Tennis: Dream come true for mascots at WTA Finals Singapore

Six-year-old Samantha Mikaella is one of the player mascots at the WTA Finals in Singapore this week, where she had a chance to walk out with Maria Sharapova on Tuesday.
Six-year-old Samantha Mikaella is one of the player mascots at the WTA Finals in Singapore this week, where she had a chance to walk out with Maria Sharapova on Tuesday.

Samantha Mikaella Dumlao was beside herself when she held hands with her idol Maria Sharapova and walked out to rapturous applause at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global on Sunday.

"I felt very happy and excited," the delighted six-year-old repeated over and over again, recalling the moment in her mind.

The child's mother, Mary Ann Dumlao, added: "When I went to pick her up after the event, she was jumping up and down saying 'I want to do it again'.

"She even said she wanted to be a top tennis player just like Sharapova."

Samantha is one of the 26 children, aged five to 12, under the OCBC Cards Kids Escort Programme, who were shortlisted to be player escorts to walk out with stars like world No.2 Simona Halep and No.3 Garbine Muguruza at the WTA Finals at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

The opportunity is part of a collaboration between tennis academy Tennis Allegiance Group (TAG) International and OCBC Bank.

Using social media, a contest was run on OCBC's Facebook page where they invited fans to post tennis-related photographs with a caption on why they should be given the chance to meet their stars.

Koh Ching Ching, head of group corporate communications for OCBC, said: "For WTA this year, we wanted to create a money-can't-buy experience for young tennis fans.

"In previous WTAs, only the ball kids get to walk into the court with the players. We wanted to extend this opportunity to other children, thus making WTA a more inclusive event.

"Seeing them walk in with Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep was really heart-warming."

Tan Xu Teng, managing partner of TAG International, added: "We hope to give them this chance to meet their idols and hopefully inspire them to become champions in the future."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2015, with the headline 'Dream come true for mascots'. Print Edition | Subscribe