Unseeded 13-year-old S'porean storms to junior tennis title in Sydney

Unseeded 13-year-old S'porean storms to junior tennis title in Sydney
Singapore tennis junior Ethan Lye is moving to the United States to take up a tennis scholarship offered by the Van der Meer Tennis Academy.

Boris Becker famously won his first Wimbledon crown as an unseeded 17-year-old in 1985.

Ethan Lye's latest achievement is hardly in the same stratosphere, but the 13-year-old Singaporean has definitely raised eyebrows.

The unseeded player beat the tournament's top three seeds to emerge champion at the 2015 Northern Suburbs Tennis Association Junior Open (Under-14) in Sydney last Sunday.

Ethan, who moved Down Under last September to enrol in Sydney's McDonald College (a school for Year 7 to 12) and train at the Voyager Tennis Academy, beat the tournament's second seed Josh Kaplan from Australia in the final for his first junior championship, winning the first set 6-1 before his opponent was forced to retire through injury.

Said Ethan: "I had a very tough draw. In my second match, I played against the top seed Adam O'Shannessy.

"It was a difficult match. I dropped the first set, but I pulled through.

"After that, I played against the third seed (Wilson Hou) and then Kaplan in the final."

Mum Vera was proud of her son's success.

"It's his first big achievement here, and I'm extremely proud. It's a very big deal for someone who has just turned 13," she said, from Sydney.

"He's put in a lot of hours in training, improving himself every time. He has a long way to go, but we are thankful for the good start."

A few months ago, Ethan, who aims to turn pro by his 18th birthday, never thought he'd be winning tournaments in Australia. He was supposed to head to the United States and train at the Van der Meer Tennis Academy in South Carolina.

But Vera's visa complications resulted in the proposed move breaking down. In an interview with The Straits Times last September, Ethan said that he was disappointed he couldn't go to the US.

But he was optimistic about the programme in Sydney, which aligns a child's academic pursuits with high performance junior training on the tennis court.

Three months on and with a trophy in the bag, Vera feels that the initial setback has proven to be a shrewd opportunity for Ethan.

BLESSING

"Moving to Sydney instead of the States has been a blessing," Vera said.

"It's much more competitive in the States and he probably wouldn't get the opportunities he's getting now. "Living here has also been good for the family. My husband Moses gets to visit him more often."

Ethan agreed, saying: "Australia is giving me excellent tennis exposure.

"My coaches are former professionals and there are also more competitions to participate in."

While he is determined to continue improving, Ethan is in no rush.

Said Ethan: "Recently, I missed out on qualification for the National Showdown, an annual tournament featuring Australia's best tennis players, which is held at Melbourne Park.

"So, I still have a long way to go, but I'm putting in as much effort and hours as I can on the court to get better."


This article was first published on January 6, 2015.
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