First Chinese winner at Future Aces

China's Wang Xiaofei capitalised on his opponent's nerves to easily win the final of the Longines Future Aces tournament in Paris.
China's Wang Xiaofei capitalised on his opponent's nerves to easily win the final of the Longines Future Aces tournament in Paris.PHOTO: LONGINES

FOR the first time, a Chinese youngster won the annual Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament.

Wang Xiaofei, 12, beat Briton Jack Pinnington-Jones, also 12, 4-0, 4-0 in Saturday's final.

Previous winners of the Under-13 clay-court tournament, which pits 16 countries against one another, include representatives from Russia, Switzerland, Germany and Australia.

China, like Singapore, had never gone past the first round in the past editions.

Despite the one-sided win, Xiaofei admitted he got off easy: "I wasn't confident, as Jack had been playing well the past few days. But he got too nervous and ended up making lots of errors."

He will receive a scholarship worth US$2,000 (S$2,700) annually until he hits 16. The event, which began in 2010, is organised by the Swiss watchmaker and runs alongside the French Open.

Coach Remi Barbarin, who helped train the youngsters in Paris, said Xiaofei was a good all-rounder with potential.

"He possesses a good forehand and backhand. He now needs to improve his net game and finish points quickly," said Barbarin, who has trained notable French tennis players such as Arnaud Clement, Michael Llodra and Gael Monfils.

Juan-Carlos Capelli, vice-president of Longines, attributes the outcome to the rise of clay-court tennis in China. The red surface has been garnering fans across the mainland, especially after Chinese star Li Na's groundbreaking victory at Roland Garros in 2011.

This year for instance, the French tennis federation, together with Longines, organised a separate competition in China, India and Brazil to identify the best Under-18 clay-court players in those countries.

Winners received a wild card into the French Open junior tournament, in which  Ma Shuyue of China topped the girls' category.

"The tennis federations from both countries have been working together and getting clay courts into China," said Capelli. "And now, just a few years later, we have a Chinese champion."

darylc@sph.com.sg