They juggle schoolwork, examinations, and intensive tennis training sessions that occur up to twice daily. Yet, our country’s top junior tennis players do not, according to their coaches, have enough on their plates, and are in need of more competition experience.
Ahead of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Future Stars 2016, a junior tournament held alongside the prestigious WTA Finals in Singapore, Team Singapore’s coaches weigh in on the value of competing in more matches with young players from around the world.
Team Singapore's coaches
Shaun Aw Yong (under-14s) and Daniel Heryanto (under-16s). Photo: SportSG
According to Shaun Aw Yong, who helms the under-14s, and Daniel Heryanto, the returning under-16s coach from last year’s WTA Future Stars, Singapore boasts a good crop of youth tennis players with plenty of potential to develop.
“We’ve got a strong group of players this year. The level is going up, and some of them are playing more ITF tournaments. They travel out of Singapore to compete every now and then, but most of them always have to go back to school and don’t get enough exposure,” expressed Daniel.
The 46-year-old continued that match experience was also an important form of motivation to the teenagers: “Playing against better players helps to expose them to higher standards, and they’ll want to work better on their weaknesses and strengths. They’ll get better in terms of physical skills, mental strength, and even tactical abilities.”
“It’ll also inspire them to train harder, because they’ll want to prove themselves,” agreed 36-year-old Shaun.
It is, then, no surprise that the pair are keen on helping this group of girls to make full use of the valuable opportunity that the WTA Future Stars presents. In the lead-up to the tournament, both coaches have been taking the chance to arrange for their charges to engage in friendly matches with their fellow contenders from other countries.
Shaun and Daniel with Team Singapore's tennis girls of both the U-14 and U-16 age group. Photo: SportSG
Revealing that the competition would be stiff at the WTA Future Stars, Shaun explained: “The more matches you play and the more players you play against, the more you’ll learn the different styles of other players. If you play fewer tournaments, you’re only going to play these same few sorts of players. But if you play more, you’ll be more ready to play against others with different styles.”
Daniel added: “A lot of these foreign players are ITF-ranked ones who play on the junior circuit. They’re all very experienced and strong. There’s even an Australian player, Violet Apisah, who’s 82nd on the world juniors rankings!”
With six Team Singapore players – Clare Cheng, Joelle Goh, Trisha Mulani, Charmaine Seah, Lynelle Lim, and Tammy Tan – about to pit their skills against these promising aces of tomorrow, the coaches are certain that they will pick up important pointers and rack up the experience needed to improve their game.
After all, most of this year’s batch of local Future Stars had played in last year’s SEA Juniors competition (a tournament for youth players from the Southeast Asian region) and are expected to return stronger than before. Tammy and Charmaine, too, had participated in the 2015 WTA Future Stars.
“These girls got the chance to play in last year’s tournaments, and they’ve definitely become better at the game and grown as players,” concurred Daniel.
“Such experience helps them to discover what they need to work on because they’ll be exposed to a variety of match situations and begin to work on different areas. They’ll then get better at handling and tackling different opponents in the future.”
Advising aspiring players to begin playing matches from as early an age as possible, Shaun shared: “Competing is not just for winning, right? It is for experience and learning how to win and to lose. That’s how you grow.”
Keen on supporting Singapore’s junior tennis players? Catch the WTA Future Stars at Kallang Tennis Centre from 19 till 23 October!