Event may call Singapore its permanent home, says WTA chief

Simona Halep of Romania hitting a backhand to American Madison Keys during the WTA Finals opener on Sunday.
Simona Halep of Romania hitting a backhand to American Madison Keys during the WTA Finals opener on Sunday.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

WTA chief has told authorities he wants talks on tournament's long-term future here

The next two editions of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Finals will still be held here, but Singapore could be hosting the season-ender permanently.

Steve Simon, WTA's chief executive officer, revealed at a media conference yesterday that he is keen to find a fixed venue for the elite tournament, which features the eight best-performing singles players and doubles pairs of the year. And Singapore is in his thoughts.

The WTA Finals has been played in four cities - Madrid (2006-07), Doha (2008-2010), Istanbul (2011-2013) and Singapore (2014-present) - in recent years.

A PLACE TO CALL HOME

Singapore is certainly a dynamic, vibrant and beautiful city. It's somewhere we'd be very proud to call home.

STEVE SIMON, WTA chief executive officer, on why the Republic will be among the cities considered to host the WTA Finals on a permanent basis.

CHANGES AFOOT

There should be a week lead-in to the WTA Finals, and the WTA Finals should be the last event of the year, period.

SIMON vowing to make changes to the Tour calendar to allow players more time to prepare for the WTA Finals.

The current five-year deal to host the tournament in the Republic expires in 2018 and is reportedly worth more than US$70 million (S$97.24 million). Since the first edition of the WTA Finals in 1972, Singapore is the only city to be awarded such a lengthy deal.

The Association of Tennis Professionals World Tour Finals, men's tennis' equivalent of the WTA Finals, has made London's O2 Arena its home since 2009 and, last year, it extended the city's hosting rights until 2018.

Simon said: "I would certainly like, at some point, for this WTA Finals to find a more permanent home, where we can truly build an event - build the traditions and make the investments. And Singapore is certainly a dynamic, vibrant and beautiful city. It's somewhere we'd be very proud to call home.

"We certainly have had conversations with the local government and the supporting parties here and have indicated we would love to talk about a longer future here in Singapore, as we also evaluate all of our other options. No decisions have been made for the future yet, but we're beginning to look at that."

The WTA has seen good returns when the Finals held its inaugural edition in the Republic in 2014.

The seven-day event drew a total of 129,000 fans, breaking the five-figure mark for the first time since 1993. It has also won the Best Sports Event of the Year (International) at the Singapore Sports Awards for two years in a row.

"This is our third year in Singapore. And we've had a great three years, this event has grown and improved every year," Simon added.

He also promised to revise the Tour calendar to give players more breathing space in the lead-up to the WTA Finals.

This year, Russian world No. 9 Svetlana Kuznetsova clinched the final berth on the eve of the showpiece, and was jet-lagged when the event started. In 2014, Czech Lucie Safarova qualified three days before the singles matches began.

Simon said: "There are solutions that have been discussed... about considering (switching) the Finals here in Singapore with the tournament that is next week - the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai. There should be a week lead-in to the WTA Finals, and the Finals should be the last event of the year."

But he sounded cautious as he considered the areas which could be affected if a change is implemented. He said: "Right now, we're at week 43, and if you move it to week 44, you'd have issues with Fed Cup finals that's lined up behind us, and you have players who are getting into their off-season.

"There are many different scenarios right now, but the spirit is there to get it fixed, and I believe we will."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2016, with the headline 'Event may call S'pore its permanent home'. Print Edition | Subscribe