WTA Finals to serve wider array of offerings

WTA Finals tournament director and vice-president for Asia-Pacific, Melissa Pine, coaching four-year-old Shazia Malika at the WTA Future Stars clinic at Keppel Club.
WTA Finals tournament director and vice-president for Asia-Pacific, Melissa Pine, coaching four-year-old Shazia Malika at the WTA Future Stars clinic at Keppel Club.ST PHOTO: JEREMY LIM

Nearly 130,000 spectators got to catch a slice of the action at the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Finals last year - a new milestone - but tournament director Melissa Pine wants to do even better this year.

Yesterday, she revealed that the organisation is leaving no stone unturned in its bid to build on the momentum gained from last year's edition, which was the first to be held in Singapore.

Pine said: "There will be more matches, more action and more content for fans to see."

On court, the prize purse has increased from US$6.5 million (S$9.1 million) to US$7 million, thus providing greater incentive for the players. A round-robin format for the doubles has been introduced to spice things up.

Off-court, the organisers have kept ticket prices affordable, starting at $16.90.

For the first time, the public will be able to hit tennis balls with the best players in the world after their practice session viewings.

The tournament has also been expanded to cover two weekends - Sunday to Sunday - giving fans more opportunity to lap up the excitement.

But the WTA is also getting down to the root of the matter by taking care of the grassroots and junior development. Part of this involves the Future Stars programme, which yesterday held a clinic for 20 children at Keppel Club.

Pine conducted the session with four newly-crowned WTA Future Stars Singapore representatives - Charmaine Seah, 15, Goh Yee Loon, 16, Tessa Wong, 14, and Tammy Tan, 13.

The quartet will be competing in the WTA Future Stars final which will be held in conjunction with the WTA Finals in October.

This year's Future Stars programme has been expanded to include 17 countries, up from last year's 12.

Australia, New Zealand, Cambodia, South Korea and Nepal are the new participants.

"We were focusing on building on the grassroots level and junior development and launched it last year with support from Sport Singapore," said Pine. "Our grassroot-level activities have been a success and the attendance has been overwhelming for the past two clinics.

"Tennis helps to instill confidence and self-esteem in young girls. It helps with focus and shows that kids who play sports do better in school.

"We want to make tennis accessible and the WTA is a good opportunity to put a racket in the hands of a child," she added.

Shazia Malika, four, who was selected along with her sister Amelina to join the clinic, said (through her mum): "It is my second time here. I enjoy hitting the ball and running about.

"The trainer (Pine) is my favourite since the first workshop and she makes me want to go for all her training sessions even though I cannot (due to my age)."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2015, with the headline 'WTA Finals to serve wider array of offerings'. Print Edition | Subscribe