WTA Finals: 30% more overseas fans

Local and foreign fans taking a “wefie” with Garbine Muguruza. Emerging stars like her are making up for the absence of some big names.
Local and foreign fans taking a “wefie” with Garbine Muguruza. Emerging stars like her are making up for the absence of some big names. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Likes of Muguruza and Sharapova draw crowds even with some big names out

Crowd favourites Serena Williams, Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki may be missing from this year's BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, but that has not deterred international tennis fans from making Singapore a must-visit pit stop.

According to the WTA and event organisers Lagardere Sports, there has been a year-on-year increase of more than 30 per cent in ticket demand from overseas markets.

Last year's debut edition in the Republic drew a total of nearly 130,000 spectators - a record for the annual season-finale - over 10 days of tennis at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

It was the first time the tournament's attendance figure had breached the 100,000 mark since 1993, when it was staged at New York City's iconic Madison Square Garden.

While the absence of defending champion Williams has meant the US$7 million (S$9.75 million) event has lost some of its box-office shine, the emergence of new stars and familiar faces have ensured it remains a draw.

This is the second straight year that Russian pensioner Tatiana Marchenko, 54, and her husband are visiting Singapore and both trips have been to watch the world's top eight players in action.

She said: "There are a lot of good players here and Garbine Muguruza is very exciting to watch.

"She is so powerful and definitely a big star in the future."

Ranked third in the world, Muguruza is making her singles debut in the competition and has been tipped by many to be a future world No. 1. She won all three of her group matches and faces Agnieszka Radwanska in today's semi-finals.

While the Spaniard has been a hit with the crowd, it is also clear that Russia's Maria Sharapova remains one of the game's biggest attractions despite being hobbled by injuries this year.

When planning his year-end holiday to Asia, Finn Ari Makikoski, 53, decided to include Singapore on his itinerary as it meant he could watch the five-time Grand Slam winner up close.

He said: "I remember watching Sharapova at the French Open almost 10 years ago and she is still a great champion."

Support for the European contingent notwithstanding - flags of Poland, Romania and Russia have been commonplace inside the stadium - interest from around the region has also seen a spike.

Fans arriving from India have increased more than three fold, largely owing to top doubles player Sania Mirza returning to defend her WTA Finals title with her new partner Martina Hingis.

The pair have won eight titles, including Wimbledon and the US Open, this season and have breezed into the last four.

Mumbai resident Ashutosh Tandon, 31, had never seen Mirza live until yesterday and was thrilled to see his compatriot in action.

He said: "I came here straight from the airport and managed to catch some of the practice sessions as well.

"It was a very good atmosphere for the match.

"I was surprised given that it was a Friday morning."

Being held near the end of the school term has also helped bring in the local crowd.

Said CHIJ Secondary (Toa Payoh) student Adonia Yip, 14: "It's been even more exciting than last year as there's no clear favourite.

"Anyone can win which (means it) is really interesting."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2015, with the headline '30% MORE OVERSEAS FANS'. Print Edition | Subscribe