Tennis: First victory over rival wins Alexis trip to Paris

Alexis Lynn Tan will be better prepared for the Longines Future Tennis Aces event than previous local players, as she has been practising on the newly opened clay courts at the Tanglin Academy.
Alexis Lynn Tan will be better prepared for the Longines Future Tennis Aces event than previous local players, as she has been practising on the newly opened clay courts at the Tanglin Academy.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Going into yesterday's final, each of her previous crushing defeats by the same opponent played out in Alexis Lynn Tan's head.

But, perhaps taking inspiration from her favourite player Agnieszka Radwanska, who is nicknamed "Ninja" for her clever play, the 12-year-old found a way to outwit a competitor who hits harder.

A 6-1, 6-2 victory over Lim Lerr Min, 12, yesterday gave Alexis a coveted spot to represent Singapore at the Longines Future Tennis Aces.

In Paris, she will compete against players from 15 other countries such as the United States, Spain and Italy at the Under-13 tournament, held alongside the French Open and now into its seventh edition.

The winner of the event this year will get to play an exhibition match with a former world No. 1 and multiple Grand Slam winner.

Said Secondary 1 student Alexis, who was part of the Methodist Girls' School (MGS) team who just retained their national C division title last week: "I've always lost to Lerr Min, and always by quite a big margin. I knew I just had to focus and believe in myself.

"Lerr Min is a flat hitter and she hits hard, and I've played to her strengths every time. Today I gave my shots more spin, which is more to my strength."

With parents who both play and an elder sister who also represents MGS in the Schools National tournament, it was no wonder tennis has been Alexis' obsession since she first picked up a racket at eight.

But prior to the local selections, which began over the weekend, she had played on clay just thrice before. This is the first year that the Paris hopefuls competed on clay courts, since the six courts at Tanglin Academy became fully operational in January.

Unfamiliarity with clay has been a big factor when Singapore's players compete in Paris - the Republic has not gotten past the first round of the tournament in all six previous editions.

Said Alexis: "Playing on clay is very different. It's very slippery if it's not wet and even harder if you step on the lines. I think competing on clay courts this year will help to prepare me better."

The Singapore Tennis Association (STA), which has partnered Longines for each instalment of the tournament, said it intends to help her get more practice time on clay.

Said Wilson Tay, STA's deputy general manager: "Most of our players at the national representation level are 14 and above, so this tournament gives those below that age a sense of what it's like representing Singapore at an event.

"The prestige is different. It gives a certain level of inspiration to the kids."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2016, with the headline 'First victory over rival wins Alexis trip to Paris'. Print Edition | Subscribe