A stellar week featuring capacity crowds and an outstanding champion is ample proof the Huafa Properties Zhuhai Championships delivered on a pre-tournament promise.
When it was confirmed earlier this year that the ATP Tour 250 event would welcome the return of elite tennis to China, tournament organisers declared; “We are back.”
The ambitious experiment to program the 2023 Zhuhai Championships between Wednesday and Tuesday to give fans greater viewing opportunities reaped rich rewards.
The final six days of a tournament won by Pepperstone ATP Rankings No.14 Karen Khachanov were sold out as tennis fans flocked to watch the world’s best players in action.
With a full house watching, the atmosphere on Center Court and around the covered courts outside was superb and drew praise from the competitors including Khachanov.
“From the first day I received a very warm welcome,” Khachanov said.
“They were all so excited to see me … and I appreciate that and when you have this support, you are even more encouraged and motivated beside your own motivation. You are even more pumped, you could say.”
Jamie Murray, who claimed the doubles crown with Michael Venus, opted to play in Zhuhai on the recommendation of his brother Andy, who also competed in the singles tournament.
The dual-Wimbledon champion told his older brother the St Regis Hotel was the best he had stayed at during his time on the tour and that the proximity of Zhuhai to Hong Kong and Macau made the tournament an attractive entry point for the Chinese tour swing.
The doubles champion said the passion and knowledge of the crowds who attended the Hengqin International Tennis Center was a bonus during the tournament.
“Andy said it was a really good event with a good setup. That was the main reason we came. It worked out really good for us,” Jamie Murray said.
“Everyone who has come to the event seems to really like tennis and they are excited to have tennis back in China. We are happy to come here and happy to win the trophy.”
The action was outstanding on the court, with seven of the tournament’s top eight seeds progressing to the quarterfinals, which ensured a stellar conclusion to the event.
But the attractions around Hengqin and Zhuhai also proved a hit with players, who attended several of the destination’s top tourist attractions.
American Sebastian Korda, who was a semi-finalist in singles and doubles, received acclaim from fans in China and around the world for posing in a traditional opera costume.
He later attended the Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, the world’s largest marine-themed resort, with several players including Aleksandar Kovacevic.
Khachanov was as much of a hit when attending a local school to pass on advice to aspiring athletes as he proved with his tennis on the court during the tournament.
Huafa Properties Zhuhai Championships tournament director Leon Sun said the attendances demonstrated the passion Chinese fans had for tennis.
He praised the positive atmosphere they created and said the feedback he had received from players regarding the atmosphere showed it enhanced the experience.
“Our staff was delighted to hear from the players just how much they enjoyed the passion shown by the fans who attended the tournament,” Mr Sun said.
“In press conferences they spoke about how the level of support they received inspired them on to better performances and this was evident in the high standard of tennis we saw.”
Mr Sun credited Khachanov for the excellence of his tennis and his engagement with the tournament throughout his stay in Zhuhai.
He thanked all players for helping to make a tournament welcoming the return of tennis to Zhuhai in 2023 a memorable one.
“As the No. 1 seed, Karen more than fulfilled the expectations of fans and we are delighted he was able to cap his visit to Zhuhai by capturing his first title in five years,” Mr Sun said. “Following on from our first champion Alex de Minaur in 2019, the Huafa Properties Zhuhai Championships has now been claimed by two players who have been outstanding players on the global stage for a number of seasons.”
The attention of tournament organisers now turns to the WTA Elite Trophy Championship held at the Hengqin International Tennis Center from October 24 to 29.
Tournament organisers are already looking forward with enthusiasm to the Huafa Properties Zhuhai Championships in 2024 given the success of the most recent tournament.
“It was great to be back this year and we are looking with optimism to next year,” Mr Sun said.