tracy Austin, and more recently with Serena and Venus Williams. Steffi Graf fired up Germany and now Angelique Kerber is promising to do the same.
I believe everyone needs a hero and a role model.
There are children all over China who look up to Li Na and are working hard to be like her.
Of course, one other key factor is that we've got some incredible events held in world-class cities in Asia, with Singapore the ultimate stop for every WTA athlete.
The players who will descend on the Lion City are the cream of the crop, it's the season finale with the biggest prize purse in the sport (US$7m) and Singapore has a lot to offer the players.
We're always focused on growing our fan base and you always have to know your audience, meaning it's important to be culturally sensitive in whichever domain you're in and the WTA has made a large investment with offices in Beijing and Singapore.
It's important to have a team on the ground so that you really understand the market you're in to fully maximise your potential, whether it's about marketing or promotions or building an event.
In Asia, tennis is on an upward trajectory, it's a newer market that is less mature and the growth potential is very high.
That's exciting and presents a host of opportunities, especially with the number of events that have come up in recent years.
We're committed to Asia in terms of growing our fanbase and running world-class events, and, hopefully, we're also inspiring juniors to pick up a racket and play.
Through the WTA Future Stars programme, exclusively held in the Asia Pacific, we have development platforms for Under-14 and Under-16 girls.
Together with Sport Singapore, we launched it here in tandem with the WTA Finals to help the growth and development of tennis.
We will continue to do as much as we can and the hope is that one day, we'll see a WTA champion from Singapore.
- Canadian Melissa Pine is a former NCAA player and a columnist for The New Paper. She is the vice-president of WTA Asia-Pacific and also the tournament director of the WTA Finals. Held in Singapore from 2014 to 2018, the 10-day tennis extravaganza showcases the world's top-eight singles players and doubles teams competing for a grand prize of US$7 million ($9.6m). For more information on the event, visit www.wtafinals.com