WTA Finals Singapore 2017

Tennis: Race to be 2019 WTA Finals host heats up

Above:  Excited fans seeking autographs as well as wefies from Romania's Simona Halep after her match win on Monday at the WTA Finals, one of the premier events on the annual sporting calendar.
Above: Excited fans seeking autographs as well as wefies from Romania's Simona Halep after her match win on Monday at the WTA Finals, one of the premier events on the annual sporting calendar.ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI, DESMOND WEE
Above: WTA chief executive Steve Simon praises Singapore for a job well done since 2014 and says the organisation is keen to discuss an extension while looking at rival bids.
Above: WTA chief executive Steve Simon praises Singapore for a job well done since 2014 and says the organisation is keen to discuss an extension while looking at rival bids. ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI, DESMOND WEE

Singapore's five-year deal ends in 2018, 4 cities have submitted bids to stage Finals

Singapore will face stiff competition to maintain its status as host city of the WTA Finals when its current five-year spell expires next year.

Women's Tennis Association chief executive Steve Simon yesterday confirmed that the organising body has received bids from Manchester, Prague, St Petersburg and Shenzhen. He added two other cities have indicated their interest, but no bids have been received.

The venue of the season-ending tournament for 2019 and beyond is scheduled to be announced in April, said Simon during the WTA year-end press conference at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Praising Singapore for a job well done in hosting the Finals since 2014, he added: " We have said all along that we'd be very interested in discussing an extension. We had an agreement that we would sit down following this event when they saw the results of this event and have a conversation about 2019 and the future, and I'm looking forward to those conversations."

The Singapore Tourism Board's director for sports Jean Ng said it is in ongoing discussions with WTA and these will continue after Sunday's final. She added: "We are pleased that... the WTA Finals have elevated into an all-rounded event that is more than just a world-class tennis tournament, with engaging lifestyle programmes and activities that appeal to fans of all ages."

The inaugural BNP Paribas WTA Finals in Singapore presented by SC Global in 2014 drew more than 129,000 fans over 10 competition days. That figure increased slightly to over 130,000 across 11 competition days the next year. Last year's crowd figures, spread over eight competition days, are not available.

Prior to Singapore, Istanbul staged the WTA Finals from 2011 to 2013. Sarah Clements, vice-president of tennis (Asia) at event promoter and organiser Lagardere Sports, noted the WTA Finals were an "attractive proposition" for potential host cities.

GREAT CHOICE

Singapore offers a lot of what we are looking for to continue - (it) is a global capital, cosmopolitan, very international.

MICKY LAWLER, WTA president, highlighting Singapore's advantages as the hosts while pointing out that every city comes with their pros and cons.

Of the four cities that have submitted their bids, three hold annual tournaments on either the men's or women's tours.

The Sibur Arena in Russia hosts the St Petersburg Ladies' Trophy, a WTA Premier tournament, and the St Petersburg Open, a men's ATP 250 event. Shenzhen's Longgang Sports Centre is also a venue to two tournaments for men and women.

Prague, in addition to hosting the annual WTA Prague Open, has also hosted the Fed Cup final several times, including in 2012, 2014 and 2015. Last month's Laver Cup also took place in Prague.

The Manchester Arena was the preferred choice for Britain's 2015 Davis Cup semi-final tie against Australia, but a clash in dates saw the matches held in Glasgow instead.

WTA president Micky Lawler noted there were "pros and cons to every city". She highlighted Europe's status as a traditional tennis market and the potential of China but added that Singapore is "good for business" as the tournament has received strong support from the government and other partners.

"Singapore offers a lot of what we are looking for to continue - (it) is a global capital, cosmopolitan, very international," said Lawler. "The event has become better and better each year, the audience in Singapore is very demanding and used to big and great premium events. Formula One can attest to that."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2017, with the headline 'Race to be 2019 host heats up'. Print Edition | Subscribe