Michelle Yeo and Clare Cheng had been just nine and eleven years old respectively when the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global first arrived on local shores in 2014.
Back then, they had followed the matches closely, thrilled by the mere notion of being in the same place as the world’s best female players.
They also kept up with the inaugural WTA Future Stars competition, which featured top youth players from around the region. Michelle, in particular, even got to hold the iconic Billie Jean King trophy.
Clare Cheng in action at Kallang Tennis Centre. Photo: SportSG
As Singapore prepares to host the WTA Finals for the fifth and final time this year, the duo – now Future Stars themselves – look back on how the world’s largest women’s tennis event has left an impact on their lives.
Michelle, a WTA Future Stars debutant, expressed: “It always feels so exciting to be a part of the WTA, making new friends and seeing the standards of everyone. It’s good that I get to see how I can improve, and we can all learn from each other.”
“The matches are very tough, but you learn not to give up. It can be quite stressful playing for your country, but it’s quite exciting at the same time. So you have to stay calm and just keep trying,” she continued.
Clare Cheng profile shot. Photo: SportSG
This sentiment was echoed by Clare, who had competed in the WTA Future Stars tournament every year since 2016.
“I’ve learnt a lot over the past three years! There have been some tough losses and good wins so, mentally, I’ve become more stable. I’ve matured, and I think I’ve grown [as a player]. I’ve also gotten used to playing so many matches consecutively,” the talented youth said.
Michelle, Clare, and seven other players are currently representing Singapore across the U14 and U16 categories at the WTA Future Stars tournament, going up against young aces from 20 other countries.
Besides the intense tennis action, Clare also revealed that she was looking forward to the other activities lined up for the Future Stars, mentioning a charity event led by WTA Finals Community Ambassador Judy Murray.
Michelle Yeo in action for the Team Singapore WTA Future Stars. Photo: SportSG
There, the young stars will get the chance to coach aspiring players aged six to 12 years old.
She enthused: “I’m really looking forward to the activities, because you get to interact with players from other countries.
It shows that tennis is more than just competing, so it’s exciting for me!”
Of course, the WTA Finals’ presence in Singapore has also been a highlight for local fans, Michelle and Clare included.
As Clare shared: “Everyone trains for the WTA Future Stars, everyone looks forward to the competitions! After our Future Stars tournament, we get to rest and watch the top players compete [in the WTA Finals], so it’s the best two weeks. Now that it’s going away, I’ll miss it a lot.”
Michelle Yeo profile shot. Photo: SportSG
The WTA Finals might be moving to Shenzhen next year, but the event’s impact on Singapore has been significant and, according to our two up-and-coming players, likely to endure.
“The WTA Finals has given me a lot. It has changed me and moulded me into who I am today, through the lessons that I’ve learnt both on and off the court. Beyond that, the best thing that competing has given me is the friends that I’ve made,” Clare remarked.
Michelle added: “I think that the WTA Finals has benefitted Singapore’s tennis scene. It has gotten a lot of people interested in starting tennis, including the younger kids! It’s sad that it will no longer be in Singapore. But at least it’s still in Asia!”
Catch the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global from 21 to 28 October at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Tickets can be purchased here.
If you’re keen sign your kids up for tennis lessons, find out more about our programmes over at the ActiveSG Tennis Academy.