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Zhuhai tourney right on the ball in growing game

By Xu Jingxi in Guangzhou | China Daily | Updated: 2016-10-26 07:39

Southern city ready to welcome best of WTA

Zhuhai tourney right on the ball in growing game 

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova is one of the big names that will light up the WTA Elite Trophy tournament in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, from Nov 1-6. Provided To China Daily

Zhuhai, which has earned a spot on the map of international tennis events after hosting a high-level WTA tournament last year for the first time, is on the fast track to putting the sport in the forefront of mass participation in China.

The WTA Elite Trophy tournament held in the southern coastal city is acknowledged as the highest-level tennis event in South China and is among the top four nationwide, joining the China Open in Beijing, the Shanghai ATP Masters 1000 and the Wuhan Open.

"Besides attracting star players and offering high prize money, the WTA Elite Trophy's debut last year wowed the world with cutting-edge facilities and has proved Zhuhai's capability of hosting grand international sporting events," said Lyu Pinde, managing director and general manager of Zhuhai Huafa Sports Operations Management Co.

Televised in 17 countries and regions, the WTA Elite Trophy's debut made Zhuhai known to tennis fans around the globe, helping showcase the sport's massive expansion in China over the past five years.

Tournament director Peter Johnston served as regional managing director of Asia and Pacific for the WTA from 2011-14, during which time the number of WTA tournaments in China was expanded from two to seven.

"Tennis is quite new in China compared to other parts of the world like Europe, the United States and Australia, where it has been a traditional sport for many years," said Johnston.

"But China is just waking up to tennis, which is great news for the expansion of the sport as a truly global game."

With a pleasant coastal climate and an income level above the national average, Zhuhai has what it takes to ignite tennis popularity among the general public.

"The WTA tournament is the first international tennis event that Zhuhai has hosted, thus attracting great attention from local people. Through watching the games in person, they have learned the rules and felt the charm of game," said Wu Xiangming, deputy director of the city government's culture, sports and tourism bureau.

"Tennis is no longer a classy recreational activity for a small group of fans, but a sport that the general public appreciates and wants to take up."

Zhao Lianyu, president of Zhuhai Tennis Promotion Association, said he has seen rapid growth in the number of local players since the city hosted the WTA tournament last year.

"To make tennis popular, the government should strike the iron while it is hot to build more public courts and encourage schools to add tennis into their PE courses," Zhao said.

Zhuhai Huafa Sports Operations Management Co, organizer of the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, has been making the most of the tournament's influence to help popularize the sport.

The company launched an amateur tournament in 26 cities this year, which attracted more than 10,000 players. The finals will be held in the Zhuhai Hengqin International Tennis Center during the WTA Elite Trophy event, Nov 1-6.

The company also selected ball kids in eight cities, including Hong Kong, Macao and Taipei, to participate in the WTA tournament. Zhuhai is one bridge away from Macao and is connected to Hong Kong by a 70-minute ferry ride.

"Macao doesn't have many tennis courts. In addition to having access to courts, we are also looking forward to cooperate with Zhuhai in youth training since there are more tennis professionals on the mainland," said Ung Ioc Leng, president of the Macao Tennis Association executive committee.

Zhuhai Huafa has signed a strategic partnership with the MTA, which includes training students from the Macao Tennis Academy at the Hengqin tennis center and jointly organizing games for amateurs from both cities.

"Zhuhai will be the center of tennis development in the Pearl River Delta and serve Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan," said Lyu.

xujingxi@chinadaily.com.cn

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