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WTA Finals head to Shenzhen in long-term deal

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has today (Thursday) announced that its season-ending Finals event will be held in the Chinese city of Shenzhen from 2019.

Shenzhen has signed a 10-year hosting deal with the WTA and will stage the event until 2028. Shenzhen will assume hosting rights from Singapore, whose five-year agreement with the WTA expires after the 2018 tournament.

Shenzhen saw off competition from Manchester, England; Prague, Czech Republic and St Petersburg, Russia to land the event.

The Singapore Tourism Board and Sport Singapore confirmed in a joint statement yesterday (Wednesday) that they had decided to not pursue the opportunity to extend their hosting rights deal.

Shenzhen’s winning bid was submitted by Chinese real estate developer Gemdale Corporation. The company is set to build a new 12,000-seat venue for the event, which will feature record prize money of $14m (€11.5m) from 2019 – double the current $7m.

WTA chief executive and chairman Steve Simon said: “This will easily be the largest and most significant WTA Finals deal in the 45 years since the WTA was founded and promises to take the event to a spectacular new level.”

WTA president Micky Lawler added: “Shenzhen is an exciting, fast-evolving metropolis of 68 million people and staging the WTA Finals there will ensure the WTA’s global fan base goes from strength to strength. As China’s new generation of players follow in the footsteps of Li Na, the local fans will have their own national heroines to cheer, but we also know from our existing events in the region led by the China Open that they will support all of the stars of the WTA with tremendous enthusiasm.”

The WTA Finals is contested by the top eight singles players and top eight doubles teams. Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki (pictured) is the defending singles champion, with Tímea Babos and Andrea Sestini Hlaváčková the reigning doubles champions.

Singapore has staged the WTA Finals since 2014, with the event having been held in a number of cities since the turn of the century. Shenzhen is set to become the 10th different city – and the second in Asia – to host the Finals following Boca Raton (1972-1973), Los Angeles (1974-1976, 2002-2005), Oakland (1978), New York City (1977, 1979-2000), Munich (2001), Madrid (2006-2007), Doha (2008-2010), Istanbul (2011-2013) and Singapore (2014-2018).

In 2008, the WTA began a strategic initiative to grow the brand and tournament footprint in China and the wider Asia-Pacific region.

Liu Fengning, general manager of Shenzhen Gemdale Sports Industry, said: “This world class event will attract local and foreign tennis fans and add to Shenzhen’s reputation as an outward-looking and vibrant global city. We embrace the WTA’s values of inclusiveness and equality, and are grateful for the opportunity to add to China’s tennis legacy by staging an event that encourages young generations to take up the sport.”