Team Singapore's Stefanie Tan sharing her experience with the SEA Juniors participants. Photo: SportSG
On the third day of the SEA Junior Tennis Training Camp, spirits remained high as the young participants eagerly awaited their chance to meet and learn from two outstanding tennis players and role models, Team Singapore’s Stefanie Tan and WTA legend Martina Navratilova.
Providing these junior players with opportunities to meet such inspirational figures and to attend an intensive tennis-centric camp like this one are considered important parts of developing young talent.
Once a SEA Junior player herself, national women’s tennis player Tan received many questions during her brief session with this year’s batch, notably about her transition to playing tennis on the professional circuit. One asked how she had changed as a player since her SEA Junior days.
SEA Juniors participants taking a group photo with Team Singapore tennis player Stefanie Tan. Photo: SportSG
“When I was younger, I used to get really upset on the court when things didn’t go my way. When you have people watching and you really want to impress them - that was what I struggled with when I was a junior, trying to meet people’s expectations,” she revealed.
“I realized was that you have to be able to control your emotions because when you’re frustrated you’re not really thinking very well, and that actually affects your game,” Tan explained.
She assured the junior players that she was able to become more level-headed during matches as she matured, transitioning from the SEA Juniors to being on the ITF Pro Circuit.
WTA Legend Martina Navratilova giving tips to a SEA Juniors participant. Photo: SportSG
Just last week, the Team Singapore tennis player won her second event and received $10,000 as prize money – an accomplishment that clearly left an impression on the youths present.
Contrasting Singapore’s tennis scene with Germany, Tan hoped that her foray on the ITF women’s tour would provide the younger players present a target to work towards, something she did not have when she was a junior.
“For example, if you’re from Germany and you have Steffie Graf and many others [to look up to and] you just think that you belong there. But when I was younger, I didn’t see myself as a threat when I went on [the court],” Tan explained.
“Now, I feel like that’s something I have been able to overcome. I’m good enough to be there and try to showcase what I can do,” she said.
SEA Juniors Camp participants listen intently as Martina Navratilova gives instructions on how to improve their tennis game. Photo: SportSG
Being able to return to the SEA Juniors this year as a more experienced and accomplished player was also an exciting first-time opportunity for Tan. She was pleasantly surprised by how well-received her session was, with the young players even asking for selfies after the session was over.
Later that afternoon, the junior players also benefitted from an hour-long clinic with Navratilova and a team of assistant coaches at the OCBC Arena, where they worked on improving their volley, Navratilova’s personal favourite shot.
“I like to be at the net, because that’s where all the action is. I always wanted to hit volleys, not just because of the stroke, but that’s where things happen,” said the 60-year-old WTA legend and coach.
All 23 of the players were able to train under the watchful eyes of Navratilova, and even exchange strokes with her, an opportunity not many can boast of.
The session with the former world number one, while brief, proved to be fruitful, particularly for Singapore representative Deanne Choo, who learnt to quicken her footwork, change her playing stance, and brush up on her volley.
Group photo of the SEA Juniors Camp participants with WTA Legend Martina Navratilova. Photo: SportSG
“I want to grow in tennis and I want to become a better player, and hopefully be as good as some of the (WTA) players one day,” sad Choo, when asked about her takeaway after interacting with tennis role models, Tan and Navratilova.
The SEA Juniors Tennis Training Camp will run until Sunday, ending on a high-note, where the young players will get to watch the 2016 BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global live at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.