Tennis fans here can look forward to more engaging activities when the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore returns to our shores later this year.
The annual tournament showcases the top eight female singles and doubles players of the year and will be held from 23 October to 1 November.
The first of five editions to be held in Singapore was staged at the Indoor Stadium last year, and won by Serena Williams.
On Wednesday morning, the WTA Finals unveiled a slew of enhanced programmes as part of their efforts to ramp up fan engagement and build on the first edition.
A new “Advantage Singapore” program will include a bigger Fan Festival at the OCBC Square to appeal to not just tennis fans, but also families and the casual observer. That will be open to the public for free, along with player practice sessions during the weekend of the 25th.
The likes of Caroline Wozniacki (pictured above) and Li Na made public appearances last year and Sarah Clements, vice president of Tennis (Asia) at event promoter World Sport Group, pledged that the players will be “far more visible to the public” this year.
“We are creating a central stage area… which we didn’t have last year and it will have daily player appearances, so that’s new and a very important initiative for this year,” she told Yahoo Singapore on the sidelines of the press conference at the Arts Science Museum.
The format of the doubles competition will change from a direct knockout one to a round-robin, which adds one more day of matches to the event. The singles format will remain as a round-robin.
Clements added that while the players are the “heart and soul” of the WTA Finals, it was also equally important to draw more fans to the sport.
To that end, a first-ever gala event, the Singapore Tennis Evening at Marina Bay Sands will be introduced to celebrate the players’ annual achievements. British singer Paloma Faith will perform at the event, which will be ticketed to the public.
“Fan conversion is really important and I think the more people watching, playing, reading about and tapping into tennis, the better for the sport and for the event,” said Clements.
“It’s very important to build lifestyle elements around that sport product so it is truly a sport and entertainment event… bringing more to the table is something that we focus on every strongly, so the entertainment factor is something that we are going to continue focusing on and build on over the next four years.”
Community engagement will also be a key focus and some of the other initiatives under Advantage Singapore include workshops at selected primary schools, continuation of the Ball Kids program and a mentorship program developed by SportsCares for at-risk children.
World number three Simona Halep, a special guest at the press conference, is looking forward to playing at the Indoor Stadium again.
“I felt like I was home… it was amazing and I had a big crowd supporting me,” the 23-year-old recalled. “They gave me power to compete very well at a high level... I enjoy this place and it means a lot to me, it gave me confidence that I can be a good player.”
Tickets for the general public start at S$16.90 and can be purchased through Sports Hub Tix at www.sportshub.com.sg/WTAFinals. More information, including on tickets to the show with Paloma Faith, can be found at www.wtafinals.com
The current Road to Singapore leaderboard is updated each Monday and can also be found at www.wtafinals.com