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Asian youngsters shine at WTA Future Stars

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WTA Future Stars The 2015 edition of the WTA Future Stars tournament, like its predecessor, has seen a high quality of competition among top junior players in the Asia-Pacific region. Photo: Cheah Cheng Poh/SportSG

A sense of anticipation was brewing in the air at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Monday, as the four young finalists of the WTA Future Stars tournament prepared to battle it out for the right to be recognized as the best junior female tennis player of their age group in the Asia-Pacific region.

Since its establishment at last year’s WTA Finals, the Future Stars tournament has served as a platform for the top junior players from 17 countries to compete against each other, and the 2015 edition was no exception.

A series of round-robin competition marked out the road to Singapore, before the final 36 players emerged from the gruelling qualifying stage to participate in the 2015 WTA Future Stars Under-14 and Under-16 categories. The competition proper kicked off on 22nd October, whittling the group down to the final four, who won the right to compete in the finals four days later.  

The Under-14 final saw an intense match-up between Indonesia’s Fitriani Sabatini and China’s Jiayu Chu. Though Chu took the first set with ease 6-0, she allowed Fitriani a way back in the second, losing 2-6. The Hubei native was then forced to dig deep to see off her determined Indonesian opponent, eventually beating Fitriani 10-6 in the final set to claim her Future Stars crown.

Clash of the Titans

Following the Under-14 event, the Under-16 final was billed as a clash of the titans, with Hye Ran Yun, dubbed by her supporters as a young Serena Williams from South Korea, taking on India’s Pranjala Yadlapalli, a player who had lost just nine games in her run to the finals.

Despite Yun’s best efforts, she was faced with an opponent who was in tremendous form and struggled to assert her influence on the game. Pranjala seized control of the fixture, beating Yun 6-2 in the first set, before brushing her aside 6-0 again in the second set.

The level of tennis on display during the two final match-ups was noteworthy and deserving of the congratulatory remarks given by several notable figures, including WTA Finals Tournament Director Melissa Pine, WTA Future Stars Tournament Director Donna Kelso, Singapore Tennis Association President Nicholas Lim and Sport Singapore CEO Lim Teck Yin.

Li Na appearance

Asia’s most successful female tennis player and ambassador for the WTA Future Stars, Li Na also came down to present tokens to the finalists. Besides the prizes for the winners and runners-up, Li Na bestowed upon two players Inspiration Awards named after her, for displaying traits such as athleticism and integrity, both on and off the court.  

Mahak Jain from India was the recipient of the Li Na Inspiration Award from amongst the Under-14 girls. The winner of the 2015 HSBC Road to Wimbledon tournament was no stranger to Singapore and the WTA Future Stars, having qualified for the competition last year as well. Despite not making it to the finals this time round, she remains a player to watch in the years to come.

Meanwhile, Under-16 awardee Monique Burton will hope to build on her WTA Future Stars experience to achieve her dream of playing for Australia at Grand Slam tournaments and the Olympic Games.

With so many young stars from the Asia-Pacific region shining in this year’s WTA Future Stars, it looks like there will be plenty of strong competition and great players on the women’s tennis circuit in the near future.
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