With Singapore’s five-year contract as host of the WTA Finals, the WTA’s year-ending championship, coming to an end next year, the city of Manchester, located in the northwest of England, has taken a keen interest in hosting one of tennis’ biggest events worldwide.
With the steep rise of British number one Johanna Konta coupled with the likes of eight of the world’s current top 10 being European along with the success of London in hosting the ATP World Tour Finals, the British metropolis emerges as a strong contender to succeed the Lion City.
Singapore succeeded Istanbul as tournament host in 2014 in a bid to boost the growth of the sport in Asia after a three-year term in the Turkish city.
With the move, Singapore became the first city in Asia-Pacific to host the year-end championships, with Doha being the first Asian city to do so, from 2008 till 2010, before moving to Istanbul.
Since the tournament’s inception in 1972, the tournament remained on American soil until 2001, when it moved out of the county for the first time, to Munich, Germany.
The following year, it returned to America where Los Angeles hosted the tournament from 2002 till 2005. Spanish capital Madrid then took over as host for a two-year term before shifting to Doha in 2008.
Chris Evert holds the accolade of winning the inaugural edition of the tournament, with Martina Navratilova owning the record of most titles won at eight.
Since the implementation of the round robin format in 2003, Serena Williams took home the most trophies, capturing the title four times, most recently in 2014.
From Singapore to Manchaster?
The 2014 edition of the tournament was a landmark one with then-WTA CEO Stacey Allaster calling it ‘the best WTA Finals in the history of the WTA’. The tournament recorded an attendance of 129,000 during the 10 days of the event, surpassing the prior record of 73,072 back in 2000.
However, since then, the tournament has been unable to match its 2014 success. In 2015, probably due to the absence of Williams, the tournament suffered a drop in attendance with none of its sessions recording a sellout.
The WTA has started looking into probable options to succeed Singapore after 2018. “We are talking to a number of venues that have indicated an interest in the WTA Finals event for 2019 and beyond,” a WTA spokeswoman said.
She then added “We're in the early stages of this process. Manchester is one of several destinations that have reflected an initial interest in learning more about the opportunity.”
In addition, London’s O2 Arena has been playing host to the ATP World Tour Finals since 2009. The tournament has enjoyed greater success than its WTA counterpart, with its attendance hitting figures as high as 250,000.
The above statistic bodes well for Manchester's cause to bring the WTA Finals to British soil for the first time ever in the tournament's history since it might suggest an increase in tournament attendance.
Konta’s rise a catalyst for the move
Konta has experienced a steep ascent up the rankings since mid-2015. She finished that year inside the top 50 and following a breakout season in 2016, where she won her maiden title in Stanford, reached her first Grand Slam semifinal and the quarterfinals at the Summer Olympics, she finished the year inside the top 10 for the first time in her career.
The top-ranked Brit just hit a new career-high of world number seven after capturing her biggest title at the Miami Open two weeks ago. Earlier this year, she had also won the title in Sydney and then reached the last eight of the Australian Open.
The past year-and-a-half has seen the Eastbourne native record many new firsts for Great Britain, putting forth an even stronger case for the move to Manchester.