The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) announced its selection of the city of Shenzhen, China to host the WTA Finals, the most prestigious event on the WTA calendar, from 2019 through 2028.
Gemdale Corporation, one of China’s largest and leading real estate developers, submitted the winning bid. The company’s bid includes building a state-of-the-art venue in the city’s downtown area, with seating for 12,000 people, and record prize money of $14 million for the Top 8 singles players and Top 8 doubles teams, double the previous purse.
“It gives me great pleasure to announce that the dynamic city of Shenzhen has been chosen to host the WTA Finals, the WTA’s crown jewel season finale, for the next decade,” said Steve Simon, WTA CEO and Chairman. “This will easily be the largest and most significant WTA Finals deal in the 45 years since the WTA was founded and promises to take the event to a spectacular new level.”
“Shenzhen is an exciting, fast-evolving metropolis of 68 million people and staging the WTA Finals there will ensure the WTA’s global fan base goes from strength to strength,” added Micky Lawler, WTA President. “As China’s new generation of players follow in the footsteps of Li Na, the local fans will have their own national heroines to cheer, but we also know from our existing events in the region led by the China Open that they will support all of the stars of the WTA with tremendous enthusiasm.”
“Shenzhen is honored to have been selected as host for the WTA Finals,” said Liu Fengning, General Manager, Shenzhen Gemdale Sports Industry Co., Ltd. “This world class event will attract local and foreign tennis fans and add to Shenzhen’s reputation as an outward-looking and vibrant global city. We embrace the WTA’s values of inclusiveness and equality, and are grateful for the opportunity to add to China’s tennis legacy by staging an event that encourages young generations to take up the sport.”
Billie Jean King, pioneer and founder of the WTA, remarked, “It is absolutely incredible to witness the growth of the WTA season-ending event and Shenzhen will be a fantastic home for the WTA Finals. The first Finals were played in 1972, in Boca Raton, Florida, before the WTA was formed, and had $100,000 in total prize money. The record setting $14 million purse set for Shenzhen reflects the global strength of our sport and how Shenzhen and China have embraced women’s tennis.”
Sam Stosur, WTA Player Council member, former World No.1 doubles and World No.4 singles commented, “I am really impressed by the sheer magnitude of the offer that Shenzhen has made. The increased prize money and the construction of an amazing new stadium with naming rights is incredible. But significantly, the financial backing and government commitment is an exceptional investment in the WTA that will help us to develop women’s tennis in all corners of the world for years to come. It’s an exciting day and time for me and for all of our WTA players.”
WTA World No.1 Simona Halep, who was runner-up at the WTA Finals in Singapore in 2014 and won the Shenzhen Open in 2015 and 2018, said, “I have chosen to start my season in Shenzhen for a few years now, and I am thrilled that the city has been selected to stage the WTA Finals.” Halep added, “It’s a fascinating and friendly place, with some of the best tennis fans in the world. I know the WTA’s partners in Shenzhen will deliver a wonderful and memorable experience for the players, fans and sponsors.”
2019 will mark the 49th staging of the WTA Finals (with the inaugural staging in 1972). There have been 21 different winners in the event’s history with champions from 13 different nations including Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams.
Shenzhen is set to become the 10th different city – and the second in Asia – to host the WTA Finals 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), Istanbul (2011-2013) and Singapore (2014-2018).
Since 2008, when the WTA began its strategic priority to grow the brand and tournament footprint in China and the wider Asia-Pacific region, attendance, broadcast and digital exposure have soared as new audiences have embraced the sport.
A new record was set on the ground at the WTA Finals in 2017 as the event welcomed 133,000 fans, the largest attendance over the four years in Singapore. Overall, WTA social media initiatives increased fan engagement globally, with total social video views growing from 22.9 million in 2016 to 27.8 million in 2017.