Ons Jabeur of Tunisia (centre), surrounded by enthusiastic young tennis fans from the CHIJ Secondary (Toa Payoh) tennis team during a photo op at the WTA Rising Stars visit to the school. Photo: Au Shen Ru/SportSG
It proved to be no ordinary morning for the girls from the CHIJ Secondary (Toa Payoh) tennis team on Wednesday. Instead of playing alongside their teammates, the young hopefuls waited patiently for their turn to interact and rally with some WTA Rising Stars.
Spearheaded by an outreach initiative, four of the 2015’s WTA Rising Stars finalists - Carolina Garcia from France, Ons Jabeur from Tunisia, Zhu Lin from China and Naomi Osaka from Japan, visited the school for a short sharing session for their under 14 and under 16 players.
Held in the school’s indoor sports hall, the event was kick-started with a short introduction to the players. The lucky students were then split into two groups - for the chance to get autographs and their pictures taken with the Rising Stars, as well as the opportunity to spar on court with their special guests.
“Honestly, it was quite nerve wrecking (when the Rising Stars first arrived) but they are really warm and friendly and it eased the mood,” confessed secondary three student Jamie Ho.
Caroline Garcia of France (left) hands over an autographed WTA Rising Stars shirt to a CHIJ Secondary (Toa Payoh) student during the visit. Photo: Au Shen Ru/SportSG
Part of her nervousness could be attributed to the fact that the 15-year old finally got a chance to meet one of her favourite tennis stars - Zhu Lin.
“Zhu Lin is the one I admire the most. My parents often tell me that as Asians, we tend to be of smaller built. Even though she is Chinese, she has managed to come so far in tennis,” Jamie said.
The students weren’t the only ones who enjoyed themselves either, as the Rising Stars were pretty impressed by the prowess displayed by the young players.
“We had a lot of fun today and they played really well. We were told that the students only practice two times a week and I think they are pretty good for their level,” praised junior French Open champion Jabeur.
“I hope they continue striving for better in tennis while not forgetting to work hard in their education. That’s really important.”
Zhu Lin of China (centre) having her picture taken with young fans from the CHIJ Toa Payoh tennis team. Photo: Au Shen Ru/SportSG
The event was capped off with a short Q&A session, where the students were given a chance to ask the Rising Stars questions about their life on the WTA circuit. Shots were fired and the professionals shared a myriad of fun facts and stories about themselves and the sport.
“Some of these girls are really passionate about the game. I hope this session will give them an idea of what needs to be done and where they can be if they really work hard and have the right attitude. Most importantly, I just want them to have fun and enjoy this opportunity,” said CHIJ Toa Payoh teacher Ms Jacqueline Yip, who is in charge of the school’s tennis team.
Although they might still be some way off from becoming professional players, the aspirants were clearly stirred by the Rising Stars’ presence and the opportunity to learn about the kind of values needed to take their sport to the next level.
Students from the CHIJ Toa Payoh tennis team had an unforgettable day with the WTA Rising Stars. Here, Naomi Osaka of Japan (rightmost) is seen having a rally with a student from the school's tennis team. Photo: Au Shen Ru/SportSG