Are you kidding ?
No, I am not kidding.
Clijsters is popular; women’s tennis in general is not. Without Clijsters playing, Antwerp wouldn’t draw as much attention as it does now. Just take a look at Hasselt. The main reason why it is taken off from the calendar is because of Clijsters’ retirement. It just won’t yield as much interest as it did before.
That is also why Verbeeck is trying to upgrade the tournament to a Tier I level and to combine it with a men’s event; just to attract more sponsors, otherwise having the tournament wouldn’t be feasible.
Most of the tournaments in this region, i.e. north-west continental Europe, suffer from this problem.
For example last year: Stuttgart, hall capacity 4200 per day, wasn’t sold out during semis and the final; Rosmalen (tournament capacity 62.000) had ample tickets available, and this was a combined event. Same applied for Berlin and Strasbourg.
Antwerp was only sold out during the semi at Saturday and the final because Clijsters played. Mind you, the capacity of the main hall is 12.000! Without Clijsters, the organization will have lots of problems filling those 12.000 seats.
Only Luxembourg and Linz were sold out during the second half of the week, but they had much less capacity.
Also television coverage is minimal. Even on Flemish television I don’t get to see much of Paris or Pattaya, probably because Clijsters doesn’t play there.
Taking all this into consideration, I can safely say that women’s tennis isn’t popular in this part of the world.