Tennis: WTA Finals has grown in stature during five-year run in S'pore, says chief executive Steve Simon

Women's Tennis Association chief executive Steve Simon said he is expecting attendance at the ongoing WTA Finals here to surpass last year's 133,000. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - As the WTA Finals takes place here for the last time, Women's Tennis Association chief executive Steve Simon believes fan attendance is a key indicator of how the Singapore event has grown over the past five years.

At the WTA's year-end press conference on Wednesday (Oct 24), he revealed that he is expecting the number of fans at the Singapore Indoor Stadium to surpass last year's 133,000.

"There is no question that the WTA Finals and its product and its brand of an event is at a significantly higher level than it was five years ago," he said.

"You can see that through this year (when) we will have record attendance again... You have seen it in the evolution of the fans here.

"When I came here the first year, you could have heard a pin drop in the stadium because everybody was so polite and fun and pristine.

"When you watch the matches now, there is a lot of energy, fun, enjoyment, entertainment, which I think really shows the growth."

The Republic edged out more than 40 parties in 2013 to secure a record five-year deal to stage the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global from 2014.

It was the first time the season finale had been held in the East Asia-Pacific region. Before that, it was in Istanbul (2011 to 2013) and Doha (2008 to 2010).

The event will move to Shenzhen for 10 years from next year, with the current prize purse doubled to US$14 million (S$19.3 million).

Said Simon: "Shenzhen is going to be a great opportunity for this event and the reason we have the opportunity in Shenzhen is what happened here in Singapore.

"Keeping the Finals here in the Asia-Pacific reflects the commitment that we have to the business.

"But we are (also) talking about player health and flow and all of those elements, we now have complete geographic flow.

"We have our athletes that have flown (in) and are finishing the year here in Asia. The calendar is being set up with some adjustments that will allow for a very easy flow into the Finals in Shenzhen."

He also addressed the topic of on-court coaching, acknowledging its "polarising position", but said that it is "here to stay as a part of the WTA".

He added: "As we evolve, coaching will probably evolve. (Coaching is) an integral part of the story of tennis. We, as a sport, cannot say that coaching doesn't happen and just look the other way.

"I think we have to support it and support it in a responsible way."

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