Tennis: Rising and future stars court fans

Monica Puig of Puerto Rico (left) and Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan from the Rising Stars Invitational event signing autographs at Fan Zone’s WTA booth.

SINGAPORE - They may not be household names yet, but rising tennis talents Zarina Diyas, Monica Puig, Shelby Rogers and Zheng Saisai were part of the opening acts that kicked off the WTA Finals Singapore yesterday.

The quartet took to the court for the WTA Rising Stars Invitational, one of several side events taking place at the Singapore Sports Hub during the Oct 17-26 WTA Finals.

In front of some 300 spectators at the OCBC Arena, China's Zheng defeated the United States' Rogers 2-6, 6-2, 10-6, while Puerto Rica's Puig beat Kazakhstan's Diyas 7-5, 6-2.

Said Zheng, 20: "I want to thank all the fans who voted for me (to take part in this event). It's a great opportunity for me to play here, to see all the good players and enjoy being here."

The world No. 92 had upset former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic in the second round of the Tianjin Open last week, and hopes to maintain her good form here.

Another tournament, the inaugural WTA Future stars, also took place yesterday at the Kallang Tennis Centre. The event has 12 players in each of its two age categories, Under-14 and U-16.

Singapore is represented by teenagers Ashley Yim, 14, and Nicole Tan, 16. Ashley won her opener against Vietnam's Thu Uyen Dao 6-2, 6-0, while Nicole lost to Thailand's Manita Bootsarakomvisit 1-6, 6-7.

Rounding up the fringe activities on day one of the WTA Finals was the launch of the Fan Zone, a tennis carnival open free to the public at the OCBC Square.

Ticketing and merchandise booths, as well as stations featuring tennis-themed games - such as a machine that measures the speed of one's serve, and a play area where participants have to hit tennis balls while jumping on a trampoline - were spread around the venue. Response at the Fan Zone was lukewarm yesterday, although it is likely to pick up in the next few days when the WTA Finals kick into full swing.

After all, two-time Grand Slam winner Li Na, who retired last month, is scheduled to appear for a meet-and-greet session with fans tomorrow at 3.15pm.

The draw for the women's singles, the showpiece event of the WTA Finals, takes place today at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands' ice skating rink.

This article was first published on October 18, 2014.
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