ST. PETERSBURG, FL, USA – The 20-day countdown to the first WTA Future Stars tournament in its new home of Shenzhen, China kicks off today as the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) announces a record number of participants in the initiative’s sixth year.
Held in the lead-up to the inaugural Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen, the WTA Future Stars brings together some of the best of the Under-14 (U14) and Under-16 (U16) junior players to compete at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. The final rounds of the tournament will be the first matches to take place on Center Court on Sunday, October 27, ahead of the official start of the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen.
The WTA Future Stars platform was established in Singapore in 2014 and began with just 12 markets and 24 players in its first year. Each market sends two participants – one each in the U14 and U16 categories, with host nation, China, being represented by a total of eight players. Four Chinese players in each age group will be selected through the Chinese Tennis Association qualification process. One player in each age group will come from the Gemdale Junior Tour, which is run by Gemdale Sports, the official event promoter and presenting sponsor of the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen.
Over the past five years, more than 200 WTA Future Stars have represented their nations and experienced various developmental activities to breed friendship and encourage sportsmanship. The program this year will take place over eight days and will feature 56 players from 24 markets, expanding outside of the Asia-Pacific region and attracting participants from Canada, Great Britain and the USA.
A newly added bonus this year is the winner of the U14 WTA Future Stars competition will earn direct entry into the Les Petits As tournament in Tarbes, France, which has been won in the past by WTA stars including Kim Clijsters, Martina Hingis, and Jelena Ostapenko.
“It is heartening to see the continued growth of the WTA Future Stars and we are thrilled to be in Shenzhen for the first time this year. Through the different workshops, interactive activities and mentorship opportunities over the eight days of the event, we hope to inspire these young players to pursue their passion in the sport. We look forward to coming to Shenzhen and hopefully create a legacy for the next generation in China,” said Donna Kelso, Tournament Director of the WTA Future Stars tournament.
“This is an incredible opportunity and it is so exciting to not only represent my country at the WTA Future Stars, but also to be able to meet with the very best in women’s tennis! I have seen and heard about the WTA Future Stars and I am so happy that I will get this special experience in Shenzhen. My favorite player is Ashleigh Barty and she has qualified for the WTA Finals so I am glad I’ll get to watch her play live. It will also be great to make new friends from around the world,” said Rosie Sterk, the U16 representative from the UK.
A couple of familiar faces to the program will also be returning this year to join the WTA Future Stars in Shenzhen. WTA Community Ambassador Judy Murray will deliver clinics with the WTA Future Stars as well as a sharing session with the coaches, while WTA Legend Alicia Molik will be leading a Coaching Clinic. Both Murray and Molik have been involved in the program in the past few years, and their sessions have been amongst the most well-received as they regale the WTA Future Stars with tips and advice on how to improve their games.
In addition, a new member of the WTA Future Stars mentor team will be introduced this year as Chinese WTA Legend Zheng Jie comes on board for the first time. As a local hero with two Grand Slam doubles titles, Zheng Jie is one of China’s most successful tennis players. With the experience of running her own successful junior tournaments and academies in China, she will contribute greatly to laying the foundation for the WTA Future Stars in Shenzhen.
Zheng Jie said, “I’m so pleased to welcome the WTA Future Stars to Shenzhen, and I am looking forward to being part of the program so that I can share my experiences with the next generation. I really enjoy working with young players and I’m passionate in supporting the development of talent in China so this opportunity to contribute back to the sport is really exciting for me. I’m sure this will be a great first year and I hope everyone will enjoy their time here.”
The Li Na Inspiration Award, named after another one of China’s biggest sporting role models, will be presented to two WTA Future Stars, one in each age group. The award will be given to the players who show outstanding sportsmanship, empathy, respect, and team spirit – qualities that made Li Na well-loved by fans, players and sponsors throughout her career.
Catch the WTA Future Stars in action
The U14 and U16 round robin and semifinal matches will be played at the outside courts of the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center from October 22-26. The finals will start at 10.30am on Sunday, October 27, on Center Court of the Shenzhen Bay Sports Arena, before the opening ceremony of the inaugural Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen.
The WTA Future Stars tournament is organized by the WTA, in partnership with the Chinese Tennis Association and Gemdale Sports, with the support of SAP, technology partner powering the Electronic Draw for the Draw Ceremony, and Wilson. Working closely with WTA stars, legends and experts, WTA Future Stars clinics and masterclasses have been conducted in India, China, Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, and Singapore, reaching out to hundreds of children in these communities and encouraging them to live a better life through the sport.
WTA Future Stars marks tournament debut for Triniti, a new eco-conscious tennis ball, from Wilson
The new Wilson Triniti tennis ball will make its tournament debut as the official ball of the WTA Future Stars. Triniti is the first eco-conscious, high-performance tennis ball. It maintains its fresh ball feel 4x longer than traditional Wilson tennis balls* and comes in fully recyclable packaging. Five percent of profits from the sale of Triniti will support Wilson Sporting Goods’ worldwide sustainability efforts. Wilson selected the Future Stars competition as Triniti’s first tournament given the WTA’s commitment to developing and supporting the next generation of tennis players and the brand’s focus on creating the next generation of environmentally-conscious tennis gear. (*Based upon out-of-container rebound loss over time versus leading pressurized tennis balls.)
For more information and tickets to the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen, please visit www.ShiseidoWTAFinalsShenzhen.com.