The Shanghai Masters – tennis in Minhang

30 Oct

Shanghai is the home of the Rolex Masters – one of the well publicized events on the professional tennis circuit.  My understanding is that the prize money is among the highest, so there are always lots of big names.  Federer, Djokovic, Murray and the rest of the top ranked players were all there.

In fact, this year there was a widely publicized death threat on Roger Federer and security was even tighter than normal.  One of my friends had an acquaintance staying at the same hotel and they had completely closed the swimming pool and all the exercise rooms to everyone else except Federer.  My guess is the Chinese government didn’t want an international incident.

This year I was able to go to one of the earlier matches in the qualifiers, but I followed the event the entire week and saw the amazing final on television.  I watched it in Chinese (which was the only option) and that match lasted over three hours with a surprise finish.

Two years ago I had gone in person as well and this time it felt like things were more organized, from the fact that there were buses to take you back to the city (the stadium is in Minhang District and over an hour from downtown) and a whole line of legal taxis instead of the black cabs that I remember before.

Posing from the cheap seats!

The fans also seemed to be more orderly – it was hilarious, at one point there were some people sitting in the VIP seats who were walking in during the match (which is typically not allowed).  The umpire asked them to sit down, but his Chinese was quite bad and so when they didn’t sit down the crowd started booing them.  Finally they realized that they were the ones getting booed and sheepishly sat down.

My guess is that they were government VIPs who likely had never been to a tennis match before – they had more “guanxi” then sense.  Guanxi (关系) represents connections, wealth, power – but it doesn’t mean that you know the rules at a tennis match.  Change and awareness takes time – but the folks in the cheap seats (myself included) had already adapted.  It shows there is hope.

Dancing between matches

During a break in the action we also walked around the outside of the stadium and there were people handing out introductory brochures for “Laowai Jie.”  Laowai (老外) means Old Foreigner and Jie (街) means street.  The brochures pointed to a street in an expat district where there were western food choices, but the name of the street just made me laugh.  I took a picture with the brochure and I doubt I will be going there any time soon.

The Laowai Jie brochure. There were a lot of foreigners there, so I have to applaud their marketing campaign – just not for me personally.

Tennis is a very “civilized” sport, which is at conflict with my own view of the average Chinese person, but it does appear to be making inroads.  From my TV set it looked like there wasn’t an empty seat for the final match, though the one I went to was pretty empty.  I wonder what the development will be in five or ten years.  We’ll see.  What do you think?

Pretty empty stadium – but a beautiful (though crisp evening)


11 Responses to “The Shanghai Masters – tennis in Minhang”

  1. roomaomao October 30, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

    “Laowei Jie” is actually a pretty cool place. It’s a pedestrian street loaded with bars , restaurants , and is a pleasant place to sit down , have a drink, and enjoy the motorbike/car free enivornment. It was called the HongMei Lu Pedestrian Street or HongMei Lu Entertainment Street very recently ( I’m thinking 1.5 to 2 years ago) until some bonehead decided to take a politically incorrect jump backwards by re-naming it Foreigner Street. Weird. Don’t let the name scare ya off ! It’s fun.

    • gkm2011 October 30, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

      Alright, perhaps I was a bit judgemental and should try it out. 🙂

      • roomaomao October 31, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

        Don’t worry, I don’t like the name either. Check out it very soon or wait until spring. It’s all about relaxing , sitting outside , and enjoying the people going by. Kinda bad in the impending wet, cold , winter doom.

  2. expatlingo October 30, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    Interesting details about the crowd booing the standing VIPs and the “Laowai Jie” advert.

    • gkm2011 October 30, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

      The booing really made me laugh.

  3. sarahinguangzhou October 31, 2012 at 3:31 am #

    Very interesting. So many Chinese cities seems to have a Laowai street, even smaller cities. There was one in Ningbo for example. I”m not sure going to tennis is a popular activity for Chinese people as yet.

    • gkm2011 October 31, 2012 at 9:00 pm #

      I agree, I think many cultures do that – think about the China towns all over the world! Tennis is still up and coming, though many individuals who want to emphasize their status are starting to pay attention.

  4. americantaitai October 31, 2012 at 3:54 am #

    This is a fascinating post about a “civilized sport” like ATP-level tennis making inroads in China. Honestly, I think it is a great thing that Chinese fans are learning about sports etiquette, particularly in tennis (no clapping on unforced errors, no moving about or standing unless it’s during the changeover, etc.) There are rules of etiquette, but they aren’t that hard to remember, and most of it is common sense. Tennis seems to have gained a more popular following recently in China b/c of the success of Li Na, but as for a grassroots movement, I am skeptical b/c of the inherent cost of tennis (prohibitive cost of courts/lessons, etc.) vs. say basketball. But I suppose if you can get drunk/rowdy New Yorkers to behave during a night match at the US Open, then you can probably get oblivious Chinese fans to figure it out too. It’s only a matter of time, I hope! I’m rooting for tennis, but I suspect NBA is probably still the most popular sport in China…

    • gkm2011 October 31, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

      I would guess ping pong or badminton is the most popular sport. It is interesting to see how things are changing and how tennis may represent part of that change.

  5. eof737 November 6, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    I’d love to hear how things change over the next year or two…should be an eye opener in the sport. Interesting about Foreigner St and I’m glad roomaomao had some back-story to it too. I love reading your posts. 😉

    • gkm2011 November 6, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

      I agree, so much has changed and I hope it will continue to change for the better. Thanks for stopping by.

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