Tennis: Tactical switch pays off for 14-year-old Ethan

Sydney-based Ethan Lye in action in the early rounds of the STA Open. He was down 2-6, 0-3 in the final against Yu Hua-chen of Chinese Taipei yesterday before recovering to win 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4).
Sydney-based Ethan Lye in action in the early rounds of the STA Open. He was down 2-6, 0-3 in the final against Yu Hua-chen of Chinese Taipei yesterday before recovering to win 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4). PHOTO COURTESY OF DR OOI YAU WEI

Staring at defeat, Ethan, 14, prolongs rallies to become STA Open's youngest winner since 2003

Singapore tennis junior Ethan Lye is no stranger to upsetting players seeded higher than him, having defeated a total of five seeds en route to winning two age-group tournaments in Australia, where he is based.

The 14-year-old continued his giant-killing ways back home at the Kallang Tennis Centre on Friday, downing the No. 1 and No. 3 seeds on his way to winning the Singapore Tennis Association (STA) Open.

Down 2-6, 0-3 in the final, Ethan regrouped and rallied to beat 16-year-old Yu Hua-chen of Chinese Taipei 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4).

Ethan is believed to be the youngest winner of the STA Open since 2003, when Waylon Chin won the tournament as a 13-year-old.

Speaking to The Sunday Times in a phone interview yesterday, Ethan said: "I was quite worried as there was quite a big crowd that seemed to be supporting me, and I wasn't giving them much of a show.

"So I just tried extending the points to get back into the game, and it worked."

Ethan, who is on a three-year partial scholarship at the Voyager Tennis Academy in Sydney, will feature in the Singapore International Tennis Federation (ITF) Junior Championships next week - his first ITF tournament.

While his initial goal at the championships was merely to accumulate ranking points, his win at the STA Open has boosted his confidence.

Yu is the top seed at the ITF Junior Championships, and Ethan has set his sights on winning back-to-back tournaments.

"I'm striking the ball well and mentally ready," he said. "I know I can win the tournament, but it's going to be really tough."

STA deputy general manager Wilson Tay said: "It's a good win for Ethan for sure.

"Beating the No. 1 seed in three sets has to be a big confidence boost for him, and it's a sign of great things to come for Ethan."

For now, however, the youngster has only one thing on his mind - rest.

"It's been a tough week and I've had some long matches, so I'm going to rest this weekend," he said. "I'm just hanging out with my family, playing basketball with my cousin and eating some Singaporean food.

"But I'll still be hitting the court tomorrow morning."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 17, 2016, with the headline 'Tactical switch pays off'. Print Edition | Subscribe