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Tennis: Preparations in full swing for WTA Championships in S'pore

Expect a sports extravaganza of competitions, exhibitions and activities at this year's WTA Championships in Singapore.

SINGAPORE: It's only the start of the tennis season but preparations are already in full swing for the WTA Championships in October, which Singapore will host for the first time.

It promises to be a sports extravaganza of competitions, exhibitions and activities for fans in Singapore and around the globe.

This year's tournament will see seven days of competition, a day longer than previous editions.

It will also see an increase in prize money -- from US$6 million to US$6.5 million from this year.

This year's WTA Championships will also include a Rising Stars Exhibition -- featuring young players who are making a mark.

It is one of the new initiatives for the 10-day long Championships and host Singapore is hoping the event can act as a catalyst for the sport in the region.

Singapore Sports Council CEO Lim Teck Yin said: "We have been discussing the possibility of running junior tournaments during WTA Championships week in Singapore to bring the best junior players from the region to Singapore and play in tournaments."

This will feed into the WTA Future Stars program, which encompasses players from the Asia-Pacific region.

Tep Rithivit, Secretary-General of the Tennis Federation of Cambodia, said: "We do encourage and support fully what the Singapore Sports Council is doing and again, this a fabulous and one-time opportunity that we want to say seize the moment."

Organisers also want to make the event more accessible to everyone.

"These grassroots events are targeted towards the communities and the heartlands. Anybody who wants to take part in tennis, you don't have to know how to play tennis," said Beier Ko, chairperson of WTA sub-committee at Singapore Tennis Association.

Ko added: "We might have a couple of the events at the tennis courts in the schools as well as other places (such as) community centres, out in the streets and maybe parking lots."

Other plans in the pipeline include a ball kids programme, where up to 100 kids can sign up. Slots will be reserved for young ones from the region.

Coaching is another area that WTA wants to improve for Singapore tennis. Experts will be brought in to conduct workshops.

WTA sports science and medicine and youth development staff will also participate in sports summits to share best practices in the development of female athletes.

On Monday, tennis legend Chris Evert and rising star Eugenie Bouchard were in Singapore for a meet-and-greet session with local students where the pair shared the secrets of their success.

Evert, the 18-time Grand Slam winner, is the ambassador for the WTA Championships in October. 

She will be involved in the year-round promotional campaign "Road to Singapore".

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