Tennis: WTA weighing up Finals options as 4th event looms

Former world No. 1 tennis player Kim Clijsters will make her first trip to Singapore this October, after being announced as a legend ambassador for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore, the prestigious season ender of the women's professional tour.
(From left) Melissa Pyne, tournament director of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore, last year's winner Dominika Cibulkova, former world No. 1 Kim Clijsters and Steve Simon, chief executive officer of the WTA at yesterday's launch.
(From left) Melissa Pyne, tournament director of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore, last year's winner Dominika Cibulkova, former world No. 1 Kim Clijsters and Steve Simon, chief executive officer of the WTA at yesterday's launch.PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

STUTTGART • The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) has begun to contemplate the future of its crown jewel event, as the Singapore edition of its season finale heads into the penultimate round of its five-year deal.

While the current partnership for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore is due to expire next year, an extension beyond 2018 remains on the cards - even as the WTA are being wooed by a handful of cities in Europe and Asia.

"We are looking for the future, for 2019 and beyond," WTA chief executive officer Steve Simon said yesterday at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, where international public sales of the Oct 22-29 WTA Finals were launched.

The season finale, won by debutante Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia last year, is a US$7 million event (S$9.75 million) that features the year's top eight singles players and top eight doubles pairs. American Serena Williams and Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska won in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Added Simon: "We have two more years in Singapore. We certainly have had great discussions and Singapore is an option for the future as well, because we've had a great experience there.

"But we also will see what other opportunities might be in the marketplace for us as well."

  • BNP PARIBAS WTA FINALS SINGAPORE 2017 PRESENTED BY SC GLOBAL

    WHERE: Singapore Sports Hub

    WHEN: Oct 22-29

    WHO: Top eight singles players and doubles pairs of the 2017 WTA season

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    $196.20 for two sessions

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    Full day pass

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British media this month reported Manchester as a contender for the WTA Final. The Straits Times understands that St Petersburg, Russia has also indicated its interest, as has Zhuhai in China.

It is also understood, however, that the WTA has begun preliminary talks with the Singapore Tourism Board.

Its director of sports Jean Ng told ST: "In the meantime, we look forward to the next two editions of the event as world-class sporting events like the WTA Finals help Singapore grow tourism receipts through raising destination awareness and profile."

There will be no change of format this year, nor an additional week of rest between the last qualifying tournament and the Finals. The final slate of eight contenders was confirmed only the day before last year's event.

The absence of 23-time Grand Slam winner Williams due to pregnancy has coincided with the return of Belarus' Victoria Azarenka after giving birth and Maria Sharapova from a doping ban and WTA chief Simon expects an equally intriguing lead-up to this year's WTA Finals.

He said : "We'll see a lot of new faces, a lot of familiar faces that will come on in, and that's very exciting. It's going to be an exciting race.

"It's been three terrific years in Singapore. Our mantra is to do everything better - it's all about improving and the pursuit of excellence.

"I expect the fourth to be even better."

May Chen

VIDEO
Kim Clijsters speaks Singlish. http://str.sg/kim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2017, with the headline 'WTA weighing up Finals options as 4th event looms'. Print Edition | Subscribe