Regular readers will know I’m a big tennis fan (and player- if anyone out there is ~NTRP 4.0 and wants to play do reach out). And I just wrote a report about the US Open, including a visit to the SPG Luxury Suite.
The WTA Finals are in Singapore this week, and although I think it’s fair to say that women’s tennis doesn’t attract nearly the same amount of interest as the men’s tour, it’s still a chance to see the best 8 in women’s tennis in one place.
Through a series of unexpected events (the details of which I will not bore you with) I received an invitation to the BNP Paribas hospitality suite for the Thursday evening session. I was keen to see how this corporate hospitality experience would stack up to the one at the US Open, and would like to share some highlights and photos with you all.
We were bussed into the grounds at the Singapore Indoor Stadium from our meeting point for the evening session which started at 7.30pm. We reached at 6.15pm, which gave lots of time for wining and dining.
All corporate hospitality suites at the WTA Finals are part of The Racquet Club (The Racquet Club is the official hospitality program of the WTA Finals). The Racquet Club is an annex built alongside the Indoor Stadium (but isn’t physically part of the stadium, a minor inconvenience I’ll touch on later)
The buses dropped us off here and we headed inside for registration.
The registration counter was chaotic but everyone was processed quickly enough.
I received 2 passes- one of which would get me into the BNP hospitality suite, the other into the Aces Lounge. The Aces Lounge is (and here’s where it gets a bit confusing) within the Indoor Stadium but it’s a much parred down selection of F&B. The hospitality suites are where you really want to be.
The first floor of the Racquet Club contains the reception area as well as a handful of suites for companies like Rolex.
There is also a spanking new Porsche Panamera parked in the middle of the room as a sort of conversation piece (Porsche being one of the headline sponsors of the WTA Finals)
There is a big sign on it saying “not for sale”. Which is disappointing. Because I was totally going to take out my PRVI Miles card and earn 1.4 miles per $1 on it.
Up the stairs and you’ll find more suites, as this very poorly taken photo shows. I really need to hire a professional photographer for this site.
The BNP Paribas suite is a sizable suite, as you would expect from the title sponsor of the WTA Finals. I reckon it could take up to a 100 people with some standing.
The Suite is a place to hobnob before the game (or during, if you don’t really care for tennis and just want to network, as it appeared many did) and it’s well set up for that. There are a few sit down private tables, but the majority of them were communal high chairs that make it uncomfortable to sit for too long. There was also a fully stocked bar where the champagne (Moet, sadly. Come on guys, even prosecco would be preferable to Moet) flowed freely.
The menu today was created by Emmanuel Stroobant of the ES Group. The ES Group is behind some really nice restaurants in Singapore including Picotin, Brussel Sprouts, Saint Pierre and Rocks Urban Bar and Grill. I knew the food was going to be excellent when I heard the chef barking in French at his crew.
The actual spread was different from the printed menu. The romantic in me would like to believe that the truck delivering fresh produce from the farm had been waylaid because the young man driving it had suddenly found the words he for so long had lacked in describing his affection for the quietly aloof sous chef who was at home with her bedridden grandfather and the bewildered head chef had no choice but to modify the menu on the fly all while fighting with his dastardly landlord who wanted to repossess the premises and lease them out to a fast food chain. Although in reality someone probably messed up the printout.
There was a very generous appetizer spread of mini bagels with smoked salmon, tomato confit, tomato gazpacho and assorted charcuterie.
There was also a station with steak tartare. I don’t think it’s possible to actually make steak tartare look good in a photo, but here’s my best attempt. I’ve often wondered how steak tartare doesn’t give more people food poisoning but apparently so long as you take the beef that’s below the skin you’ll be ok.
The main courses were on a separate station.
There were some roasted root vegetables. No description here because it wasn’t on the printed menu.
Goose-fat duck leg confit, ratte potato, balsamic and honey jus.
This dish was heavenly. The goose fat that lined the duck leg melted in your mouth and made you come to the realization that people who went on diets simply had no joy in their life. I attribute my wheezing during the tennis game the morning after solely to this one dish.
Roasted white Miso cod, grilled Kinome rice, poached jade eggplant
Cod tends to be a more forgiving fish because of its high fat content, but credit where it’s due, the caterers got this spot on. The skin was flakey and the meat did not have a hint of overcooking. When I returned to the suite about 3 hours later however the cod had become mushy, probably as a result of being left on the heat for too long.
There was a ravioli dish that had some meat that I couldn’t quite place.
And mushrooms with other greens.
There was also a carving station with beef wellington.
I assembled myself an unphotogenic plate or two or three. I rationalized that we were at a tennis event and surely the cuisine served would be in line with the healthy ethos of the overall setting.
The desert tray featured a fruit salad, apple pie and various fruit tarts. It was a bit muted compared to the main courses, or maybe I expected a bit more given the French reputation for killer deserts.
That said, one standout item was the Louis XV Guatemala chocolate cake, which came topped with milk chocolate popped rice. It’s the two cakes in the top left hand of this photo.
There was a bar area to round things out serving red and white wines and champagne.
The waitstaff were very generous with the bubbly and proactively went around giving people top ups. Why couldn’t we have this at the US Open, I thought.
The crowd that evening was a mixture of industry movers and shakers, as well as what I presume must have been HNWIs, based on the number of pretty private bankers swarming around the tables.
I contemplated picking up my phone and shouting “If you clowns at UBS don’t wake up your ideas and do this simple $50M trade I’m going to take all my business to BNP” to see whether I could get some of them to accost me but decided against it in favor of remaking loudly to no one in particular how damned expensive private school fees were in Zurich. It didn’t work. But that could also be because I had a very messy table. That was probably it.
Midway through dinner, an emcee came on stage to introduce the first of two tennis personalities who would visit the suite that evening.
I forget the name of the first guest. But I gather she was a former woman’s champion.
The second was Caroline Garcia. I felt really bad for her, because no one really cares about doubles. I mean, I certainly don’t. I often wonder how the players feel about such publicity events. They have to disrupt their match prep to visit each and every suite for a 5 min cameo where they have to smile and answer inane questions like “do you think you have what it takes to win this year?” and try not to say “actually no I don’t, I just came to Singapore for the chili crab and pleasant climate”. I mean, I don’t think I could resist that sort of temptation to snark.
But to Caroline’s credit she took the questions with grace and aplomb. And signed commemorative tennis balls after the Q&A.
I asked her if she could make mine out to “The Milelion” but after several seconds of stunned silence I thought it better to use my birth name.
Adequately fed and watered, it was time to go for the tennis. If there’s one problem with the layout at the Indoor Stadium it’s that the hospitality suites are physically disconnected from the action in the stadium. To get to the stadium you need to walk about 100m under a sheltered walkway into the stadium grounds. It wasn’t like the experience at the SPG Luxury Suite where you could go out onto the balcony to watch (but of course, the F&B here was way superior to that at the SPG Suite)
The Indoor Stadium is a cozy an intimate venue and if you’re not in the upper balcony there really aren’t any bad seats in the house per se. I had tickets just behind the baseline which was awesome, but the view 10 rows back was perhaps half the price and just as good.
Here’s the view from the top of the second tier.
I think it’s great that Singapore finally has a world class tennis event here. (I do not consider the ridiculous International Premier Tennis League to be a real tournament. I mean, just read these ridiculous rules and tell me if this sounds like tennis to you-
Each team can call a power point once in each set when receiving serve, and the next point played will count double. Effectively, a player trailing 15–0 can directly get to 15–30 by winning the power point. Games are played to four points using no-ad scoring. Each game won by a player or doubles team adds one point to the team’s score in the match. The team with the most points at the end of the five sets wins the match. Each set is won when a team is the first to reach six games won. If the score is five-games-all, a timed five-minute shoot-out will be played. The player or doubles team leading at the end of five minutes wins the set.
Omg power points!!one11!!)
The WTA contract is currently under renegotiation to see if Singapore can become the permanent venue after the current iteration expires in 2018. I certainly hope it continues to stay here because it can only be a good thing for the tennis community. And who knows, maybe before long we’ll get a men’s tour event too!