Tennis: Watching WTA stars made affordable

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Tennis: Watching WTA stars made affordable
CATCH THEM HERE: There’s a good chance the current top two women, Serena Williams (world No. 1, right) and Li Na (No. 2, left), will make it to Singapore in October.

SINGAPORE - When the BNP Paribas WTA Championships hits Singapore shores in October, it promises to showcase tennis' biggest female stars at the Singapore Sports Hub.

But, unlike many WTA (Women's Tennis Association) Tour events around the world, access to the Singapore edition will be priced "reasonably to afford everyone access", said Andrew Georgiou, CEO of event promoters World Sport Group (WSG).

Georgiou was speaking to The New Paper on the sidelines of a press conference at the Singapore Cricket Club yesterday, when the event's new five-year sponsorship with local brand and luxury lifestyle developer SC Global Developments was announced.

Staged at the state-of-the-art $1.3 billion Singapore Sports Hub from Oct 17-26, the BNP Paribas WTA Championships - the Tour's finale event - will feature the world's top eight players and top eight doubles pairings.

Ticket prices for WTA events, such as the annual Rogers Cup in Montreal, range from $90 to $570. While Georgiou declined to reveal the pricing for the Singapore leg, he insisted it would be more moderately priced.

ACCESSIBLE

"This is a premium world-class event, but it's imperative for us to make it accessible to everyone in Singapore," he said.

"When the ticket packages are released in two weeks' time, you'll see what I mean by accessibility."

Singapore is the ninth different city to stage the WTA Championships, but the first Asia-Pacific city to do so.

To engage the fans and tennis community in Singapore, the organisers are looking to bring the sport and its stars to various schools for clinics and meet-and-greet sessions.

"Many of the players will be in town a week before the tournament starts, so we will have the opportunity to bring them to the heartlands," Georgiou said.

"There will also be volunteer recruitment for the event, so young Singaporeans will have a chance to be ball kids, for example."

As part of the new sponsorship deal, SC Global is developing a new community programme "SC Global Tennis for Every Child", which is designed to widen interest and increase participation in tennis at the grassroots level.

SC Global chairman Simon Cheong said the company will invest $300,000 over five years in the youth programme.

"We are committed to taking an active role in the sponsorship and look forward to working with our partners at WTA and WSG to ensure that we can make a meaningful contribution and leave a lasting legacy on the sport in Singapore," Cheong said.

"This will be our way of bringing the sport to schools, to the PE lessons and the CCA programmes."

Mr S Iswaran, the Second Minister for Home Affairs and Second Minister for Trade and Industry, visited the press conference as a show of support for the event.

Citing the WTA Championships as an important addition to the local sporting calendar, he said the event would be a good platform for business opportunities and also praised the organisers' efforts of making it accessible to Singaporeans.

"What I like about the event is that it will involve Singaporeans from all walks of life," the minister said.

"It's not just that we are hosting a world-class tennis event for the first time, it's that everyone can be involved in some way or another."

aakasim@sph.com.sg

This article was published on April 4 in The New Paper.

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