WTA Champs leave lasting legacy to tennis in Turkey

WTA Champs leave lasting legacy to tennis in Turkey

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
WTA Champs leave lasting legacy to tennis in Turkey

WTA Championships, which include Maria Sharapova (L) and Victoria Azarenka in its bill, is an important tournament for Turkey, according to the TTF Chairwoman Ayda Uluç (small picture). EPA photo

The Turkish Tennis Federation (TTF) has hailed the WTA Championships as a tournament giving a huge boost to the sport in Turkey.

“It is one of the most important tournaments in tennis,” TTF chairwoman Ayda Uluç said yesterday during the official launching press conference of the year-ending tournament, which brings together the world’s top eight players in women’s tennis in Istanbul. “It will be watched by 37 million viewers worldwide in 164 countries.”

Uluç said ticket sales at last year’s tournament made it one of the best-selling tennis events in the world.

“This year it is going pretty well, too,” she said. “I can say tickets for Saturday and Sunday [for the semifinals and final on Oct. 27 and 28] are almost sold-out,” she said.

TTF vice chairman Cengiz Durmuş agreed that the first of the three-year TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships was a success. “We were wondering about whether we would have a big audience, but we saw that the stands were filled,” he said. “It was really good.”

Wide open competition

This year’s tournament will be held between Oct. 23 and 28 at the Sinan Erdem Dome in Istanbul. The eight-strong line-up includes current WTA rankings leader Victoria Azarenka, second-ranked Maria Sharapova, last year’s WTA Championships winner Petra Kvitova, 15-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, Agnieszka Radwanska, Petra Kvitova, Li Na, Angelique Kerber, and Sara Errani.

“It is hard to say who is the favorite. Azarenka is on top form, but all girls are very competitive and you can never know in WTA Championships,” Uluç said, when asked who she thought was likely to bag the biggest slice of the total $4.9 million prize money.

She added that the fact that eight players were coming from eight different countries would give another boost to the event.

Apart from the competition, the event will also leave a lasting legacy to the sport in Turkey.

“One week of WTA saves our year,” TTF vice chairman Durmuş said. “We had five or six thousand licensed tennis players last year. Now, we have 16,000 ... I can say that Turkish tennis is catching up with the level of basketball and volleyball, in terms of public interest.”

Durmuş said this growth was directly linked to the WTA Championships and expects the surge to continue even faster.

“Tennis is becoming a sport that is well known all over the country,” he said. “We have seen families turning their children to tennis, we saw kids flocking to tennis courts.”

Osman Turan, an executive member of the TTF board, says that there was still a long way to go, but is also optimistic. “Increasing the number of competitive players and licensed athletes is a key factor,” he said. “Of course we have a long way to go, but the Championships are very important in those terms.”