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'India a key market to spread women's tennis'

March 11, 2014 18:13 IST

Sania MirzaThe Women's Tennis Association, which has turned to Asia to grow its sport, is unclear how the International Tennis Premier League is going to pan out.

“We are still learning about it, just as the world and the media is," said Melissa Pines, Vice-President, Asia-Pacific, on the sidelines of its new announcement to bring the season-ending BNP Paribas WTA Championships to South East Asia for the first time this year.

The Mahesh Bhupathi-promoted ITPL, following its recent draft in Dubai, announced that among the women players who have signed up are Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Daniela Hantuchova, Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza.

Continuing on the ITPL, Pines said, "We feel exhibitions can be good, but the athletes need to strike a balance between professional and financial needs. They need to look to recovery and preparation for the coming season."

She said the WTA is still learning about the event through media reports and does not have a clear picture.

Pines also said that she and the WTA looks forward to India becoming 'priority market' in the near-future.

"We are always looking at inquiries at hosting new events and certainly India is a key market to spread women's tennis."

Women's tennis in Asia is at a very interesting stage with Li Na as the World No.2 and Peng Shuai as No. 1 in women's doubles. Also Hsieh Su-wei of Chinese Taipei is World No.2 in women's doubles and India's Sania Mirza, who was as high as No. 7 in 2012, is now No. 11.

Australian Open champion Li Na has decided to skip the inaugural ITPL, presumably because of a packed calendar. Li Na is being used by the WTA to push its sport in Asia.

The Asia-Pacific region has around 17 WTA events, and these include many new events in China and the season-ending event in Singapore. There is also talk of a new top-level event in Li Na's home city of Wuhan.

The ITPL is due to take place in the off-season between November 27 and December 14 and will feature matches across the four host cities -- Bangkok, Mumbai, Singapore and Dubai.

This is also the period when most top players on the men's and women's tours prefer to rest and recover.

Meanwhile, the WTA signed a five-year deal with BNP Paribas once again and the championships will move from Istanbul to Singapore this November.

Asia is the new focus area for the Women's Tennis Association, which today brought its year-end WTA Championships to South-East Asia for the first time, as it announced a five-year tie-up with BNP Paribas in a high-profile launch in Singapore.

Also present at the announcement for the event promoted by World Sport Group, was Pierre Veyres, Chief Executive Officer of BNP Paribas Singapore Branch and Regional Head for South East Asia, who said, "As a leading international financial institution in Asia Pacific and a long-time partner of tennis worldwide, we are excited to bring tennis to a whole new level with Singapore positioned as a world class sports hub.

"Our title sponsorship of the BNP Paribas WTA Championships reflects our continued commitment to the sports community across continents with the hope to connect this region to the rest of the tennis world.

“The focus of the WTA Championships, Singapore is on growth of the sport and the event is being transformed into a 10-day sports entertainment experience of competition, exhibitions and activities for the fans of women's tennis."

The BNP Paribas WTA Championships will be staged at the state-of-the-art US $1.3 billion Singapore Sports Hub from October 17-26, 2014 – the first time an Asia-Pacific city has played host.

Singapore will become the ninth different city to host the WTA Championships following Boca Raton (1972-1973), Los Angeles (1974-1976, 2002-2005), Oakland (1978), New York City (1977, 1979-2000), Munich (2001), Madrid (2006-2007), Doha (2008-2010) and Istanbul (2011-2013).

Image: Sania Mirza

Photograph: Jumana El-Heloueh/Reuters