The 2019 WTA Shenzhen Open was held at Longgang District Sports Center Gymnasium from Dec. 29 to Jan. 5, gathering world famous tennis players including five-time Grand Slam singles champion Maria Sharapova, 2017 Roland Garros Singles Champion Jelena Ostapenko, and renowned French player Caroline Garcia to compete for a grand prize of US$750,000.
The event also saw the largest number of Chinese players in history. Wang Yafan entered the semi-finals, impressive Chinese teenage player Wang Xinyu went head to head against Sharapova, and three other Chinese players entered the double finals, granting the audience unending surprises.
Wang Xinyu, the 17-year-old player from Shenzhen, played aggressively against Sharapova during the first-round match. However, Wang was forced to withdraw from their second-round match due to cramping. Later, a warm scene appeared on the court; Sharapova consoled the young Chinese athlete.
“It’s not the way either of us wants to finish the match, win or lose. I thought [Wang] was absolutely the dominant player in this match, and had all the opportunities to win it, even though I felt like I was finding my stride and getting a little bit closer to the line and being more aggressive. I told her to take care of herself. If she plays like that, she is going to be number one,” said Sharapova after the match.
Outside the court, the tennis stars held an array of autograph sessions and met face to face with tennis fans. In order to see world famous tennis player Sharapova, hundreds of fans queued up for several hours ahead of the autograph session. During the over-20-minute event, Sharapova gave her autograph to over 150 fans.
The final took place on the afternoon of Jan. 5, and world No.13 Aryna Sabalenka defeated American Alison Riske in two hours and 11 minutes to lift her third WTA Tour career title.
“The city is beautiful. Shenzhen is actually very lucky to host the first tournament of the year and the last. It’s a very nice feature to have these huge events in the city,” said Luiz Fernando Procopio de Carvalho, tournament director of the WTA Shenzhen Open.
Sharapova withdrew from her game against Sabalenka due to injury. She said her top priority is her health and that she loves sharing not only tennis but other parts of her life with fans.
“I am very much an open book. I travel and I want to share places I go to. I hope that one day they get to see them as well. Maybe I can give them some tips on whatever, whether it’s a dish at a restaurant or other things. I like to share things that I find interesting for myself as well,” said Sharapova.
“I really like to be in China. (Shenzhen is) a nice city, nice people here. The condition here is top-level. Everyone here is so friendly. I feel like at home here. I don’t know why, but China is something special for me. Hopefully, every visit to China will be successful for me. I like to be here,” said Sabalenka during a press conference after the match with Sharapova.
“We came here to help Chinese tennis to develop. It’s amazing. China is probably No. 1 right now for coaches. If we put everything on the paper including conditions, environment, facilities, and salary, China is honestly No.1. Shenzhen is one of the best cities right now because Guangdong Province is very amazing with Guangzhou, Shenzhen, (and) Zhuhai very close to each other, and also Hong Kong,” said Serbian tennis coach Boris Gavrilovic who lives and coaches in Shenzhen.
Djordje Merdzijevic came to Shenzhen two and a half years ago and runs a tennis academy in the city.
“China is now a place where tennis is more and more popular. Shenzhen is becoming a tennis city. In the next ten years Shenzhen is the city for the top eight last tournament masters (WTA Finals). Our future here is good. China tennis will be much better in next ten years. I hope China will have more and more top players,” said Merdzijevic.