Shanghai Rolex Masters rides new wave of enthusiasm for the game

Updated: 2015-10-08 13:41

By Zhang Kun(China Daily)

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Shanghai Rolex Masters rides new wave of enthusiasm for the game

Milos Raonic hammers a forehand during a Rolex event. Rolex/Gianni Ciaccia

The Shanghai Rolex Masters has accelerated the popularity of the sport among the people of Shanghai.

Tennis seems to have developed in China faster than virtually anywhere else on the global scene, said Li Yao, vice-director of the Shanghai Tennis Association.

Every year, between September and October, the world's top players fly to Asia for the China Open tournament in Beijing or the Tokyo Open in Japan, before meeting in Shanghai for the climax of the Asian season, at the Shanghai Rolex Masters.

The Shanghai Rolex Masters is chronologically the eighth out of nine ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments on the Association of the Tennis Professionals World Tour season, and is the only one played outside of Europe and North America.

For five years in a row, from 2009 to 2013, the Shanghai Rolex Masters was voted the best tournament. "Our ambition now is to win the title back," said Patrick Yang, the vice-general manager of Shanghai Juss Event Management Co Ltd, the tournament organizer.

Shanghai hosted the first international professional tennis tournament in China in 1998. It was a bold move for Juss, a new company dedicated to the game, which paid the handsome amount of $1.25 million for the right to host the Heineken Open, a 250-point tournament. "Shanghai had no more than 10,000 tennis players at that time," Yang said. "But a consumers' survey showed that tennis was the first choice that sports enthusiasts were ready to take up."

Star athletes of the time, such as Andre Agassi and Michael Chang, all played the Heineken Open in Shanghai.

The success encouraged Juss to host the ATP Final of 2002, when the eight top-ranking athletes competed in Shanghai.

It was also the time when Shanghai applied to host the World Expo 2010, and the tournament successfully drew lots of positive attention to the city.

Shanghai went on to hold the ATP Final from 2005-08. Public interest in the game grew significantly during this time. A survey in 2005 showed 540,000 people were playing tennis regularly in Shanghai, Yang said. "In 2012, the number grew to nearly 1 million."

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