Man Utd closing in on being the worst

CARLOS Rodriguez, the coach behind the resurgence of two-time Grand Slam champion Li Na, could also be involved in mapping the future of tennis in South-east Asia. 

The Straits Times understands that representatives from the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) have met the Argentinian to discuss a collaboration for a junior tennis academy that will be launched here within the next five years.

SSC chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin, who visited Rodriguez at the tennis academy he runs in Beijing late last year, told ST yesterday: "We've given ourselves a tentative target during the period of the WTA Championships to be able to launch, go out and meet interested partners and Carlos is certainly one of them.

"We've got to be respectful of Carlos' commitments in Beijing.

"He may not be (with us) full-time but certainly may be a partner of some sort. 

"He's someone I gather is culturally sensitive, someone who has decided that he wants to make an impact in this part of the world. 

"He has very boldly decided to commit to China and, hopefully, to South-east Asia as well." 

Rodriguez had previously steered former world No. 1 Justine Henin of Belgium to seven Grand Slam titles in a partnership of over 15 years.

He currently coaches world No. 3 Li of China and has been largely credited with the 31-year-old's return to form after a slump that followed her 2011 French Open victory. 

He said: "It is a very nice, inspiring and amazing project and I hope that they can achieve their goals because it will be a very good thing for Singapore and Asian tennis." 

While Singapore's successful bid to host the prestigious WTA Championships for the next five editions provided impetus for the academy, Lim said proposals for such a facility had always been part of the plan - starting from when the SSC first explored a partnership with Barcelona's Sanchez-Casal Tennis Academy around 2011. 

But feasibility was an issue, with studies showing that a private start-up would not have worked well. 

The academy will therefore likely be a partnership between the public and private sectors. 

A plot in Kallang has already been earmarked for it and will house about 20 to 24 courts, including clay and covered ones.

Said Lim: "We want to raise the level of technical capability in Singapore... (and) create a training base that also encompasses competitions."

It would give Singapore the ability to work with other tennis academies in South-east Asia, creating a circuit of training bases and competitions for young talents. 

Lim added that a few other individuals have also indicated their interest to be involved with the academy but declined to reveal who they were until further talks had been conducted. 

The ages and number of players that the academy will accommodate will also be firmed up later.

Said Lim: "We must at least have the ability to deal with the age group between 10 and 14. 

"That means we'll have a stable base for these young players to... iron out all their technical elements of their game."


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.