Two teens swayed by Paris trip

Shaheed Alam, 15, and Angela Lim, 16, are now training full-time.

PARIS - The Longines Future Tennis Aces event may be less than a week long, but its impact on the local junior tennis scene could stretch far longer and deeper.

Two of the four Singapore players - Angela Lim and Shaheed Alam - sent by the Swiss watch-making company to be part of its annual Paris event for Under-13 players have started training full-time under the Singapore Tennis Association (STA).

"Players may not have a clear picture of what tennis is all about when they train in Singapore," said Gilbert Ng, the STA's general manager.

"But when they go overseas to an event like the Grand Slam, they see what's actually happening. Opportunities like that open up our players' horizon."

With Thailand and the Philippines boasting full-time professional players, Singapore has some way to match the standards of its regional counterparts.

The STA's full-time training programme for juniors was started in 2011 to bridge that gap, although Ng said that it would not be easy convincing many to take the leap.

It started with just four juniors on board, but now has half a dozen in its stable.

"Longines' support helps players and their parents change their mindsets," Ng said.

"When Angela went to Paris, tennis was simply a hobby for her and she didn't have plans to play professional tennis. But the whole experience changed her mind. "

Said Angela, 16, a Singapore Sports School student: "I'm grateful for the opportunity. I watched how the professionals play, how they went about doing their stuff. It inspired me to go further in my tennis (career)."

Added Shaheed, 15, a St Andrew's Secondary student who has taken the rest of the year off school to train: "It gave us a glimpse of what's out there. I saw the level of tennis other kids around the world play. I knew then that I had to train harder."


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