- WTA chief executive officer Steve Simon says they were sold on Shenzhen ‘walking the walk’ when it comes to women in sports
- The winner of the finals event could take home US$4.7 million, the biggest cheque in all of professional tennis
The WTA Finals, to be held in Shenzhen in October, will offer prize money that could add up to be the biggest payout for an individual winner in the history of the women's " and men's " game.
If the singles champion of the Women's Tennis Association " the organisation's flagship annual tournament " wins all of her matches (three round robin games plus the semi-final and final) she will take home US$4.725 million, which the WTA is calling the largest individual purse in tennis.
WTA chief executive Steve Simon said on Thursday in Shenzhen that the prize money was a fitting reward to be on offer in a major event taking place in a city that "walked the walk".
Shenzhen won the right to stage the tournament by beating bids from places including Prague, Manchester and Singapore.
"Of course, a lot of others will follow suit, but as of now, this will be the biggest for men or women," said Simon. "So this is the first time (in tennis) we will be paying the women more than the men."
According to various reports, the US Open offers the largest purse for the singles champion at US$3.8 million for both the men and the women.
Title sponsor Shiseido, a beauty products company based in Japan, along with the Chinese Tennis Association, Shenzhen City Government and the Gemdale Group, a Shenzhen-based real estate developer, have put together a total purse of US$14 million. This will be divided up between the top eight women and doubles teams, double what was offered last year in Singapore.
The eight-day event will feature the top eight singles players and doubles teams who accumulate points on the Porsche Race to Shenzhen, which takes in 53 WTA tournaments and the four grand slam tournaments across 2019.
Simon noted the recent Fifa Women's World Cup, where the victorious United States' team put the issue of equal pay for male and female athletes in the spotlight, and said the WTA wants to build on that vision of pay parity.
"And there was a true commitment here trying to do something about 'walking the walk' when it comes to women's empowerment," said Simon. "It made a huge impression on us when we saw someone who didn't just talk the talk."
The tournament will follow the WTA Hong Kong Open, which will take place October 7-13 in Causeway Bay, and Simon said the WTA was working closely with the Hong Kong Tennis Association to create travel packages for Hongkongers to travel to Shenzhen seamlessly to watch matches. Simon admitted he had had to see Shenzhen for himself to be sold on it as a potential spot for the season-ending event.
"When we came here, it didn't feel like China," he said. "Honestly, when you look at all of the greenery and openness, it's still China, but it felt different and a very youthful city too. The demographics here are very young."
The Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre, a massive sports complex which covers 30 hectares that opened in 2011 and features a 20,000 person capacity stadium as its centre piece, will host the event.
The city itself, formerly a fishing village, was established in 1979 as China's first ever special economic zone and now has close to 13 million inhabitants.
Singapore hosted the event from 2014 to 2018. It was previously held in New York, Los Angeles, Madrid and Doha.
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