SHENZHEN, China - You may have noticed a new tournament in Week 1 of the WTA's calendar for 2013, and that tournament was officially announced this week - the Shenzhen Gemdale Open, held in the Chinese city of Shenzhen.
The Shenzhen Gemdale Open is an International event with $500,000 in prize money and a singles draw of 32, a doubles draw of 16 and qualifying draw of 16. It will be hosted on the outdoor hardcourts of the Shenzhen Longgang Tennis Center, which has 32 outdoor and indoor courts and a 4,000-seat stadium.
And the best news is yet to come: China's greatest tennis player of all time - Li Na, currently ranked No.7 in the world - will be spearheading the field.
"Ni Hao Shenzhen," Li said in a video message at the launch. "I would like to congratulate Shenzhen on the confirmation of the Shenzhen Gemdale Open, and I am excited to confirm that I will be playing the tournament."
Marion Bartoli, who spent most of 2012 in the Top 10 with Li but finished the year just outside at No.11, is also going to be at the inaugural edition of the tournament. "Bonjour! I am excited to be playing the first Shenzhen Gemdale Open," the Frenchwoman said in a video message at Tuesday's launch. "I congratulate Shenzhen for securing this exciting new tournament in China."
The field will also include Top 30 players Jelena Jankovic, Hsieh Su-Wei and Klara Zakopalova, as well as China's second-highest-ranked player ever, Peng Shuai, and the WTA's Newcomer Of The Year, Laura Robson.
"We are very excited to be adding the Shenzhen Gemdale Open to the WTA's calendar in 2013," said Stacey Allaster, Chairman & CEO of the WTA. "China and the Asia-Pacific region are key strategic growth markets for the WTA, and Shenzhen will present a fantastic opportunity to continue showcasing women's tennis to the fans of China, and building the upon the foundation that has been laid by the China Open and Guangzhou International Women's Open.
"I would like to personally thank the Chinese Tennis Association, the city of Shenzhen, Gemdale and IMG for making this event possible."