This month marks the final edition of one of the world’s most prestigious tennis events in Singapore – and it’s set to be better than ever!
Our look at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals
Since 2014, the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global has been a key highlight in the city’s annual sporting calendar. From next year onwards, it will be making a new home in Shenzhen, China. We chat with SARAH CLEMENTS, Vice President, Tennis – Asia, Lagardère Sports, about the tournament and what we can look forward to in this month’s farewell instalment.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
It’s often said that tennis is a sport for life, and it’s so true for me – I’ve been involved with tennis all my life, both personally and professionally. My earliest memories of tennis were in Malawi in Africa where I spent my childhood years playing each weekend at the Blantyre Sports Club. I then moved to Melbourne in the 80s, where I played tennis every single day – rain or shine. Although I had no professional training in tennis, I absolutely loved the sport. My first job was in an editorial role at Vogue magazine, before joining Tennis Australia as an administrator. Over the course of 19 years, I’ve had a wild and wonderful ride through the organisation, eventually becoming the GM for Operations and Events, focusing on the Australian Open. After that, I joined the Melbourne Fashion Festival, followed by my current role at Lagardère Sports.
It’s the tournament’s last year in Singapore; how do you feel about that?
It’s incredibly satisfying knowing that the event has grown stronger each year. Last year, we welcomed 133,000 fans, setting a record in Singapore! We set our sights
on taking it from a tennis tournament to a world-class sporting and lifestyle event. We wanted to give international and local fans something to look forward to with each edition.
Looking back now, there’s no question that it’s been a success. Singapore has transformed the WTA Finals from a sports tournament into a top sports, lifestyle and entertainment festival over the past four years. We look forward to smashing these records again in 2018 to give the event a fitting farewell.
How have you found the job of organising the Finals?
I wanted to implant as much of my experience from Tennis Australia and other major events into Singapore and give the city a major global event that it could be incredibly proud of, but also something that has a meaningful impact on the community.
The fan village is one of the many components that we built as part of the lifestyle programme around the WTA Finals Singapore to engage people from different walks of life; it’s certainly one of my personal favourites. I have two young boys; they are my litmus test and they absolutely love it – they come down early before the tournament starts to enjoy the fan village. Most sessions, they actually want to skip out on the tennis and go back to the fan village, so that’s my challenge! But I hope every parent who brings their child to the tournament has the same experience, because if they do, we’ve succeeded in what we set out to do.
How has the tournament contributed to the women’s tennis scene?
Right from the beginning, we wanted the WTA Finals Singapore to contribute positively to the development and awareness of tennis in Singapore and around the region. We’ve managed to strengthen the tennis community across Singapore. From Sport Singapore which established the Singapore Tennis Festival to the Singapore Tourism Board that helped us send the message of this event beyond Singapore, we’ve worked hard to build the love of tennis.
We’ve also worked closely with the Singapore Tennis Association to make tennis an accessible sport to students. Together with the Women’s Tennis Association ( WTA), we were able to raise the profile of women’s tennis to an international audience through their global network and tell inspirational stories through their players. Bringing the sport closer to home, we have rolled out programmes that include tennis-themed activities at Car Free Sundays and the Singapore Sports Hub. We also host Community Play Days to make tennis more accessible.
What can we expect during this year’s tournament?
Besides watching top players in women’s tennis in action, guests can enjoy the Racquet Club – an intimate venue to network over good food and free-flow wine.
Families and fans alike can have fun at tennis-themed booths and games at the fan village at the OCBC Square – WTA Finals Singapore merchandise are also up for grabs! There’ll also be meet-and-greet sessions with players and WTA legends, player practice sessions and public draw ceremonies.
“My two young boys absolutely love the fan village – they come down early before the tournament starts to enjoy it.”