It was probably bound to happen eventually anyway, but the WTA’s presence in China will grow to 5 events in 2014. Still, I have to think that Li Na’s success at Roland Garros, becoming the first Asian born player to win a tennis Major in singles, lit a flame of tennis interest in a country where table tennis is still more popular. Although it’s only the beginning of 2013, the WTA tends to have scheduling set far in advance. This year, China has three events; in Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Beijing. The Shenzhen event, which started on December 30, 2012, has already finished, won by Li Na.
2014 will see those events joined by events in Hong Kong and Li Na’s hometown of Wuhan. These are not new events. They are events that are being moved to China. The Hong Kong event is being moved from Kuala Lumpur. That one I really like. The KL event was good, but I think Hong Kong will really go all out, even though that’s “only” an International level event. The one I kind of feel conflicted about is moving the Premier 5 level Toray Pan Pacific Open from Tokyo, Japan to Wuhan. It’s great that Li Na’s hometown gets an event, but the WTA had a 30 year run in Tokyo ending with its final tournament in 2013. I’ve followed this event since its inception in 1984, so it’s sad for me to see it go.
Not only has the WTA increased the amount of full WTA level events in China to 5 in 2014, but they are adding 3 events in China (Suzhou, Ningbo and Nanjing) to the WTA 125 series, bringing the total of WTA 125 series events to 6.