S'pore back in the tennis swing

ATP 250 tournament will be held at Sports Hub next month; strong men's field expected

Italian Jannik Sinner on his way to winning the ATP 250 Sofia Open final in Bulgaria on Nov 14, 2020. Such events are the lowest tier on the main ATP Tour.
Italian Jannik Sinner on his way to winning the ATP 250 Sofia Open final in Bulgaria on Nov 14, 2020. Such events are the lowest tier on the main ATP Tour.PHOTO: AFP

Singapore will host an ATP 250 tournament from Feb 20-28 at the Sports Hub's OCBC Arena on a single-year licence, the ATP announced on its website yesterday.

Another event in Marbella, Spain was also added to men's tennis tour calendar "to create increased playing opportunities, in the face of scheduling challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic".

Other measures include an expanded draw size at various tournaments, including the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, the ATP 250 Cordoba Open and Argentina Open.

The Singapore Tennis Open is right after the Feb 8-21 Australian Open - the year's first Grand Slam tournament - while the tournament in Marbella will be from April 5-11.

National agency Sport Singapore (SportSG) said in a press statement on Wednesday that SportSG and the Singapore Tennis Association (STA), supported by the Singapore Tourism Board and the Singapore Sports Hub, will "ensure strict implementation of safe management measures at the venue, as well as travel protocol for players and officials in line with prevailing government regulations".

"The combined effort will be an important facet of enabling international sporting events to return to Singapore in stages through 2021," added its statement.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong said in a Facebook post that he is "looking forward to top-class tennis action".

He added that the tournament - Singapore's first ATP 250 event - "will likely see a top men's field, some of whom will be fresh from the Australian Open 2021 at Melbourne Park".

Singapore hosted the WTA Finals from 2014 to 2018 before it moved to Shenzhen, China. Before that, the last top-level tournament here on the professional tennis circuit was the 1999 Heineken Open.

The Republic had put in a bid to host the season-ending ATP Finals from this year but eventually lost out to Turin.

SportSG chief executive Lim Teck Yin said: "This ATP 250 Tournament is an important competition in ATP's adjusted calendar for the year. Singapore's hosting of this event capitalises on the 'Asia Swing' and will pave the way for collaboration with the ATP for future men's tennis events.

"We are mindful that the Covid-19 situation is fluid and will adapt measures for the tournament that are consistent with the national posture."

Alison Lee, executive vice-president of the international region at ATP, said: "Singapore has an excellent track record delivering international sporting events to a world-class standard.

"We have confidence this tournament will be no exception, with a primary focus on ensuring safety."

Aside from the WTA Finals, Singapore has hosted top sporting events such as Formula One's Singapore Grand Prix since 2008 and golf's HSBC Women's World Championship.

Clement Leow, president of the STA, welcomed the latest marquee addition, saying: "A successful ATP 250 event in Singapore will contribute greatly towards the safe return to sports, as well as fire up the tennis fraternity and help to further promote the sport of tennis in Singapore."

The ATP 250 tournaments are the lowest tier of annual men's tennis tournaments on the main ATP Tour, after the four Grand Slams, the ATP Finals, ATP Tour Masters 1000 and ATP 500 tournaments.

Further details on the Singapore Tennis Open will be released soon.

According to the ATP website, it will be a hard-court event featuring a 28-strong singles field and 16-pair doubles field. Two other ATP events - the Cordoba Open in Argentina and the Open Sud de France in Montpellier - are set to take place in the same week.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2021, with the headline 'S'pore back in the tennis swing'. Subscribe