This is the second time that İstanbul has been given the honor of hosting the tennis tournament, as Turkey’s largest city successfully organized the event last year, logging away the WTA championships’ best spectator attendance record for the past 12 years while watching Petra Kvitova claim the top prize.
The meeting in İstanbul was attended by top tennis stars Agnieszka Radwanska, the Polish player currently ranked third in the world, and Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki, WTA President and CEO Stacey Allaster, Tournament Director Markus Günthardt, Turkish Tennis Federation (TTF) President Ayda Uluç and TEB General Manager Varol Civil.
TEB is the main sponsor for the upcoming tennis extravaganza on Oct. 23-28, in which the world’s top eight female singles players and the top four teams will compete for the $5 million prize and a permanent place in the tennis history books, according to the meeting held last Monday at the Four Seasons Hotel İstanbul at the Bosphorus.
“Last year we emerged from of the tournament with the sweat of our brows. Together we watched the world’s best rackets,” Uluç said, referring to the effort her country exerted in hosting the tennis players in 2011. “We want to continue that success this year as well,” she assured, also announcing that tickets were already on sale for October’s event.
Echoing Uluç’s thoughts, WTA President Allaster’s statements at the meeting reflected the praise she said she heard about İstanbul’s organization of the championships last year. “Everywhere we went last year, people said, ‘It was an extraordinary championship in İstanbul.’ If only we could bring Turkish spectators with us everywhere we go,” she stated. “You have demonstrated to the sporting world what an amazing tennis country you are,” she said, addressing the country on Monday.
Wozniacki, formerly ranked number one but currently seventh, explained that the passion of the fans in Turkey gave her particular enjoyment during the matches she played here, despite the fact that she was unable to make it to the final. She had plenty to say about İstanbul beyond the realm of tennis as well. “I have been to İstanbul a few times. I’ve seen its many beautiful places. There are amazing restaurants and food here. There are so many choices when it comes to food,” the 21-year-old star said, adding that she was working hard to earn her place in the top eight come October, as the season is only half over and nothing is set in stone.
Future of Turkish tennis
With İstanbul’s second shot at hosting such a high-profile tennis event, although Turkey is not generally known for producing players, one might wonder where tennis is going in the rapidly growing country. TTF head Uluç was happy to elaborate on the association’s plans to develop the sport. “Our greatest ambition is to have a training facility. The tennis federation needs its own training facilities so that our players can become world class,” she explained, noting that such a facility has been on the agenda for years.
The dream does not seem that far off either. “We are meeting with the Ministry of Youth and Sports and there is a great possibility that we will have a place,” she stated. Such a development would certainly be a boon for Turkey, which has been increasingly investing in international sporting events in recent years, as it has hosted a number of competitions ranging from football to rugby, from basketball to athletics and even winter sports.
One of the country’s greatest goals is organizing the Olympic Games, which it is vying to host in 2020 in its fifth bid for the world’s biggest sporting event. Uluç assures: “There will be progress in this as well. There is a big possibility that we will start building a new court.” Allaster also commented on İstanbul’s bid for the 2020 Olympic Games at Monday’s meeting. “The first year was certainly a wonderful success. How could the International Olympic Committee (IOC) go without seeing such a success,” she stated in what can be counted as a vote of confidence in the city’s abilities, which she notes is shared by international sports figures the world over.
For now, however, the WTA and the TTF will focus on the upcoming championships. They have dreams of breaking İstanbul’s attendance records from last year, which would be just one more indication of Turkey’s ongoing growth and development in the wide world of sports.
Last year, Petra Kvitova let her racket do the talking when the fast-rising Czech backed up her shock Wimbledon crown by winning the WTA Championships at the first time of asking. The 21-year-old left-hander silenced wailing Belarusian Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in the final at the Sinan Erdem Dome in İstanbul to scoop the $1.75 million jackpot and ensure she ended a superb year at No. 2 in the rankings after starting it at 34th. Let’s see who will win in October.