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ATP hails ‘new era’ for Chinese tennis at Shanghai Masters launch

Former world number one Daniil Medvedev will headline the Zhuhai Championships from Sept 20 to Sept 26, which will run concurrently with another tournament in Chengdu.

The China Open will then begin in Beijing in late September, leading into the Shanghai Masters.

Several other major international sports events will be held in China in 2023.

Badminton’s Sudirman Cup begins on Sunday, and the Asian Games kick off in Hangzhou in September.

Major snooker and golf tournaments are also planned. AFP

SHANGHAI – The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) executives hailed a “new era” for Chinese tennis as they relaunched the lucrative Shanghai Masters on Monday after three consecutive years of Covid-19 cancellations.

The flagship event of the men’s game in the Asia-Pacific region was among many international sporting fixtures stopped by Beijing’s strict zero-Covid measures over the past few years.

International sports bodies have sought to bring back such events since those restrictions were lifted in December.

“We are very confident this is the moment we will start a new journey… for tennis in China,” ATP chief executive officer Massimo Calvelli said at a launch ceremony.

Elite women’s tennis is also returning to China, after the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) in March abandoned a boycott it had imposed over concerns for the safety of player Peng Shuai.

Ms Peng, a former doubles world number one, has not been seen outside China since 2021, when she made – and then withdrew – accusations of sexual assault against a high-ranking official.

The WTA had said it would not return to China without a formal investigation into the allegations and an opportunity to meet privately with Ms Peng.

Mr Calvelli, when asked why the men’s game had not joined the boycott, said the ATP had made “different considerations”.

“For me the important part is the WTA is coming back, which is the right thing for the sport,” he told journalists before the ceremony for the Shanghai Masters.

Mr Calvelli pointed to the success of Chinese players as another reason it was a “special time to come back”.

Mr Wu Yibing beat United States player John Isner in the Dallas Open in February to become the first Chinese player to lift an ATP tour trophy.

Mr Zhang Zhizhen then became the first Chinese player to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP Masters 1000 event when he beat American Taylor Fritz in the Madrid Open last week.

October’s Shanghai Masters will double its duration and the prize-money pool will exceed US$10 million (S$13.3 million), making it the richest sports event in Asia, the ATP said on Monday.

The event is the last of four ATP Tour events in China scheduled in 2023.