Draw vital as tennis team serve their country

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IMMEDIATELY after these SEA Games, Singapore national tennis player Angeline Devi Devanthiran will spend three months in a remote desert area of Egypt.

Why? To study for her O-Level examinations this October, while making the transition from the junior to the senior circuit.

 "I will be based in a resort in Egypt, where there will be little distraction, and it will be a conducive environment for me to study," the 19-year-old said.

It may seem extravagant, but such is the globetrotting lifestyle of a full-time tennis player, as Angeline has been since she was 13.

She said: "I hit at least 30 hours of court time every week, which is a basic guideline for all aspiring professional tennis players to follow. It's just not possible to go to school at the same time and keep up."

More often than not, these 30 hours are spread all over the world, with Angeline travelling with her family to practise and compete in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States, where she has an annual three-month stint at Flushing Meadows, home of the US Open.

Despite the extensive travelling, Angeline believes that it has been vital in developing all facets of her game.

"Playing overseas exposes me to so many things to learn from - different coaching, playing styles, playing surfaces. It's definitely made my game more versatile and well-rounded," she explained.

Her versatility is evident through what she views as her standout performance to date at the 2013 Waikato-Bays (International Tennis Federation) ITF Juniors in New Zealand, where she reached both the singles and doubles semi-finals.

Her eventual goal is to attain a top-100 ranking on the professional Women's Tennis Association (WTA) tour, and she can certainly take some inspiration from national team-mate and men's captain Roy Hobbs.

Hobbs, 25, recently gained his first Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) points after strong performances in April, when he reached the semi-finals of the Indonesian ITF Men's Futures tournament in Jakarta.

Having competed full-time around the world for the past five years, he knows all about the constant struggle to play tennis against heavy financial cost.

"To keep the travel costs down, most players look to share rooms. I can't play all the tournaments I want, I need to choose those that I have more of a chance in," he said.

Yet, Hobbs believes the ranking points he earned are a positive sign ahead of these SEA Games, stating: "I feel confident, playing the best tennis I've played in a while. I go into every tournament not only looking to give my best, but to win."

That could come in the mixed doubles event, where he is likely to partner Singapore's top women's player Stefanie Tan.

Tan, 22, has been away in the United States for the past four years, playing tennis and studying at Texas Christian University. She represented her college team as the No. 1 singles player, recently leading them to a top-20 ranking on the NCAA circuit this year.

Having represented Singapore at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010, she is eager to put on a good performance on home soil.

"Playing on home ground for my college always spurred me on. Playing in Singapore will definitely motivate us to dig deeper to get a good result," she said.

Singapore will be pursuing a first tennis medal since the men's team won a bronze in 1995.

The current men's team appear to be in fine form, winning all five of their Group IV matches in last month's Davis Cup to be promoted to Group III.

National coach Daniel Heryanto believes that, against the likes of perennial heavyweights Thailand and Indonesia, a slice of luck in the draw could be crucial.

"A favourable draw will definitely be a big factor for us to go far in the competition," he said.

jslow@sph.com.sg

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