“My Dad was my first coach and he was the one who saw that I had a little bit of ‘ball-sense’, at one point we were hoping that I would one day represent Singapore, it was just a passing thought, but it actually came true.” First inspired while watching his father play tennis, 17 year-old Shaheed Alam picked up the racket at age five and has never looked back.
Intimately known as ‘Kor kor Shaheed’ to his younger neighbours, the national tennis player values time spent with his neighbours and family. He says his neighbours have watched him grow from a little boy who could barely reach the net on court, to a national tennis player and he is really thankful for the close knit community he has in Sengkang.
Getting to know Shaheed Alam
Q: Where do you live?
A: I live in Sengkang, and I’ve been living here for 13 years since I was a kid. Most of my childhood memories are here and I’ve grown very close to my neighbours.
Q: Do you have anything particularly interesting about your neighbourhood you would like to share with us?
A: Everyone in my estate has their doors open till the wee hours of the night; it’s a community where everyone knows each other. I don’t think it is like this everywhere in Singapore so I am really thankful. We’ve celebrated Hari Raya together with a barbeque, went for a wedding together at Changi Beach, and we always stop by for a proper conversation when we bump into each other. We would even go to each other’s houses for a chat and meals. Everything feels very familiar and some of them have even watched me grow up.
Q: Are there neighbours you are particularly close to?
A: I live in a relatively young estate so I have a lot of small children as my neighbours. I am particularly close to three of them, and when I was a little younger I used to spend a lot of time with them. My sister would play with the girls, and I would play with the boys. It’s a pity that I have lesser time to spend with them now due to my hectic schedule in school and training.
Q: Do they know what you are busy with, training to represent Singapore?
A: Yeah they know that I represent Singapore in tennis and sometimes they would say teasingly “Kor kor Shaheed is going to play in the SEA games!” They are really happy for me and I’m really glad that I can be someone they are proud of.
Q: Is there a childhood memory you recall most fondly?
A: The fondest memory I have of childhood is how my tennis journey began. I used to just tag along with my dad when he went to play tennis with his friends. When I was four, I started to develop an interest in tennis and there was a badminton court in front of my block – my dad converted it into a ‘mini tennis court’ for me and that’s where I first held a tennis racket. Maybe some of my neighbours would remember that because my dad and I would always play there.
Q: So I guess we can say your Dad was your first coach. How has the journey been so far, was representing Singapore always part of the plan?
A: Yeah, my Dad was my first coach and he was the one who saw that I had a little bit of ‘ball-sense’, at one point we were hoping that I would one day represent Singapore. It was just a passing thought, but it actually came true. I think some of my neighbours remember that when I first started playing tennis in that ‘mini tennis court’ I could not even reach the net. Now I am representing Singapore. It’s very surreal.
Q: Have your neighbours ever spoken to you about representing Singapore?
A: They are very supportive. There’s one particular neighbour who is close to my mum and she would always ask how my trainings have been and if I have been well. Once, I was on a poster in the Sports Hub, and some of my neighbours recognized me and they were really nice and shared some encouraging comments with me. I am very grateful for little encounters like that.
Q: What is one advice you’ve been given that you will always carry in your heart?
A: My dad once told me that winning matters less than giving my 110% and showing good sportsmanship on court, and that advice has stayed with me ever since.
Q: If not for tennis, which sport would you play?
A: I’d play pool. I used to do it competitively when I was around 12 or 13. My dad even bought me pool table and it’s still sitting at home. But I don’t play pool as much; I like tennis a lot more.
Q: What do you like about tennis?
A: I breathe, live, eat and sleep tennis. I don’t think there’s any other sport I could love as much as tennis. I like the thrill of the sport, when you reach a really tough point in the game and one move can possibly change how the game ends. I like chasing that feeling.
Q: You’ve been playing tennis since you were five, is there one memory you will never forget?
A: In 2012 I was the ball kid for the Clash of the Continents tournament held in Singapore. It was a match between Juan Monaco and Janko Tipsaravic. Monaco and I had such good rapport when he was on court that he invited me to play a point with his opponent. I was so happy and I don’t think I’ll ever forget this incident.
Q: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
A: I would want to be able to fly. I think that would be pretty cool, having a different perspective and being able to soar above everyone. I would want to experience that, instead of something like teleporting, because that’s instantaneous and there’s no experience in that.
Q: Do you have any food based guilty pleasures?
A: Sticky chewy chocolate ice cream! And MacDonald’s, my sisters and I used to hang out there a lot.