The race to earn a spot in this year's season-ending WTA Finals in Singapore - or the 'Road to Singapore' - will begin this week, with three tournaments across Asia Pacific marking the start of the 2015 professional women's tennis tour.
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WTA's press statement
ST. PETERSBURG, FL, USA - On the heels of the WTA's announcement of the largest media deal in the history of women's sports, the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) 2015 season officially gets underway the week of January 5 with three events in three different countries across Asia-Pacific - the Brisbane International in Australia, the Shenzhen Open in China and the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand - marking the beginning of the "Road to Singapore".
The 2015 edition of the WTA's Road to Singapore will travel through 33 countries with 54 events and four Grand Slams, returning to the site of the highly successful BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, staged at the Singapore Sports Hub from October 23 - November 1, 2015.
Stacey Allaster, WTA Chairman & CEO commented: "Women's tennis continues to grow worldwide. From a fan point of view, an athlete point of view and a business point of view, women's tennis has never been in a stronger moment. The 2015 season promises to be an exciting season of competition from our top iconic players who will be challenged by our talented next generation of WTA Rising Stars. On the Road to Singapore, every match matters. From the opening serve in Brisbane through the next 42 weeks, the stars of today, tomorrow and the future will compete for a spot in the prestigious WTA Finals. It is going to be an exciting and inspirational 2015 WTA season."
Current WTA World No.1 Serena Williams stated: "I am excited for the 2015 season to get started. I was able to end last year on a high note by lifting the Billie Jean King Trophy at the WTA Finals and I have been working hard this off-season to prepare for another season. As women's tennis continues to grow globally, I look forward to seeing all our fans on the Road to Singapore."
For the second consecutive year, the WTA Finals will be staged within the state-of-the-art Singapore Sports Hub as the 10-day international sport entertainment spectacle will continue to build on the record crowds and excitement from the last year's success in Singapore. The singles and doubles competition will expand from seven to eight days, with the inclusion of the WTA Legends Classic, WTA Rising Stars Invitational and WTA Future Stars competition throughout the 10-day extravaganza in 2015.
The 2014 WTA Finals achieved new milestones with record highs for TV viewing and online audiences, as fans from around the world travelled to Singapore and tuned in to the event. The event attracted more than 129,000 fans to the Singapore Sports Hub with more than 93,000 attending the matches at the Singapore Indoor Stadium Center Court. The Finals were the most-watched WTA event of 2014, setting record broadcast and digital audience milestones with coverage in 177 countries via 63 broadcasters and more than 4,500 overall hours of coverage.
Fans worldwide will be able to follow their favourite players competing around the world on the season long journey across all WTA digital platforms with enhanced editorial coverage across all channels including the Road to Singapore Leaderboard, a predictive evaluation of the current season illustrating who stands the best chance of qualifying for the WTA Finals.
As the Road to Singapore launches this week, here is a look at the new stops and compelling storylines that fans will be able to follow from opening day:
TOP STORYLINES TO WATCH:
1. Serena Chasing History: Serena Williams enters the 2015 season as World No.1, with 64 singles titles, including 18 Grand Slams. Atop the WTA Rankings since February 2013, Williams is on pace to reach her 100th consecutive week on January 19, 2015. Can Williams earn her 6th Australian Open title this year in Melbourne and edge closer to Steffi Graf's Open Era record of 22 Grand Slam titles? Can anyone knock Williams' current reign on top of the WTA Rankings?
2. WTA Rising Stars Continue to Shine: The 2014 season saw the emergence of two of the brightest young Rising Stars for the WTA as Romania's Simona Halep (23 years old) and Canada's Genie Bouchard (20 years old) burst on to the scene. Each advanced to the first Grand Slam singles final of their respective careers. Can Halep and Bouchard back up their great 2014 seasons with impressive showings in 2015?
3. Next Rising Star to Breakthrough: Belinda Bencic (SUI), Caroline Garcia (FRA), Madison Keys (USA), Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP), Monica Puig (PUR) and Elina Svitolina (UKR) will look to build on their 2014 success. Who will be the next rising star to emerge?
4. The Next Grand Slam champion: The 2014 season produced eight different Grand Slam finalists for only the second time in the Open Era. Li Na (Australian Open), Maria Sharapova (Roland Garros), Petra Kvitova (Wimbledon) and Serena Williams (US Open) each lifted a Grand Slam trophy in 2014. Will the Australian Open produce another repeat Grand Slam champion? Or, will we see a first-time Grand Slam champion in 2015?
5. Who's Next? While the next generation of WTA stars continues to develop and succeed, Kvitova remains to be the only Grand Slam champion - man or woman - born in the 1990s. Can Caroline Wozniacki (DEN), Agnieszka Radwanska (POL), Halep or Bouchard be the next Grand Slam champion? Or will someone else breakthrough?
2015 CALENDAR - WHAT'S NEW:
· The second week after the Australian Open, a new event will be staged in Antwerp under the direction of Tournament Director and WTA Legend, Kim Clijsters. The event replaces the Paris [Indoors] event
· For the first time since 2011, Dubai will be staged as Premier 5 event during the week of February 16
· A WTA event will return to the Czech Republic as Prague hosts an International event the week of April 27
· The grass court season expands by one week with the addition of Nottingham (week of June 8), staged along with 's-Hertogenbosch in the opening week of the grass court season. The grass court season continues with back-to-back Premier events - Birmingham and Eastbourne, which will feature an increased draw size (48-player main draw)
· In the closing week of the WTA season, the WTA Elite Trophy will be staged in Zhuhai, a new event featuring 12 singles players competing in a round-robin format for $2.15 million in prize money and up to 700 points staged at the custom-designed, state-of-the-art tennis centre in Zhuhai, China
· Additionally, some of the events have changed weeks:
Doha: Switched to a Premier event in the week of February 23
Nottingham: New International event in the week of June 8
Florianopolis: Moves to week of July 27 (from February)
Osaka: Moves to week of September 14 (from October)
Hong Kong: Moves to week of October 12 (from September)