In 2013, the Shenzhen Open made its debut on the WTA tour and was an instant hit with the players, media and fans. The event was the first of the new season and once again that will be the case from December 28, 2013 to January 4, 2014 at the Shenzhen Longgang Sports Center.
On Tuesday, it was announced that Chinese popular star Li Na, who made her seventh career title in Shenzhen, will be defending her title and once again spearhead an exciting lineup of players in the 500,000-US-dollar prize money tournament.
"Ni Hao and greetings Shenzhen," said Li Na. "As defending champion, I am happy and excited to be starting the 2014 WTA season once again in Shenzhen. I and my team really enjoyed our stay at the inaugural tournament this year. The stadium, hotel, organization and food were all top class and the people were most welcoming to me.
"I am proud that a first year tournament in my home country could be such a success, and I hope the tournament continues to grow and that I can play good tennis again for you all in January. Congratulations to the Shenzhen Gemdale Kaisa Open and see you soon."
Li is the world No. 5 and 2013 was once again a fantastic year for her. After winning the Shenzhen Open she went down to Australia and reached the semis in Sydney before making her second Australian Open final. At the US Open she was a semi-finalist and made the finals in Stuttgart. Additionally, she was a quarterfinalist or better at Wimbledon and at another five tournaments.
"Having Li Na at a tournament is always a plus; her popularity remains incredibly high and we are thrilled to be able to welcome her back," said Ke Gangming, Inspector of Shenzhen Municipal Bureau of Culture, Sport and Tourism.
"We are also very pleased to say that world No. 7 Sara Errani, the 2012 French Open finalist, will be joining us as well as former Grand Slam finalist and world No. 2, Vera Zvonareva from Russia."
Errani, who is also ranked No. 1 in doubles (with partner Roberta Vinci) on the WTA rankings, is one of the most charismatic players around. Her no nonsense style of play with just getting on with the next point is something fans appreciate and enjoy. She is quick about the court which makes her exciting to watch. The tournament is also delighted to be able to provide Zvonareva a springboard for her comeback to tennis after an extended period away due to injury and illness; 2010 was an amazing year for her when she reached the finals of Wimbledon and the US Open.
Errani became the second Italian woman in the Open era to reach a Grand Slam final when she enjoyed a great run at the 2012 French Open. Errani holds seven career titles including one this year, in Acapulco. She also holds 19 doubles titles and is one of the rare players that is able to perform at the highest levels in both singles and doubles.
This year the 26-year-old was a finalist at Palermo, Dubai and Paris, once again she did well at the French Open making the semis which she also reached in Rome and Madrid. Errani was a quarter-finalist five other times.
"Ciao Shenzhen, I am happy to be starting 2014 in your city," she said. "I have heard many good things about your tournament in China; including you have very good pizza and pasta for the players! Good food is important to Italian people.
"I see you all soon and will be training hard in December so that I can play my best and make a strong result at the Shenzhen Gemdale Kaisa Open. Ciao!"
Zvonareva is looking forward to reigniting her career and trying to return to the upper echelons of women's tennis. The Russian displays so much emotion on the court and her passion for tennis is very evident. Certainly over the last year or so she has missed playing but is now ready to take to the courts once again and is looking forward to her first full WTA event back, the Shenzhen Gemdale Kaisa Open.
"I am excited to be playing my first matches of the 2014 WTA season in Shenzhen, China," said Zvonareva. "You may know that I had a shoulder surgery in 2013 and was off the Tour for most of this season. I am looking forward to playing many matches in 2014 and to being fully fit and healthy, and I am happy that Shenzhen, Longgang and IMG have made it possible to play in your tournament, which I heard is a very high quality event. See you soon."
During the first part of her career Zvonareva won 12 titles and reached another 18 finals. She was ranked as high as two in the world until illness and injury interrupted her career. Her last event was the Olympic Games in London in 2012. During the period she spent away she put her time to good use - in addition to getting herself 100 percent fit to return to the WTA tour, she also completed her Masters Degree in International Economic Relations.
Tournament sponsors Gemdale Group and Kaisa Group are delighted to be teaming up to be a part of the event and look forward to more fantastic tennis being played at the Shenzhen Longgang Sports Center.
"Last year we were very excited about the event, all the television coverage on CCTV5 and internationally, and this year will be just as good if not better," said Jason Zhu, General Manager, Capital Planning Department of Gemdale Corporation and Chairman of Grand Gemdale Tennis Corporation. "The players being announced today makes for an exciting start to the tournament."
"We are very pleased to become the title sponsor of the event for the first time and co-organize with the Bureau of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Longgang District, Shenzhen and Hong Gemdale Tennis Club. I believe this tournament will bring exciting matches to the tennis fans and continue to succeed," said Sun Yuenan, Vice Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of Kaisa Group.
Sun Jinfang, Director of Tennis Administration Center of the General Administration of Sport of China and deputy chairwoman of the Chinese Tennis Association, added: "We are very happy to be a partner with IMG and the Shenzhen Gemdale Kaisa Open and look forward to great tennis from the stars, as well as the rest of the Chinese players who will either enter on merit, or receive one of a number of wild cards reserved for local players."
"It takes a lot of organisation and parts to bring a tournament together; I believe we did it very well at the first Shenzhen Gemdale Kaisa Open earlier this year and we look forward to taking things higher as we welcome our players, our fans and our sponsors to what promises to be a wonderful week of international tennis," said Adam Zhu, Vice Chairman, Asia Pacific Chairman & President Greater China of IMG.
The Shenzhen Gemdale Kaisa Open is organized by the Chinese Tennis Association, Shenzhen Municipal Bureau of Culture, Sport and Tourism, and CCTV-IMG Sports Management Company and co-organized by Bureau of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Longgang District, Shenzhen, Hong Gemdale Tennis Club and Kaisa Group.
The event is proud to have prestigious commercial sponsors that include the title sponsors Gemdale Group and Kaisa Group together with Crowne Plaza Shenzhen Longgang City Center and Guinot/Mary Cohr.