The Asian Swing: tennis goes East

网球东进挥拍瞬间

Vantage Shanghai - - 慢生活 - 作者Author:Ashley Greenwood编辑Editor:王烨昇Johnny Wang

China has come to dominate Asia’s tennis season. How has it come to be one of the key stops in the tennis’ annual calendar?

毫无疑问,中国已经开始主导全亚洲的网球赛季。这是如何在星光熠熠的世界网坛赛事中站稳脚跟的?

The tennis year can be seen as having a number of phases, based on a campaign around the four grand slams and the big money ATP 1000 tournaments, with the top players showing their skill on a variety of different surfaces, and climates.

The early season starts in the extreme heat of the Australian Open, followed by a string of hard court tournaments in Dubai and the United States, and then the clay swing tournaments in Monte Carlo, Madrid Rome, and Paris. The players have two weeks to adapt before the third grand slam, the prestigious Wimbledon event in the UK, and after the final slam of the season in New York the attention shifts to Asia.

The Asian swing has changed a lot in recent years, and it might now be more appropriately called the “China Swing”. The Thailand Open franchise has since been replaced, with the Shenzhen Open taking over the event since 2014. And in 2016 the Chengdu Open replaced the Malaysia Open in Kuala Lumpur. In fact, the only other Asian tournament on the mens ATP tour is the Rakuten Japan Open, which may well suffer as the China Open, the only event where the mens ATP and womens WTA tours combine, takes place during the same week.

The China Open has become one of the WTA's top four tournaments, while the Shanghai Rolex Masters is the highlight and dramatic conclusion of the ‘China Swing', and was voted Masters 1000 tournament of the year for five years in a row between 2009-2013.

The growing number of tournaments in China reflects the growing popularity of the sport, which is now just behind Basketball and Association Football as the countries favourite to watch on TV. It's estimated 14 million people in China regularly play tennis and the Chinese government wants to increase that by 15 percent every year. Tom Cannon, professor and sports finance expert at the University of Liverpool Management School in England calculates that the nation's tennis market has reached $4 billion annually!

The growing popularity of the sport is also achieved by being able to watch the best players in the world playing at the China swing tournaments, and the players only want to come and play at the tournaments that are professionally run and look after the athletes.

Charles Humphrey Smith, Managing Director of Juss Event, the company that stages

网球赛季简单来说,可以用以下几个词组进行概括:四大满贯赛事,奖金丰硕的ATP 1000大师赛,顶尖运动员在各种不同类型的比赛场地和气候条件下展现矫健身姿、收获成功。

每年的网球赛季从热浪滚滚的澳大利亚公开赛开始,紧接着是在迪拜和美国举办的硬地网球赛,随后是在蒙特卡洛、马德里、罗马和巴黎一连串的红土场巡回赛。期间选手们有两个礼拜的时间迎接之后的第三个大满贯赛事——大名鼎鼎的英国温布尔顿锦标赛,在结束了纽约的美网公开赛后,“网球四大满贯”便暂告一段落,网坛关注的重心随即转向亚洲。

近几年亚洲巡回赛已经发生了翻天覆地的变化,更恰当地说,它已经变成了“中国巡回赛”。2014年,泰国公开赛的举办权移交深圳,深圳公开赛由此发源。到了2016年,成都公开赛又取代了一向在吉隆坡举行的马来西亚公开赛。事实上, ATP男子网球亚洲巡回赛在中国之外仅存日本一站,但与此同时,在日本赛事同一周内还有中国公开赛这一重量级赛事——男子ATP巡回赛和女子WTA巡回赛联合进行。

新兴的中国公开赛已经成为WTA四大赛事之一,上海劳力士大师赛则是赛季的亮点,为“中国巡回赛”画上点睛之笔。2009至2013年,上海劳力士大师赛连续五年被票选为ATP1000大师系列赛。

中国网球赛事数量的快速增长反映了网球这项运动在国内日益攀升的人气。网球已经成为国内收视率第三高的体育运动,仅次于篮球和足球。据相关统计,中国约有1400万人经常性地进行网球运动,而政府部门也以每年15%的增长速度对这项运动予以推进。据英国利物浦大学管理学院的体育金融教授Tom Cannon预计,中国的职业网球市场已经达到了每年40亿美元的市值。

网球运动的快速走红也得益于中国观众可以亲临现场观看到世界顶尖选手的巅峰对决,而网坛大牌们对此也喜闻乐见,因此对他们来说,参加专业比赛,观众懂得如何欣赏比赛,是他们参赛的动力之一。

the Shanghai Rolex Masters told the BBC: "When you run an event it's like a little town. You have medical, fire and police, all the fundamental services people need. If a player needs a patch sewn on his shirt you need a laundry on site. If there are dietary requirements you need certain chefs on site.”

While the success of these events has helped tennis to develop a fanbase in China, home grown tennis stars like Australian and French Open winner Li Na have also helped to encourage more to take up the sport. "At most tournaments, the crowd demographic is a little older, 35-plus, but in Asia and certainly China it's a very young demographic," says Smith. "Young people are picking up on tennis and playing it too - that will change the game in Asia too. Li Na broke the barrier in China. It's not a matter of if, but when Asia has more top tennis players."

Chinese women have had more success than the men, with Li Na achieving a career-high ranking of world No. 2 on the WTA Tour in 2014, winning nine WTA singles titles, including two Grand Slam singles titles during her career. Zhang Ze, China's highest-ranked male singles player, is currently number 157 in the world. He reached the quarterfinals of the 2012 China Open and in 2013 he teamed up with Roger Federer to play doubles at the Shanghai Rolex Masters.

Novak Djokovic wont be on court for the rest of the year due to an elbow injury, giving defending champion and world number 1, Andy Murray, the chance to take his record for the most wins at the Shanghai Rolex Masters, which takes place this year on October 8th – 15th.

上海劳力士大师赛的主办方——久事赛事管理有限公司的总裁Charles Humphrey Smith在BBC的采访中这样表示“:运营一项赛事就像管理一座城镇一样,要有医疗服务、消防队、警察局等所有关键的公共服务。如果一名运动员需要给衣服打上补丁,那现场就得配备一名裁缝;如果运动员对饮食有特别要求,那现场就得有专门的厨师。”

这些赛事的成功举办在国内也培养起了强大的粉丝基础,如本土网坛明星、澳网和法网中夺冠的李娜,更是激励了更多国人进行网球运动。“在全球大多数网球比赛中,观众群体的年龄层普遍偏大,多在35岁以上,而在亚洲特别是中国,观众的面孔多以年轻人为主,”Smith说道,“这儿的年轻人逐渐喜欢上了观看网球赛事,也会促进他们进行网球运动,这将深刻改变网球在亚洲的发展历程。 李娜为中国翻开了一个全新的篇章,但并不意味着她难以逾越,未来亚洲将迎来更多的网坛巨星。”

中国女子网球相比男子网球拥有更加傲人的成绩,李娜在2014年WTA女子网球巡回赛中达到了世界排名第二的巅峰,她的职业生涯中共收获了九项WTA单人冠军,包括两项大满贯头衔。张择是中国排名最高的男子网球运动员,世界排名157,他在2012年中国网球公开赛中进入了四分之一决赛,2013年上海劳力士大师赛中曾与费德勒搭档,参加男双比赛。

今年的上海劳力士大师赛上,德约科维奇由于肘部伤势,不会再参加今年剩余的各项赛事,这也给了卫冕冠军、世界排名第一的安迪· 穆雷一次机会,延续他在上海劳力士大师赛中的夺冠数最多的记录。据悉,今年的劳力士大师赛将于10月8日至15日举办。

上海劳力士大师赛Shanghai Rolex Masters

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