The Shanghai Rolex ATP World Tour Masters 1000 returns to Minhang from October 4-12. It’s an event that has brought both economic rewards and high-profile prestige to the district. It also creates a lively buzz for Shanghai sports fans each year.
The Shanghai Masters, the only event of the ATP tour season to be held outside of Europe and North America, is a men’s tournament played on hard court. It is held at the Qizhong Tennis Center in Minhang and has attracted some of the top names of the game.
Britain’s Andy Murray won the single’s title in 2010 and 2011. The championship the past two years was won by Serbia’s Novak Djokovic.
Although the official roster of this year’s players has yet to be announced, a party atmosphere is already building in Minhang. Many off-court events are planned during the National Day holiday from October 1-7, in tandem with the start of the tournament. You don’t even have to be a tennis fan to enjoy all the fun.
The excitement kicks off on October 1, National Day, when some men’s tennis stars ranked among the top 40 seeds are expected to appear at the Qizhong Tennis Center to give fans a taste of what’s to come.
Tennis is a latecomer sport to China. Its popularity was born from the nation’s rising incomes, increased leisure time and the inclusion of tennis as an Olympic sport in 1988. Today, China has an estimated 30,000 tennis courts and 14 million people who actively play the game.
Public interest in tennis was electrified when China’s Li Ting and Sun Tiantian won the doubles gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, and then Li Na went on to win the women’s singles title at the French Open in 2011, becoming the first Asian player to win a grand slam event.
Li Na, 32, became a national hero and an ambassador for the sport in China. She won the Australian Open this year, but announced her retirement from the sport last week, citing knee injuries.
So the stage is set. Here’s what you need to know
Apart from regular tickets, the organizers have released packages for various target audiences. They include sightseeing tours of Shanghai scenic sites, admission to the Oriental Pearl Tower and Shanghai History Museum, and a night’s stay at a deluxe hotel in the city.
Family packages include, at most, two tickets for children. Every child’s ticket can be used as credit to buy souvenirs at the tournament site. Some packages include face-to-face meeting with stars of the court.
Where to buy tickets: http://www.jusstickets.com/productlist.aspx?cateid=2 (The site is available only in Chinese.)
The Minhang District Tourism Administration is seizing the advantage of the Shanghai Masters to offer special travel packages.
They include game tickets and admission to scenic areas so that tourists can enjoy some sightseeing around the district by day and watch the games in the evening.
The Shanghai Huanyou International Travel Service Co is the umbrella group for tours. The company said Qibao Old Town, the Hanxiang Water Garden and Zhaojialou water town will be main features of the tour.
Tour guides will be on hand to explain the sights. Tourists will be treated to dinners in restaurants on Hongmei Road Leisure Street.
All those buying packages will have their names thrown into lucky draws to win souvenirs such as game T-shirts, caps and towels.
The company said the travel packages are expected to be taken up by 500 overseas visitors and 1,000 domestic tourists.
Aside from court matches, the Qizhong Tennis Center will be holding other events. On October 5, a huge painting scroll will be set up in the fan zone for children to paint on. Lucky draws will also be held daily at the center.
To book the tour package, contact Shanghai Huanyou International Travel Service. Tel: 1380-1860-699, 1376-1791-907 or 1378-8954-977.
When the ATP Masters Cup first came to Shanghai in 2002, Andre Agassi was still on the courts, super rookie Roger Federer had yet to win his first grand slam and Li Na was preparing for college study.
The ATP Masters Cup was established in 2001. Four cities bid for the right to host the tournament in 2002: Shanghai, New York, Sydney and Florianopolis in Brazil.
Even though Chinese tennis players at that time were relatively unknown at home, Shanghai was keen to win the rights as a way of promoting the city’s image globally.
The city’s bid featured the slogan: “Shanghai needs tennis, and tennis needs Shanghai.” There was great elation when the city won the bid.
The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) said Shanghai was chosen because it had solid experience in hosting international events, it had first-class courts and support facilities, and it had the influence to promote the game in Asia.
At the first tournament in November 2002, eight of the best male tennis players of the world came to Shanghai. Fans went crazy. Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt defeated Federer in the final, in what was to be his last grand slam victory.
The tournament returned to Shanghai three years later, and the city signed a four-year contract with the ATP to host the Masters Cup. A new venue, the Qizhong Tennis Center, was especially built for the game.
In 2009, the Masters Cup moved to London, but Shanghai didn’t say good-bye to tennis.
Instead, the city became the first venue in Asia to hold the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 games. That has become an annual event.
Every year around October, a tennis carnival atmosphere sweeps through Minhang.
It’s hard to calculate the monetary value of the tournament to Minhang, but everyone agrees that it has been huge.
In the process, the Minhang has refashioned itself as a sports district, with the addition of golf tournaments and other events.
Seeing the stars of the game play so close at hand has inspired young people to take up the sport. Tennis clubs have mushroomed in communities and schools.
The Qizhong Tennis Center is a crowning achievement in the development of Qizhong Village. The village in Maqiao Town was once a barren no-man’s land prior to the 1980s. By the middle 1990s, it had become one of the richest villages in China and a model for rural development.
The tennis arena, officially named the Shanghai Qizhong Forest Sports City Tennis Center, was designed by Japanese architect Mitsuru Senda. It is in the shape of a magnolia, the city flower of Shanghai. The center court has capacity to hold 15,000 spectators.
Sun Jinfang, former director of China National Tennis Center, said the Qizhong Center is on par with the quality of the arenas where all four grand slam events are held.
RShuttle buses will ferry fans between the tennis center and the South Square of Xinzhuang Metro Station.
Buses to the center will operate from 11am to 7pm, while those returning from the court will run from 4-10pm. On opening and closing days of the tournament, the last bus from the court will leave half an hour after the match ends.
The bus trip, which takes about 40 minutes, costs 2 yuan (33 US cents).
There will be a night express bus going from the court to the transport hub at the Shanghai Stadium from October 5-11. The service starts at 9:30pm, and the last bus leaves half an hour after the match ends.
The trip takes about 50 minutes. Tickets cost 10 yuan.
Metro riders can buy round-trip tickets at the official ticketing website for the game (http://www.jusstickets.com/Productview.aspx?proid=1576). The tickets cost 10 yuan and are good for round trips anywhere on the system during the tournament. The maglev train is not included.
There will be a taxi hub at the tennis center from October 10-12 to handle the expected larger passenger volumes.
Four temporary parking lots will be set up on Kunyang Road N., Yuanjiang Road, Zhongqing Road and Qingnian Road for those driving to the event. The parking fee will be 10 yuan a day.