Tennis: Local junior Ahmad Naqib 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 on Friday.

The 12-year-old left-handed player from Raffles Institution will play in the Under-13 competition, which runs alongside the prestigious French Open grand slam tournament. He will be pitting his skills against 15 other boys from countries like the United States,  Britain,  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 racket when he was eight, after watching a dominating performance of fellow left-handed superstar 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, the official timekeeper for the French Open since 2007.

The Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament is into its sixth year. Should Naqib win the tournament, he stands a chance to win a scholarship worth US$2,000 (S$2,700) annually until the age of 16 and a chance to play with professionals like 22-time Grand slam champion Steffi Graf. 

Wilson Tay, deputy general manager of Singapore Tennis Association, said such programs are beneficial for youngster as it provides them invaluable exposure. He added: "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 here.