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New home of tennis?

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)

09:58, March 07, 2013

China's up to five big WTA events by 2014, and another is possible

Chinese tennis is in a boom period and the WTA's leader, Stacey Allaster, couldn't be happier.

Boasting huge market potential and government support, China has become an ideal host for prestigious tennis events and the WTA has slated five high-level tournaments in the country in 2014 - with one more big one possibly to come.

Tianjin is in the running to the host of the year-end Championships beginning in 2014. It's competing against Singapore and Monterrey, Mexico, which means a possible sixth prestigious event on the calendar.

However, the sport, which draws massive participation throughout the world, remains in its infancy here.

"Eight or nine (including lower-level events) is not that many," WTA Chairman and CEO Allaster told China Daily at the launch of a partnership with Megton Technology Co Ltd on Wednesday.

"We have nine tournaments in the US, which has a much smaller population base. I think we have seen an incredible commitment by the CTA and local government to invest in infrastructure. It gives the WTA an incredible opportunity to have the China Open as our foundation and to then build around that event with Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Wuhan and Hong Kong, combined with the WTA 125 (lower-tier events)."

There will be four tournaments in China from Sept 8 to Oct 7 in 2014. The "China season" should provide broad exposure for the sport in the world's most populous country.

"It creates more of a presence on a consistent basis with us being in the market with the product," Allaster said. "If your business wants to grow in China, this is a winning equation and I am quite excited how far we have come in a short period of time."

Allaster and her crew visited Tianjin's Binhai New Area and stadiums for this year's East Asian Games on Monday to check out the city's preparations for the bid, but didn't show any favor to any of the candidates.

"Tianjin's ambitions and progress are impressive. But all three have done a great job of sharing their plans with us. They wouldn't be the three final candidates if we did not believe in their strength. We will announce the winner by the end of April."

The WTA team has already been to Monterrey and Singapore after cutting Mexico City and Kazan, Russia, from the race.

Elite players, like Li Na and Zheng Jie, will be able to spend more time at home due to the increased number of local tournaments, but Allaster also expects juniors to benefit from events at their doorsteps.

"It gives the up-and-coming young Chinese players an opportunity to be the next Li Na, playing against the world's best at home with valuable ranking points involved.

"We have seen time and time again that successful sporting nations in tennis have a very strong competitive system at home so when the players go abroad, they have already been tested and they know what to expect."

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