The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) has lined up a series of community development programmes, as part of efforts to connect the WTA Championships in Singapore with the locals.
This includes a partnership with the Singapore Sports Council to start the WTA Future stars programme, which will allow the region's top junior female players to compete for a chance to play in the WTA Future Stars tournament. The competition, which will go out to 12 to 16 markets but focus primarily on South-east Asia, will take place alongside the Oct 17-26 WTA Championships this year.
There will also be a WTA Championships internship programme, which will help students interesting in sports marketing in Singapore, as well as a Fellowship Programme that will be offer a female MBA student a six-month long internship at the WTA's headquarters in St Petersburg, Florida. Staff from the WTA's sports science and medicine, as well as player development departments will also share their knowledge of working with elite female athletes through summits.
Women's tennis great Chris Evert and rising star Eugenie Bouchard were in Singapore to help launch the WTA Championships at the ArtScience Musuem at Marina Bay Sands, together with WTA chairman and chief executive officer Stacey Allaster.
Said Allaster: "There's a lot more to come. This is a game-changing moment for WTA. It's going to be a spectacle."
Evert, one of the best to ever play the sport with 18 Grand Slam titles, added: "I'm so excited that the WTA Championships is here in Singapore. All the people that I've met are so warm and friendly. It's just a great place to have a championships.
"This Championships is right up there with the four Grand Slams. Every match is intense, I know the women's players place just as much value on this as on Grand Slams."
As the Legend Ambassador to the tournament this year, the 59-year-old American will support and promote the Road to Singapore season-long campaign, which will require the Tour's best players to earn points to secure a berth at the event.
Added Bouchard: "It would mean a lot to me if I qualify for the Championships. Everyone looks to this as the big one of the year. I have a long way to go to get here, but I'm going to work hard and it's definitely my goal to make it."
The 19-year-old teenager from Canada had a break-out tournament at the Australian Open last week when she made the semi-finals, losing to eventual champion Li Na.
The WTA Championships will take place this October at the Singapore Sports Hub, making the Republic the first city in Asia-Pacific to stage the 44-year-old tournament. The prestigious US$6.5 million (S$8.3 million) season-finale will host eight of the top singles players and eight of the best doubles pairs.
Singapore is hosting the next five editions of the annual tournament, taking over from Istanbul, which staged the event for the past three years. The event will be expanded into a 10-day extravaganza with a Rising Stars and Legends exhibition event, as well as conferences and music showcases taking place at the same time.