Bigger, better and Aga

Garbine Muguruza smiles during her match against Lucie Safarova at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global at Singapore Indoor Stadium on 26 October 2015. Garbine Muguruza beat Lucie Safarova 6-3, 7-6 (7/4).
PHOTO: The New Paper

The BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global took place just slightly under two weeks ago, and all of us are very happy with the outcome.

We had another successful year and it was a great way to follow up last year's accomplishments, when the WTA Finals was held in Singapore for the first time.

More fans were engaged this year, both online and on-site.

There were more than 130,000 spectators from 51 countries that flocked to the Singapore Indoor Stadium, OCBC Arena and the WTA Finals Fanzone, from Oct 25 to Nov 1.

Last year, the fan figure was 129,000.

There was also a significant interest on social media.

The wtatennis.com digital platform saw a 24 per cent increase in website visits from the previous year, and there were over 440,000 conversations about the #WTAFinals on Twitter.

We are very heartened by the numbers.

GROWING

It shows the work we've done laying the groundwork over the last two years has been growing the number of tennis fans, a fundamental goal of the WTA.

We want to cast the net further and grow the brand, the sport and what it stands for.

We were also very happy to crown a new champion in Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska.

The final between Aga and Czech star Petra Kvitova was an exciting three-setter watched by a sellout crowd and it was a great exhibition of women's tennis.

Aga is only 26 and has a great career ahead of her and I think she can win her first Grand Slam next year.

This title gives her so much confidence.

She is so crafty. She has a gamestyle we don't see a lot of these days, and she has plenty of weapons - dropshots, lobs, she can take the pace off the ball... And she doesn't stop at anything.

She's such a fighter and I'm absolutely sure she can take on the biggest power players.

Just look at her performance in the final, where she beat two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova.

But it wasn't just the main singles tournament that drew fans to the WTA Finals.

The WTA Rising Stars Invitational was also a huge success.

We had over two million votes from fans, who got to pick who they wanted to play in the Invitational, a whopping increase compared to 700,000 last year.

Japan's Naomi Osaka lifted the trophy, which proves tennis continues to move on an upward trajectory in Asia.

There is no denying, however, that the WTA Finals missed world No. 1 Serena Williams, who pulled out due to injury. The fans missed her.

GREATEST

She has enjoyed unprecedented success and is arguably the greatest women's player of all time.

But injuries are a part of sport and players need to rest and recuperate or their longevity will be hampered.

We look forward to Serena being healthy and back on the court next year, and hopefully at next year's WTA Finals.

It's important to note that only the best and fittest players make it for the tennis showcase in Singapore at the end of the year.

Obviously, no tournament or event can base itself on any one player.

When it comes to the WTA Finals, it's the best of the best going head to head with each other, and everyone's evenly matched.

Every match is like a Grand Slam final. There are no easy matches.

With Serena out this year, especially, we just saw how hard everyone fought.

They knew the Billie Jean King Trophy was up for grabs, and you could see the desire as the players hustled, ran and gave it their all to get their hands on it.

In the end, Aga came out tops after a thrilling 10 days of tennis action.

There's always a silver lining.

Canadian Melissa Pine, a former NCAA player and vice-president (Asia Pacific) of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), is a columnist for The New Paper. She is the tournament director for the WTA Finals, which made its debut in Singapore last year.

Melissa's magnificent 7

1. Most Thrilling Moment

The final between Agnieszka Radwanska and Petra Kvitova was a five-star show.

It was a very tight three-setter and both players were fighting hard for every point.

Aga was up a set and 2-0 in the second but Petra fought back and won the next eight of 10 games and built a 2-0 lead of her own in the last set, before Aga broke back and found what was needed to win the WTA Finals.

2. Youngster to watch

The players competing in the WTA Rising Stars Invitational are just a few of those to look out for.

Naomi Osaka, who is just 18, boasts a huge serve and powerful groundstrokes. Osaka has a great future. She fought back from a set down in the final to beat Caroline Garcia, who is another great talent competing in both the WTA Rising Stars Invitational and the WTA Finals doubles with Katarina Srebotnik.

There is also Zhu Lin from China, who is making her way up the rankings.

3. Best Slam this year

Wimbledon was the best one for me this year.

Serena was going for her second "Serena Slam" and Garbine Muguruza was bidding to be the first Spaniard to win a singles Grand Slam title since Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in 1998 at Roland Garros.

4. Serena didn't win the US Open because...

Serena is undoubtedly one of the best players to play the game.

At one point, she had more than twice the amount of ranking points over the world No. 2 and this goes to show the incredible talent that she is.

We must remember that even champions are human and Serena falling short at the US Open does not make her any less of a champion.

After all, she is finishing as No. 1 for the third consecutive year and for the fifth time in her career.

5. Biggest tennis "weapon" this year

The depth of women's tennis is really what has impressed me.

Right down to the last two days before the WTA Finals, there were still three spots up for grabs in the singles draw.

This just goes to show how strong the field is and we feel very fortunate with the talent we have currently.

6. Most promising Asian women

The Chan sisters - Yung-jan and Hao-ching - put up a strong performance in the second half of the season, making the finals in Tokyo and Beijing, and clinching titles in Pattaya City, Cincinnati and the Tokyo International.

They finished as semi-finalists in the WTA Finals and we are positive that we'll see them posting great results from next year.

7. Best Moment of WTA Finals

Watching Agnieszka Radwanska win the final against Petra Kvitova and shedding tears of joy before lifting the Billie Jean King Trophy.

This is Aga's biggest title of her career to date and you saw how much it meant to her after her emotional reaction.

Having to compete against the world's top players match after match is not easy and now we see she is capable of that and has what it takes to win her first Grand Slam title.

The element of fan support also played a huge role.

We saw many passionate supporters who came and flew the many Polish and Czech flags, while cheering on the finalists.

The electric vibe in the stadium and outpouring of support for both women created an atmosphere worthy of the final of our crown jewel event


This article was first published on Nov 13, 2015.
Get The New Paper for more stories.

VIDEOS TO WATCH

SERVICES