Talking tennis with the pros

29 October, 2015   Nicolette Mok

 WTA Players Chat WTA doubles finalist Carla Suárez Navarro spent time with some 50 local students at a recent Tennis Coaches' Conference, sharing some priceless insights into the game. Photo: Philip Au/SportSG

The question that Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Finals doubles star Carla Suárez Navarro posed to some 50 local students at the recent Tennis Coaches’ Conference Players’ Chat was a simple one.

“Do you enjoy tennis when you play? Do you feel happy? This is the most important,” she asserted.

Conducted in conjunction with the WTA Finals and Tennis Coaches Conference in Singapore, the Players’ Chat, which featured Suárez Navarro and former top Singaporean player Jaime Wong, afforded the youths the opportunity to gain valuable insights into life as a professional tennis player.

The cosy dialogue session involved a group of students, as well as the Team Singapore squad participating in the S.E.A. Juniors tournament. Despite ranging from different backgrounds, the youths, along with the other coaches in attendance, all had one thing in common – a love for tennis and a thirst to learn more about it.

Moderated by peak performance specialist Ann Quinn, the afternoon’s programme covered diverse topics that ranged from technical skills to sporting values. Suárez Navarro and Wong – now a coach – also related their own experiences growing up as budding tennis stars.

WTA Players Chat Carla Suárez Navarro (last row, sixth from left) posing for a group photo with some 50 Singapore students at a recent Tennis Coaches' Conference. Photo: Philip Au/SportSG

“It’s not every day that you hear first-hand insights from a professional tennis player. It’s amazing meeting Carla in person and learning that she really is like any other regular person – except she’s worked very hard to get where she is today,” expressed 15-year-old Cherilyn Nicole Chan, one of the session’s participants.

Indeed, discipline has been a key value in the Spaniard’s tennis career. Sharing the importance of making sacrifices in order to excel in the sport, Suárez Navarro told the students: “Sometimes, you may not be able to go to the cinema with your friends. You will gain more friends, though: your friends in school, and your friends from tennis. But sometimes, there are sacrifices to be made if you want to be a professional tennis player.”

The WTA world number 12 also spoke about other traits, such as the importance of respect, fielded technical questions from the enthusiastic local coaches, and revealed that she had trained daily while studying throughout her developmental years.

“I didn’t move [to Barcelona to enroll in a tennis academy until I was 18] because my parents wanted me to finish school. Studies are really important. I also wasn’t ready yet. So I studied, I played, and I practised – until I was 18,” the dedicated athlete said.

Certainly, this proved particularly encouraging to the local youths. Chan professed: “There’s a lot of focus on academics in Singapore. Even so, one of our friends has been thinking of taking her tennis further, and Carla’s sharing will probably give her the motivation to do so.”

WTA Players Chat Carla Suárez Navarro underlines the sacrifices and commitment required to reach the top of the professional game, some precious food for thought in an academic-focused driven Singapore. Photo: Philip Au/SportSG

“If someone can study while playing tennis, then it definitely give us some hope that we can do it too; we can pursue a tennis career. But of course, it requires immense dedication and focus to become one of the top players,” concurred S.E.A. Junior and WTA Future Stars player Tessa Wong.

With Suárez Navarro having outlined her path for them, Singapore’s young players certainly gained a better idea of the sacrifices and level of commitment necessary to make the jump to a professional career. We just might see one or two of these familiar young faces on the pro circuit in a few years time.