Singapore bids to host ATP Finals
But the Republic must satisfy ATP chief's top priority of having 'packed crowds'
Alexander Zverev, Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The future stars of men's tennis could be visiting Singapore regularly if the authorities succeed in their ambitious bid to bring the US$8.5 million (S$11.7 million) Nitto ATP Finals to the Republic from 2021.
Sport Singapore, the Singapore Tourism Board and the Singapore Sports Hub issued a joint statement yesterday, saying: "We have expressed our interest to bring the Nitto ATP Finals to Singapore.
"This is part of our continued efforts to look out for suitable world-class events that can inspire the enjoyment of sport here, and add to our vibrancy and attractiveness as a sport and lifestyle destination.
"The Singapore Sports Hub is a world class venue and choice for such events."
The ATP Finals, which involves the top eight men's players, has been hosted at London's O2 Arena since 2009.
German upstart Zverev, 21, defeated world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, 31, to win the most recent edition just two Sundays ago in what could be the third-last time that the event is held in London.
Singapore, meanwhile, had also just seen the conclusion of their five-year deal to host the women's season-ender, the WTA Finals.
The WTA's decision to move the event to Shenzhen for the next 10 years, with a boosted prize money of US$14 million, may have been a blow to tennis fans here.
But the authorities in Singapore are rallying for a comeback, joining in the bid process for the ATP Finals which opened in August and has attracted interest from over 40 cities.
R. Sasikumar, managing director of sports marketing agency Red Card Global, believes that there are lessons to be learnt from the WTA Finals.
He noted: "Throughout the years, there was a decline in interest and hype in the event."
The ATP might have a greater appeal than the WTA, but the former national footballer added that the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), which Singapore was involved in from 2014-2016, might offer another cautionary tale.
Except for a few times, such as a night in 2015, when an estimated crowd of 10,000 saw Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka in action, the IPTL's Singapore leg was largely dogged by poor attendance.
The IPTL eventually ran into financial problems and has not been staged since 2016.
Sasikumar feels that for a major tennis event to be sustainable in Singapore, the authorities will have to step in to underwrite the losses.
While the ATP Finals is likely to be a greater draw than the IPTL, Singapore must clearly demonstrate an ability to fill the stadium year after year.
Foremost on the mind of ATP chief executive Chris Kermode is the host's ability to bring in the crowds.
This year's ATP Finals, despite being seen as a success with the emergence of Zverev, was not a record edition.
It was attended by 243,819 spectators, which is 9,823 less than last year.
While maintaining that London is still a front-runner to remain as host, Kermode said in an interview with British newspaper the Evening Standard earlier this month that he is also open to other options.
He said: "We need packed crowds, that's top of our priority list, and there are about 10 cities that could hit the criteria of crowds in London.
"London is still in a strong position but there's been lots of other interest."
One factor that could count against Singapore is the venue size. London's O2 Arena has a capacity of 20,000, while the Singapore Indoor Stadium, which hosted the WTA Finals and the IPTL, can accommodate only 12,000.
In a separate interview with Tennis Magazine this month, Kermode did not rule out the possibility of an outdoor event. The ATP Finals took place outdoors in Houston in 2003 and 2004.
"We are open to both options, but we recognise that this time of the year is better for indoor tennis with the previous European indoor swing," he told Tennis Magazine.