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SEA Juniors united in quest for international success

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SEA Juniors Tennis The S.E.A. Juniors Tournament witnessed some of the best young tennis talent in action at the Kallang Tennis Centre over the past week. Photo: Recayo Aguelo/SportSG

According to the results from the Southeast Asian (S.E.A.) Junior Tournament 2015, the region’s sporting powerhouses Indonesia and Thailand proved their mettle once more, seeing off participants from Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam.

The mixed team event, held last week at the Kallang Tennis Centre, featured the tennis juniors competing in a round robin format. Taking this year’s under-12 crown was the Indonesian team, which also retained its under-14 title from last year. Singapore's under-12s team claimed runners-up spot in an impressive run which saw them overcome Malaysia, Vietnam and Myanmar. Thailand’s under-16 team stormed through the under-16 competition to beat 2014 winner Indonesia to the trophy.

However, after a quick chat with the players, it soon became clear that there were no ill feelings between the traditional sporting rivals.

Keen on working together to provide more tournament opportunities for development, their sentiments were, in fact, similar. They were all quick to point out that Southeast Asia boasted a talented pool of young players who, given enough support, would be able to match up to opponents from around the world.

“There are so many good players here, especially from Thailand and Philippines. Our players will be fighting many other players in future, so this is a good tournament,” noted Sunu Wahyu Trijati, who coaches the Indonesian team.

Concurring that more of such tournament experience would greatly benefit the young players, Thai coach Sakchai Kovapitaktes said: “Some of my players want to turn professional; some of them want to get a scholarship and play college tennis overseas. I think that they have the potential to. This batch of junior teams is very strong – even stronger than most in Asia!”

SEA Juniors Tennis Thailand's Romklao Yuenyao (left) and Thanapet Chanta, champions for the U16 category of the SEA Juniors Tournament. Photo: SportSG

Indeed, his words are timely in the wake of 14-year-old Indonesian S.E.A. Junior Fitriani Sabatini’s success at the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Future Stars competition. Going up against some of the best young players from around the world, Fitriani emerged as a runner-up in the competition, losing only to China’s Jiayu Chu in the finals.

Her equally talented twin sister, Fitriana Sabrina, had not managed to earn a spot at the prestigious WTA tournament. Nevertheless, she was a key member of Indonesia’s victorious under-14 S.E.A. Junior squad, and would be tackling the Singapore International Tennis Federation Junior Championships next.

Also one to watch out for would be returning S.E.A. Juniors alumnus from Philippines, Miles Alexandra Vitaliano, who also participated in the WTA Future Stars tournament. The 13-year-old has consistently ranked among the top of her age group back home, and will be looking to seize more opportunities to compete overseas.

SEA Juniors 1 Indonesia's Trismuwantara Moh Gunawan (left) and Fitriana Sabrina, U14 SEA Junior champions. Photo: SportSG

As Romklao Yuenyao, a member of the champion under-16 Thai team, remarked: “Compared to the European players, our Southeast Asian ones have a lot more to improve on. I hope that we get the chance to play in more of such tournaments.”

The 15-year-old Thai player hopes to achieve a world ranking within the illustrious top 100 one day, and is one of those tipped to excel on the world stage in the near future.

With these determined youths eager to achieve more while setting the standard for their regional counterparts, the future of the Southeast Asian tennis scene seems bright indeed. Perhaps, all it takes is a few more years of such tournaments in order for Southeast Asia to produce its first Grand Slam champion!
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