Fame, set and match for Zhuhai

By China Daily | China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-25 07:43

WTA Elite Trophy host city aiming to become important global tennis center

With China trying to fill the void left by the retirement of two-time Grand Slam champion Li Na, the nation's host cities of world-class tournaments are upping their game in a bid to better promote the sport.

In Zhuhai, Guangdong province, the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai (WETZ) is in its third year, and the city is keen to show the world it is a fully fledged global tennis center.

Tournament organizers Huafa Group hope the sport can become part of the city's culture. Over the weekend, a 100-day countdown ceremony was held, bearing the slogan "Come to Zhuhai if you love tennis", promising additional tennis-themed events as the clock ticks down to the tournament's start on Oct 31.

 Fame, set and match for Zhuhai

Zhuhai, Guangdong province, is pulling out all the stops to make the Oct 31-Nov 5 WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai at Henqin Tennis Center a smashing international success. OSPORTS

Former world No 1 Jelena Jankovic, from Serbia, and newly appointed tournament director Jose Miguel Garcia were both in attendance to spread the gospel.

"After two successful editions of the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai, we are working hard to present the best experience possible for the fans attending the tournament, and for the ones watching it from home," said Garcia.

"The WTA rankings are tighter than ever, which will result in a very strong field. The beautiful city of Zhuhai will shine for the WTA Elite Trophy."

Garcia brings 15 years worth of experience at professional sports events, working predominantly with the Madrid Open. The Spaniard will travel regularly to Zhuhai to coordinate the event's organization.

Jankovic has fond memories of her last appearance at WETZ before injuries caused her world ranking plummet to 70th.

"I am very happy to come back to Zhuhai after I played in 2015," said the 32-year-old.

"I really enjoyed this amazing city and have very good memories of the support I got from the Chinese fans and also of the hospitality I received from the tournament.

"Elite Trophy Zhuhai features the top 20 players in the world and I have to work harder to try to get the ticket."

Garcia, meanwhile, was full of praise for China's effort to promote the sport, singling out Zhuhai's role in the push. "China has been increasingly paying attention to its sports and health industries, and WETZ is playing an unique role in that," he said.

"It is a really strong cooperation between Zhuhai and the WTA. This is a tremendous opportunity and Zhuhai is in a prominent position.

Fame, set and match for Zhuhai

"We want fans to attend - not just from Zhuhai, but from Hong Kong, Macao, Shenzhen and Hangzhou. And why not people from abroad?

"More people will come to the city, spending time and money here. We are doing different things to attract more people to this event. One way is by cutting ticket prices this year, so everybody can come to the tournament."

The competition runs from Oct 31 to Nov 5 at Hengqin Tennis Center and will see an increase in prize money to $2.28 million.

The event is organized by Zhuhai Huafa Group Co Ltd, a leading Chinese state-owned enterprise founded when the Zhuhai Special Economic Zone was established, and APG, one of the most prominent sports and media marketing organizations in Asia.

"As a state-owned company, Huafa Group is dedicated to growing the company alongside adding values to society and developing the sports culture of Zhuhai city," said Xu Rong, chairman of the WETZ organizing committee and general manager of Huafa Group.

"Huafa Group targets building up a successful event with established international fame and promoting Zhuhai city as a brand globally.

"We are determined to help develop the economy and the culture of Zhuhai and to increase its role in the Pearl River area."

(China Daily 07/25/2017 page22)

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