The Italian city of Turin is in pole position to replace London as host of the season-ending ATP Finals after 2020, dealing a blow to the hopes of fellow contenders Singapore, Manchester, Tokyo and London itself.
News of Turin's emergence as the front runner for the men's tennis showpiece event, which features the year's top eight men's singles players and top eight doubles pairs, have been reported by British news outlets, including The Times of London and The Telegraph.
London has staged the tournament since 2009 and its current deal ends next year. The bidding process for rights to the 2021-25 editions is in its final phase with the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), which governs professional men's tennis, expected to announce the next host city in the coming weeks.
Singapore's National Stadium was mooted as a possible venue, with ATP representatives visiting the Republic in January and given a tour of the 55,000-capacity stadium and the OCBC Arena.
Then, Sport Singapore (SportSG) chief executive Lim Teck Yin had used the 2019 Miami Open as an example of how the National Stadium could be reconfigured to stage a tennis tournament. Last month's Miami Open was held on a temporary court built on the field at the Hard Rock Stadium, home of American football team Miami Dolphins.
The Straits Times understands a delegation which included Lim, senior officials from the Singapore Tourism Board and head of Deloitte South-east Asia's sports business group James Walton, also met ATP officials in Miami last month.
Deloitte UK's sports business group handled the bid process for Singapore. Walton declined comment.
The US$8.5 million (S$11.5 million) ATP Finals is one of the sport's marquee events. It regularly attracts about 250,000 spectators each year at London's O2 Arena.
The women's equivalent of the season finale, the US$7 million WTA Finals, was staged at the 12,000-seater Singapore Indoor Stadium from 2014 to 2018.
It drew about 130,000 fans a year for the first two editions, 168,000 in 2017 and that figure increased by over 20 per cent last year.
The Chinese city of Shenzhen won the 2019-2028 hosting rights and also doubled the prize purse to US$14 million.
Among the factors reportedly in Turin's favour was the Italian government's commitment of about €15 million (S$23 million) annually for five years to the ATP Finals, and also the issue of scheduling and travel time.
The current calendar sees players conclude their season in Europe. This year, the penultimate Masters 1000 tournament is in Shanghai from Oct 6 to 13 followed by Paris from Oct 28 to Nov 3, while the Finals is in London from Nov 10 to 17.
Should the event move to either Singapore or Tokyo, players would have to travel to China, fly to France and then return to Asia.
Regarding reports that Turin is strongly tipped, SportSG told ST yesterday it will not comment on speculations and will wait for ATP's official announcement.
Top players, including Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, had previously voiced their opinions on the future venue of the ATP Finals.
While 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer was in favour of it remaining in London, others like Djokovic have differing views.
The world No. 1 said last November: "I just feel this is a great leverage and opportunity to promote tennis all around the world."