Bringing tennis to heartland youngsters

Besides drafting the men's world No. 1 player to ensure local fans get to have the best on their side, the new franchise owners of the Singapore Slammers are also rolling out a series of public engagement activities.

The goal is to bring tennis to the masses and, in particular, the young and those in the heartland.

As a multinational corporation that has had an office in Singapore for the past six years, UD Group's chief executive officer Thomas McMahon said it is here for 365 days a year, and not simply over the three days the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) stops over here.

He told The Straits Times that the UD Group, a commodities company that trades primarily in metals, is committed to helping to grow the sport.

"This is an opportunity to change a kid's life, let them pick up a sport they've never seen before," said the American. "We are committed to Singapore and community is really important to us."

SPREAD THE JOY

We're looking at the community centres, the primary schools, the clubs. We'll build it from the bottom up.

THOMAS MCMAHON, chief executive officer of UD Group, the Singapore Slammers' new owners

McMahon revealed that he has plans to organise tournaments in the heartland.

He noted areas such as Ang Mo Kio and Toa Payoh where clinics and round-robin tournaments could be organised for kids.

There are plans to tie up with the Singapore Tennis Association (STA) and its juniors - while keeping events open to those who are not registered under the STA - to participate in clinics when the tennis players arrive in December.

"It'll be open to everyone," said McMahon. "We're looking at the community centres, the primary schools, the clubs. We'll build it from the bottom up."

The approach is a contrast from the debut season of the IPTL last year, where there were fewer activities for fans and young players, with only a handful of players attending some charity events.

Said McMahon: "The dream is to see some of the happiest kids in the world - as many as we can get on court - playing tennis with Novak Djokovic here in Singapore.

"This is about participation and inclusion."

May Chen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2015, with the headline 'Bringing tennis to heartland youngsters'. Print Edition | Subscribe