By Patrick Johnston
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore will host the glittering annual finale of the women's tennis season from 2014 until 2018, the WTA said on Wednesday.
The Southeast Asian city-state beat Tianjin in China and Mexico's Monterrey for the right to stage the WTA Championships after Turkey's Istanbul ends its three-year stint in October.
"Your sensational city, the amazing city of Singapore, has won the right to host the WTA Championships for the next five years from 2014," WTA chairman and chief executive Stacey Allaster told reporters.
Allaster called the agreement a record breaker and "the largest and most significant WTA partnership in our history", with prize money increased to a record $6.5 million.
The season-ender is the most prestigious women's tennis event outside the four grand slam tournaments - the Australian, French and U.S. Opens plus Wimbledon.
The top eight singles and doubles pairs over the season qualify for the event which was won last year by American world number one Serena Williams. Russian pair Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova took the doubles title.
The event was first staged in 1972 in the United States but has moved around the world since 2001 with Munich, Madrid and Doha joining New York and Los Angeles in staging it.
The hosting rights are a major coup for Singapore, which has not held a top level tennis event since the 1999 Heineken Cup on the men's ATP Tour. Lower ranked challenger events and exhibition tournaments have struggled to attract crowds.
The event will take place at the Sports Hub complex, which is due to be finished by the first quarter of 2014 at a cost of S$1.3 billion ($1.05 billion).
The impressive complex will feature a 55,000-seater stadium with retractable roof, a 13,000 indoor stadium, aquatics center and water sports center.
The indoor stadium will host the show court with the other facilities to be used in a entertainment filled "10 day fan fest."
The venue could be key for sports and entertainment businesses to tap into the lucrative southeast Asian market with Singapore's low crime rate and overall ease of doing business a rarity amongst nearby nations.
World Sports Group, the commercial partner of the Sports Hub, have talked previously about attracting a rugby 7s event and Indian Premier League Twenty20 matches. WSG Chief Executive Andrew Georgiou said the WTA Championships was just the start.
"It is also another feather in the cap for Singapore, which continues to prove itself as Asia's premier events destination. We are really excited about working towards the first event of 2014," the Australian told reporters.
"We are pretty proud, one of the first of many to be announced over the next couple of months to be hosted at the Singapore sports hub."
(Additional reporting by Ossian Shine; Editing by Peter Rutherford)