The WTA Tour will hold a 2014 tournament in Li Na's hometown of Wuhan, China
Li made history by becoming Asia's first grand slam singles champion
The Tour continues to expand in the world's emerging markets
Total prize fund on the Tour, excluding grand slams, increases to $58.7m for 2013
The Chinese city of Wuhan produced Asia’s first grand slam singles champion in Li Na and now the region is to be rewarded with its own WTA Tour event for 2014.
Li made history by winning the 2011 French Open, and the world No. 6’s hometown fans will have the chance to see their hero up close when the premier women’s tennis circuit visits Wuhan – a city of 10 million people in western China – in September next year.
“It’s a special city for me,” the 30-year-old Li told the WTA Tour’s official website. “I was born there and grew up there.
“If my good friends on the Tour come to Wuhan, I will show how good the food they have is. And maybe they’ll eat it first and then won’t be able to move on the court!”
However, the Wuhan event is bad news for the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, Japan, celebrating its 30th edition this year, which will exit the calendar to make room for what will be a fifth Chinese tournament in 2014.
The WTA also announced Thursday the total prize fund available on the Tour outside of the four grand slams has risen to $58.7 million in 2013 from $53.3 million in 2012.
With the 2014 soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games to be staged in Brazil , the South American’s growing sporting prominence has been recognized with the addition of a second Brazilian tournament in Florianopolis for 2014, adding to an event which will debut in Rio de Janiero this year.
“We are excited by the growth of women’s professional tennis, particularly in key markets like China and Brazil,” WTA chairwoman and CEO Stacey Allaster said in a statement highlighting the growing importance of the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC).
“Development in the BRIC markets, led by China, has been a strategic priority for the past several years,” added Allaster. “We look forward to continued strengthening of our global brand, developing our sport, and building our fan base worldwide.”
The 2013 calendar sees the circuit return to Poland – home of world No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska – for the first time since 2010. Events in Katowice and Krakow will contribute to a total of 54 events in 33 countries in 2013.
Meanwhile back on court, Radwanska continued her preparations for next week’s Australian Open by reaching the final of the Sydney International event.
In a semifinal battle between two women who had enjoyed perfect starts to 2013, Radwanska blotted Li’s record with a 6-3 6-4 victory on Thursday.
Radwanska, seeded fourth for the year’s first grand slam, continued a run which led her to victory at another warmup event in Auckland, New Zealand last week.
Sixth seed Li, who came into the Sydney tournament off the back of victory in Shenzhen, China, made Wimbledon runnerup Radwanska work for her triumph, saving an incredible seven match points before finally being beaten after one hour and 32 minutes.
“It was kind of like deja vu from the Auckland final – there I think I also had seven or eight match points before I won,” said the 23-year-old Radwanska after her win over an opponent who had beaten her on three occasions last year.
“My nerves were good, though,” added the Pole. “I had lost a couple of times against her last year, so I just went on the court pretty relaxed. The wind was a little bit difficult, especially in the first set – a lot of framing. But the second set went much better.”
Radwanska will face the tournament’s surprise package Dominika Cibulkova in the final after the Czech world No. 15 beat German second seed Angelique Kerber 6-2 4-6 6-3.
Cibulkova has also registered victories over 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and 2012 French Open finalist Sara Errani at the Sydney event.