Tennis: China set to hold elite women's event

HONG KONG (AFP) - The expansion of women's tennis into Asia gathered pace on Thursday when it was announced that a new WTA "Elite Trophy Zhuhai" will be played in southern China next year.

The 12-player event will replace the current Tournament of Champions, which will be played in Sofia for the last time later this month, and feature players ranked from ninth to 20th who fail to qualify for the season-ending WTA Tour Finals.

It will add to the six Women's Tennis Association (WTA) tour-level events on Chinese soil this year, including new tournaments in Hong Kong and Wuhan, while Singapore is hosting the WTA Tour Finals.

Zhuhai neighbours Macau, close to Hong Kong, and the city is completing a new purpose-built tennis stadium to host the US$2.15 million (S$2.75 million)-purse event from 2015-2019.

"It promises to be an amazing player field," Peter Johnston, the WTA managing director of Asia-Pacific and Zhuhai tournament director, said in a statement.

The 12 players will compete in a four-group round-robin format with each group winner reaching the semi-finals in a similar format to the WTA Tour Finals, which are scheduled for the preceding week.