WTA Championships sign off from Doha in style

Doha: With a car crash, coronation and stunning on-court retirement, there was no shortage of talking points from the WTA Championships` final appearance in Doha.

As the dust settled on Sunday`s scintillating final between Kim Clijsters and Caroline Wozniacki, tennis chiefs in Istanbul will be licking their lips at the prospect of hosting the prestigious season-ending tournament for the next three years.

Tour chief Stacey Allaster believes Doha`s last hurrah will be a hard act to follow but is confident the future of the tournament, and the game, are bright.

"We`ve had a great final year in Doha, we could not have asked for a better week," Allaster told reporters in an interview.

"This has been part of the journey of building women`s tennis in the Middle East. We could not have asked for a better week."

"I`m excited about the Championships in Istanbul. It`s great for our brand to go to a new market and have an opportunity to build women`s tennis in Turkey."

There was plenty of action on an off the court before Sunday`s final, which Clijsters eventually won in three sets.

The Belgian narrowly escaped injury from a car crash on the way to her semi-final, Wozniacki was crowned the year-end world number one and Russian veteran Elena Dementieva stunned the crowd by announcing her retirement shortly after her final group game.

Allaster said women`s tennis was flourishing because it bridged the gap between sport and entertainment, which had attracted more sponsors despite difficult economic times.

"These are the very best female athletes in the world, and there`s a duality of sport and entertainment," she added.

"So if you are a brand that wants sport in the classical sense you are probably going to invest in men`s sport."

"But if you are a brand that wants sport, power, athleticism and inspiration crossing over to lifestyle, women`s tennis is a great brand to align with."

The absence of injured Williams sisters Serena and Venus has been a major talking point throughout the Championships, and Allaster acknowledged the void was keenly felt.

"There`s no doubt we would have loved to have Serena and Venus here with us this week. They were our finalists last year and they are two of the finest female tennis players our sport has ever had," she said.

There were seven different nationalities represented at the season-ending tournament, which Allaster said boded well for the game`s global growth.

"There`s a complete correlation between the more stars we have from different nations and the more exposure the WTA receives," she said.

"We`ve had a 20 percent increase in Championships coverage, so it`s counterbalanced. We are a global tour and there will be moments when we have certain markets that don`t have a star."

While the tournament will leave Qatar for Turkey next year, the WTA Championships had shown that the gas-rich emirate could host a major sporting event.

"There`s no question that Qatar has global aspirations for international sport," she added.

"We are part of their international sports strategy and they are more than capable of staging world class sporting events."

Qatar is bidding to host the 2022 soccer World Cup.

Bureau Report

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