Whether on covered or uncovered courts, this year's inaugural WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai tournament wanted the same outdoor feel for every player.
To create that environment with the same experience of humidity, temperature and court speed, architect Populous designed the brand-new Zhuhai Hengqin International Tennis Centre on the southern coast of China with a centre court that features both an inner and outer roof. The dual-roof offers weather protection but also filters in sunlight and natural airflow into the 5,000-seat arena.
“We arrived at an elegant, simple, cost-effective solution—a cantilevered outer roof over the seating and a circular inner roof over the court, offering protection from the sun, enabling play to continue in wet weather and allowing gaps for natural ventilation,” says Populous associate principle Tiric Chang.
Populous—the same designers who made the renovations at Wimbledon Centre Court and Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne—also created five other match courts and 12 training courts at the Zhuhai Hengqin International Tennis Centre, where this week's WTA Elite Trophy tournament—featuring a 12-player singles field consisting of players ranked between No. 9 and No. 20, plus one wildcard—is being held. Located on Hengqin Island, which is part of Zhuhai City, in Guangdong Province, in China, the tournament will run through 2019.
The process for constructing the tennis center came quickly. The center’s first stage was completed in September, 12 months after construction began on the Hengqin Island site. It required draining and reclamation before construction began, a process that included 50-meter-deep reinforced piles and giant concrete slabs for additional support.
Once the inaugural tournament wraps up on Sunday, the complex will work as a community park, open to the public. During the tournament, though, expect Zhuhai to play similar across the center, all because of a roof that welcomes the natural environment.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, sneakers and training for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.