May Zhao interviewed some of the key figures from the world of tennis. Stevegtennis brings you the short version of the interview.
1) How do you see the situation with Tennis in Asia at this point and talk to us about what you see is happening now and possibly in the future? Can you make any good suggestions?
Melissa Pine, WTA Director
Women’s tennis in Asia is in such a great position and the growth on the sport has been phenomenal. We opened our Beijing office in 2008 with two tournaments in China, and will host a record nine WTA Premier and International tournaments in Chinese Mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan during the 2016 season We have a full-fledged Asian Swing after the US Open and our year-end crown-jewel event the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global in Singapore. When we decided to host our event in Singapore, we saw a great opportunity to increase our presence in Southeast Asia, which has such huge potential.
We have seen through our WTA Future Stars activities in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand how, given the opportunity, kids of all ages love playing tennis and learning from WTA Stars such as Caroline Wozniacki and Tamarine Tanasugarn. The following one in China will be hosted in early October this year. In 2014 we invited 12 markets to participate in the tournament and this year we have already expanded to 17 markets, which highlights the desire for the local tennis associations to have access to more regional tournaments to help develop their young players. Through grassroots developmental programs like the WTA Future Stars we are working closely with the local associations to build and develop their youth programmes, as ultimately these are the next generation of players and fans.
2) What do you see as being the next step for Chinese Tennis and whom do you see coming up behind Li Na as the best genuine prospects for the future?
Li Na was a fantastic catalyst for boosting the popularity of tennis in China and across Asia as a whole. We saw the huge potential within China, which was part of the reason by WTA establishing the Beijing office. The Chinese Tennis Association has invested heavily in their infrastructure and by working closely with sponsors has managed to bring more tournaments to China, which in turn increases public exposure to women’s tennis and players.
Peng Shuai is one of China’s leading players and ranked World No.1 as a doubles player when she headed into the WTA Finals in 2014. Looking to the future, there are several Rising Stars on the WTA Circuit that are competing consistently and on the cusp of breaking into the top-50 and higher.
At the WTA Finals we have the WTA Rising Stars Invitational where fans can vote for their favorite player to play at year-end tournament. Zheng Saisai was one of those four WTA Rising Stars who came to Singapore in 2014 and was extremely popular with the fans so we see a bright future ahead for her. We also see several promising names that are on the verge of cracking the Top 100. Liu Fangzhou was a runner-up last year to Peng Shuai at Nanchang last year and Wang Yafan won her maiden WTA title with Chen Liang in doubles at Kuala Lumpur in 2015. With these ladies on the tour and greater support for tennis in China, we are hopeful of seeing more Chinese players rise up the ranks in the near future.
3) What do you see as the situation with tennis in Asia at this time and talk to us about how you see/have seen them developing in Wimbledon? Japan, Korea, China?
Mick Desmond Commercial Director of the AELTC:
We have seen the interest in tennis grow strongly throughout most of Asia. We have great media partners in South East Asia with Fox Asia and NHK and WowWow in Japan. They cover all the matches from Wimbledon live and this has grown our audiences dramatically. It also helps when there are players from within a country. In China we have also seen both the interest and our audiences growing.