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TENNIS > WTA Championships ready for 'the final set' in Istanbul

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

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Last year, Serena Williams (L) beat Maria Sharapova to win the title. DAILY NEWS photo / Emrah GÜREL

Last year, Serena Williams (L) beat Maria Sharapova to win the title. DAILY NEWS photo / Emrah GÜREL

Istanbul is ready for “the final set” of the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships, with tickets for the year-ending tournament in women’s tennis going on sale on April 29.

The top eight players will play at the Sinan Erdem Dome to cap their illustrious seasons between October 22 and 27, but this time will mark the end of Turkey’s three-year hosting deal with WTA, which oversees women’s tennis.

“Here we are in the final set in your magnificent city,” WTA Chairwoman Stacey Allaster said at a press event in Istanbul yesterday. “I know we are in the final and the final set will be the best.”

The first two seasons were eagerly embraced by tennis fans in Turkey, a country with little tradition in the sport. Almost all sessions were played in front of a sellout crowd at the Sinan Erdem Dome, and many players loved the atmosphere. Allaster said Russian star Maria Sharapova told about having goosebumps by the crowd support and women’s number one player Serena Williams went on to hug members from the audience after her final victory.

“Never had I seen that in my entire career,” Allaster said. “These WTA Championships truly are the people’s championships.”

Turkish Tennis Federation (TTF) Chairman Osman Tural agreed that the WTA Championships changed the face of the sport in Turkey.

Not a rich man’s game

“There was the perception that tennis is rich people’s sport in Turkey,” he said. “But seeing more than 10,000 or 12,000 people fill the hall, that perception is not true.”

Tickets for the Oct. 22-27, 2013 event are now on sale at Biletix. Daily tickets are priced from 30 to 70 Turkish Liras, while two-day semifinal and final packages are on sale for 80 to 160 liras.

There is a long road to making it to the eight-strong Istanbul line-up, but Slovakian starlet Dominika Cibulkova, currently ranked 15th in the WTA rankings, said it was her aim to make the cut.

“To participate in the WTA Championships is every player’s dream and this is my goal over the whole year,” she said. “It is one of the best events and the city is amazing. Speaking on behalf of players, we just love it here.”

After the Championships, Istanbul will try to attract other tennis events, with Tural urging Allaster to find a spot in the WTA’s yearly calendar for Istanbul Cup.

“This is our final year with the Championships, but we are trying hard to attract another event, to attract the top 50, or top 30 players,” Tural said.

Allaster said that given WTA’s packed calendar it would not be an easy task, but they are trying. “The Istanbul Cup will return to the calendar. It’s complicated, but we’re looking for tournaments between Wimbledon and Roland Garros,” she said.

Tural also said Turkish fans also wanted men’s tennis tournaments as well, but with the extension of the ATP’s contract with London this is not viable right now.

April/30/2013

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