Exclusive Q&A with WTA's Stacey Allaster
Updated: 2013-10-22 14:43
By Yan Weijue (chinadaily.com.cn)
WTA Chairman & CEO Stacey Allaster holding a copy of China Daily in Istanbul on Oct 21, 2013. [Photo/Yan Weijue/chinadaily.com.cn]
Singapore beat China's Tianjin to host the WTA Championships for the next five years. What are its competitive advantages?
Tianjin put forward a very good bid. We are excited to have good conversations with them. In the end, Singapore was chosen for a couple of strategic reasons. We've had excellent footprints in China. WTA will have eight events in China in 2014 and the China Open as our flagship event. Singapore provided an opportunity for growth in southeast Asia. They also have the infrastructure and a stadium already built. In Tianjin, it will take some time until those facilities come into being. And Singapore also put forward a very interesting programming schedule with concerts, industry conferences, women in leadership, and they saw a larger footprint in sport entertainment events than in Tianjin where we were talking more about a classical tennis event. So those are the primary reasons.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of China Open? The organizers vowed on many occasions that they are in pursuit of becoming a fifth grand slam. Do you think that is possible in the future?
I think the grand slams are grand slams for history. But WTA events like the China Open, Madrid, Sony Open in Miami, BNP Paribas in Indian Wells, those are our four equal-prize money events. The best on the WTA. And they all aspire to want to be a bigger and better (event). Having them looking up to the grand slams and wanting to present our sport with the stages and standards at that level is very good for women's tennis.
How do you rate China Open's performance in the past decade?
It's gone from strength to strength. Think about where they were ten years ago to where they are today, obviously they have the infrastructure. They make significant investment in the buildings and having a premier mandatory, getting top stars. Their hotels, player services have all improved very much over the past ten years. And they know the next phase of growth comes to have more people attending the event and that takes time as more people in Beijing and across China want to travel to Beijing and enjoy the China Open.
How big a fact is Li Na in all of that?
Li Na's been the most impactful player of this decade for the growth of women's tennis in China and Asia-Pacific. So it is not a coincidence that two of three candidate cities for the Championships came from Asia Pacific – Tianjin and Singapore. Our TV ratings, number of hours, number of fans and social media are off the charts, and I attribute a lot of that to Li Na.
No doubt Li Na has tremendous influence on tennis in China and Asia. But what is WTA gonna do about its promotion campaign in China when Li retires someday?
WTA is a global tour with global stars. Certainly having a national hero like Li Na. We'll miss her. But there will be another Li Na. Whether it will be in the short window or it will longer that's the thing we don't know. But there are a lot of great young players that Li Na is inspiring today. And I have every confidence that there will be more superstars coming out of China that will just build on the success that Li Na has had. Zhang Shuai or others, there will be more rising stars for sure.