World-class in Wuhan

By China Daily | China Daily | Updated: 2017-10-02 07:46

Capital city of Hubei province is home to both a top-flight international tournament and a growing reputation for bringing tennis closer to the people. China Daily reports.

Wuhan is sparing no effort in using the Wuhan Open, a WTA Premier 5 tournament, as a platform to showcase the city's ambition to become a premier sports hub.

The elite tournament not only attracts the best female players from around the world, but helps cultivate and expand tennis culture, inspiring more people to get involved in the sport.

This year's Wuhan Open featured current Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, reigning French Open champ Jelena Ostapenko, newly-crowned US Open titleholder Sloane Stephens, world No 2 Simona Halep and former world No 1 Karolina Pliskova, who is currently ranked No 4.

To guarantee the success of such an extravaganza, the capital of Central China's Hubei province and the tournament organizers left no stone unturned to offer better experiences for both players and fans.

To promote both the tournament and the city, a series of activities were launched, including a ball kids exchange program with the French Open, journalistic opportunities for aspiring young reporters from middle schools, and China tennis legend Li Na hosting a series of promotion events.

"We selected ball kids form 41 schools in Wuhan," said tournament director Zhu Jianbin, who also serves as chairman of Wuhan Sports Development and Investment Co Ltd.

"We have been partnering with the French Open for three years. Four of the most outstanding ball kids from here will be sent to take part in the tournament at Roland Garros. Another highlight was launching the program for young journalists from middle schools to cover the tournament from kids' point of view."

As global ambassador for the Wuhan Open, two-time Grand Slam champion Li participated in many activities aimed at making her hometown "a city of tennis" while nurturing the future of the sport in China.

"Right now, I see a lot of young people picking up tennis rackets," said Li. "First, you need to really love what you choose. Sometimes, maybe it is the families who tell you that you should play, but for their inside heart, they need to like it. You have to keep loving what you're doing."

Known affectionately as "Big Sister Na" by her millions of adoring fans, Li hosted a tennis clinic for youngsters ahead of the tournament and is using her status as Asia's most decorated player to introduce the people of Wuhan to the game that has brought her so much fame and fortune.

Optics Valley International Tennis Centre, a brand new world-class facility, was the main venue for the tournament. It covers an area of 103,400 square meters, has a grand main stadium of 15,000 seats, an annex of 5,000 seats and a number of standard outdoor hard courts.

"Providing players with better services is our first priority," said Zhu. "Based on our experiences of organizing previous tournaments, we changed the accommodation plans to let players commute more conveniently. We also planned entertainment activities for players to relax after their training or competitions.

"We also improved our information services and established a 'smart' stadium by guaranteeing wifi signals for fans within the tennis center. It's very advanced for China."

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Zhu Jianbin, tournament director of the Wuhan Open and chairman of Wuhan Sports Development and Investment Co Ltd

Q: What are the highlights of the services of this year's Wuhan Open after the success of three previous editions?

A: There were some major breakthroughs at this year's Wuhan Open. First of all, we consider ourselves service providers. As organizers, we provided players with better facilities, accommodations and even entertainment and cultural activities for them to have a good rest after their training and competition. We also focused on the fans. We provided all-in-one tickets, constructed new parking lots, launched a Wuhan Open themed subway and offered advanced information services.

Q: What efforts were made to promote Wuhan as the "city of tennis"?

A: Through tennis, we want the world to know Wuhan. All of the WTA players who came here can also let the world get familiar with Wuhan through their families and friends. Especially through Li Na, who is the pride of the city, we can send images of energetic Wuhan to the world. The success of Li Na was not an accident. It was a joint effort of tennis people for generations in Wuhan. The spirit of tennis is a legacy of the city. During the tournament, a series of promotions were launched to bring that spirit directly to the people - and the results speak for themselves. Wuhan is truly living up to its reputation as China's "city of tennis."

Caroline crowned

France's Caroline Garcia bagged her first Premier 5 level title at the Wuhan Open on Saturday with a battling 6-7(3) 7-6(4) 6-2 win over Australia's Ashleigh Barty.

The French Open quarter-finalist fired 32 winners and served eight aces, winning eight out of 16 break points to prevail in two hours and 43 minutes.

"A title is the best thing you can have in tennis! A big one or a small one doesn't matter. That is why you fight all year... I feel over the moon," Garcia said.

With three wins over top-10 ranked players this week, Barty is looking to build on her fine run in the home stretch of the season.

"I feel this is where I belong," she said. "I have had a fantastic year so far and we have a chance to finish the year strong."


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