Hoping to attract more tennis fans in Asia, the WTA is moving its season-ending championships from Istanbul to Singapore and will revamp it into a 10-day event with music, entertainment and tennis-related symposiums.
“We’re ultimately in the entertainment business and trying to broaden our reach,” WTA chairperson and chief executive Stacey Allaster said in a telephone interview ahead of Monday’s formal launch. “We know that it’s a great way for us to expand our fan base.”
The shift to Singapore from next year to 2018 marks the first time the event will take place in Asia. It was well-timed to capitalize on growing interest in women’s tennis in Asia, helped by Li Na’s emergence as a top player. The Chinese player won her second Grand Slam title over the weekend at the Australian Open.
Last year, the WTA held 10 events in China, up from two in 2010.
Allaster said the tour was spending “300 percent more” on the championships in Singapore than in the past.
The event will be held from Oct. 17 to Oct. 26 at the Singapore Sports Hub’s 7,500-seat indoor stadium, and prize money will be increased by US$500,000 to US$6.5 million, staying in line with the men’s ATP finals.
The tournament invites the top eight singles players and will go from four to eight doubles teams. The expansion from a six-day tournament to 10 days will also accommodate juniors and legends events, plus coaching and other industry-related conferences. It will start off with a weekend of music and entertainment followed by a week of tennis.
Allaster likened the integration of music and entertainment into the sport to the halftime act at the Super Bowl.
“The music act of the Super Bowl has become the cornerstone of the game,” Allaster said. “By providing a cool, happening must-attend event with all these other experiences, I know that’s the way to help us drive growth.”
Singapore was chosen over the other two finalists: Monterrey, Mexico, and Tianjin, China.