Tennis: 12-year-old Singaporean set to compete in Longines tournament in Paris

SINGAPORE - Young local tennis junior Ahmad Naqib secured a coveted spot at the Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament in Paris next month, after winning all five of his trial matches at the Tanglin Academy.

The 12-year-old left-handed player from Raffles Institution will play in the Under-13 tournament which runs alongside the prestigious French Open. He will be pitting his skills against 15 other boys from countries like the United States, United Kingdom, France and Japan.

"I'm really happy to have won, and feel very honoured at this chance to represent Singapore. I hope to do everyone proud," he said.

Naqib, who did not drop a set throughout the trials, picked up the racquet when he was 8, after watching a dominating performance by Spanish left-handed player Rafael Nadal on television.

"I was so excited when I saw him on screen that I called all my siblings into the room to watch," he said. "My game is modelled after his. I want to be like him."

As the winner of the local leg, Naqib wins a fully paid trip to Paris thanks to the Swiss watchmaker, which has been the official timekeeper for the French Open since 2007. The Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament is into its sixth year.

Naqib also stands a chance to win a scholarship worth US$2,000 (S$2,716) annually until the age of 16 and a chance to play with professionals like 22-time Major champion Steffi Graf, if he wins the tournament.

Mr Wilson Tay, deputy general manager of Singapore Tennis Association, said such programmes are beneficial for the youngsters as it provides them invaluable exposure.

"This particular tournament is the only one that gives players access to a Grand Slam. Once they go there and experience it, they come back more serious about tennis."

None of the past six Singaporean winners made it through the first round in Paris. Four of them however, are pursuing tennis full-time after returning to Singapore.

darylc@sph.com.sg