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September 11, 2009

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Home » Sports » Tennis

WTA ups ante for China Open

THE China Open in Beijing, which starts a new era as one of the 'crown jewels' of women's tennis next month, will become one of the biggest tournaments in the world in the next 10 years, according to WTA President David Shoemaker.

The women's professional tour has identified China as a key strategic marketplace and the elevation of the tournament to one of four US$4.5 million elite events is an important plank in the strategy "to grow the sport in China as a whole".

"They have extremely bold plans for this event, it's pretty easily the biggest tennis event in Asia now and I think 10 years from now it will be one of the biggest tennis events in the world," Shoemaker said.

Shoemaker set up the tour's Asia-Pacific operations in Beijing last year and will retain responsibility for the region when he moves to Florida after his recent promotion to president. In his time in Asia, Shoemaker has watched Chinese women like Li Na and Zheng Jie break into the world top 20 and is looking forward to the atmosphere when they play in Beijing - even the possibility of a local winner.

"I think it would be fabulous to see a Chinese player win, although officially I will remain impartial," he grinned.

Organizers will not be banking on local success to get the public through the doors, however, particularly as the tournament is now mandatory for the top 50 in the world.

"We've shown around the world that we're not reliant on local players to draw fans," he said. "When a Serena Williams or a Maria Sharapova or an Anna Ivanovic comes to town, that sells tickets."


One of the attractions of Beijing when the WTA were discussing where to place their Asian 'crown jewel' event, he said, was the proposed venue, the Olympic Green Tennis Center.

The complex was purpose-built for the Beijing Olympic Games and ground has already been broken on an additional stadium court with a retractable roof.

Shoemaker also accepted that China was by no means a mature tennis market and will head down to Guangzhou tomorrow to oversee a "tennis festival" aimed at raising excitement for next week's WTA event in the southern city and, of course, for the China Open.

"Our vision is for this to be the most successful sporting event in all of China and I think that's quite attainable," he said.

"But there does need to be some amount of education and effort put into what the sport's about, to get people excited about playing it, about watching it, about buying tennis equipment and the like."


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