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Familiar faces all around in this year's WTA Future Stars

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In a similar vein to the previous year, the 2016 WTA Future Stars tournament welcomes close to 40 girls, from the ages of 13 to 16, to compete in Singapore at the Kallang Tennis Centre.

Arriving from 18 different countries around the world, each athlete will be vying to reach the finals, with a chance to play on the WTA Finals’ Centre Court at the Singapore Indoor Stadium up for grabs.

Nevertheless, despite the stiff competition, the girls are also excited about enjoying this unique experience, which presents them with the opportunity to meet and play with other international competitors of the same age.

WTA Future Stars
The WTA Future Stars 2016 players gather for a group photo at Kallang Tennis Centre. Photo: SportSG

Recalling some of the fond memories she has from past international competitions, Team Singapore’s Clare Cheng, is excited to be a part of the WTA Future Stars as she gets to meet friends from all around the world.

“I’ve met a lot of people from interesting countries that sometimes I’ve never heard of. I’ve met people from Jordan, Iraq, (and) Iran. We still keep in touch through social media,” said the 13-year-old.

WTA Future Stars
Lynelle Lim (SG) and Charmaine Seah (SG) are all smiles for a goofy photo. Photo: SportSG

Instead of letting the pressure of the competition get to her, Clare’s compatriot Lynelle Lim feels privileged for the opportunity to play in the WTA Future Stars amongst some of the best players in her age group.

“It’s a great opportunity for all of us, because all the (other) countries’ best players are coming here to compete,” said Lim, who will be competing in the U-16 category.

“I hope to see how each and every one of them fight (on court), despite the score (and) the heat,” she continued.

WTA Future Stars
From left to right: Tanisha Kashyap (IN) and Mai Nirundorn (TH). Photo: SportSG

Other than being familiar rivals on court, having played each other twice before in previous WTA Future Stars tournaments, India’s Tanisha Kashyap and Mai Nirundorn from Thailand remain friendly outside of competition.

“It doesn’t really matter who’s on court, you’re supposed to give your best, even if it’s like your best friend. But off court, you should be friends (and) be cool with each other,” said Kashyap.

Both 14-year-olds expressed their common goal of clinching the championship title, all while giggling at each other.

“I’m looking forward to the experience, winning, and I’m really excited to play,” said Nirundorn.

WTA Future Stars
WTA Future Stars players gathering as a group to go on the Singapore Flyer. Photo: SportSG

As with all other major competitions, the players have been focusing on the tournament itself, and chances to interact with athletes from other countries have been limited so far. However, the girls made full use of a sightseeing tour atop the Singapore Flyer to let loose and have fun together.

WTA Future Stars
From left to right: Shivani Amineni (IN), Tanisha Kashyap (IN), Violet Apisah (AU) and Annerly Poulos (AU). Photo: SportSG

Excursions such as these momentarily take away the pressure of competing, and allow the players to gather in a relaxed setting.

“We (usually) make friends in the bus, so we get to know each other from there,” said Annerly Poulos from Australia, naming Snapchat as her go-to social media app to keep in contact with her international friends.

WTA Future Stars
From left to right: Lin Kaka (HK), Venia Yeung (HK), Zhou Keyi (CN) and Yang Mingqiao (CN). Photo: SportSG

As a first-timer to the WTA Future Stars, Zhou Keyi from China feels the pressure, but familiar faces do help with calming the nerves.

“I find it nerve-wrecking and exciting at the same time,” said Zhou, who was enjoying her time on the Singapore Flyer alongside her teammate, and friends from Hong Kong.

The WTA Future Stars are playing at Kallang Tennis Centre from 19 October, and the final two will play for the title at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Sunday, 23 October 2016.


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