Melissa Pine: ' It’s also an opportunity for budding tennis players to have a feel of what it is like to be a top professional.' – AFP Photo
KUALA LUMPUR: Top South-East Asian tennis juniors will have a chance to rub shoulders with the likes of world No. 1 Serena Williams and world No. 2 Li Na during the WTA Championships in October.
Singapore is set to host the season-ending women’s finale tournament for the next five years at the Singapore Sports Hub, which is scheduled to open in June.
For the first time, the tournament, scheduled for Oct 17-26, will also feature a Future Stars Championship – an Under-14 and Under-16 tournament with 12 of the top juniors in South-East Asia in each category.
The players will be chosen via a national qualification meet in each country with the objective of building up the interest in tennis from the grassroots level.
“It is an excellent opportunity to showcase 24 of the most promising juniors in this region,” said WTA Championship tournament director Melissa Pine.
“It’s for development purposes as the kids will have a chance to rub shoulders with some of the top players in the game.
“It’s also an opportunity for budding tennis players to have a feel of what it is like to be a top professional as they will also play on the same court as the championship.
“We believe that with Li Na’s success at the Australian Open, and Peng Shuai (also of China) being the No. 1 player in the world in doubles, the interest in tennis in Asia has never been better.
“WTA is committed to this goal for the long term, having set up our office here (in Singapore) this year and with Singapore hosting the WTA Championships for five years, this is a great opportunity to push for development,” added Pine.
The WTA Championships boasts a total prize money of US$6.5mil (RM21mil) and only the top eight players in the Road to Singapore rankings for singles and doubles qualify to compete.
Li Na currently tops that list, following her Australian Open triumph, while world No. 10 Dominika Cibulkova, currently playing in the BMW Malaysian Open, is in second spot.
Tickets for the event are already on sale for OCBC card members while the early bird sales start from May 15 at www.sportshubtix.com.sg.