WTA Finals: ST readers in line for exclusive chance to meet world No. 1 Simona Halep

Justin Tan, 26, taking a selfie at the Merlion Park during the treasure hunt on Oct 18, 2017.
Justin Tan, 26, taking a selfie at the Merlion Park during the treasure hunt on Oct 18, 2017.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Justin Tan came agonisingly close to winning a pair of tickets to the BNP Paribas WTA Finals presented by SC Global last year in a scavenger hunt contest, only to see someone else get there just before him.

This year, however, he was well ahead of time and could be rewarded with something far better - a meeting on Friday (Oct 20) with world No. 1 Simona Halep.

The 26-year-old teacher was the first to complete a treasure hunt organised on Wednesday morning to give five readers a chance to win an exclusive meet-and-greet opportunity with Halep. The contest is run in partnership with the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) and Porsche.

The Romanian will be at a private handover ceremony on Friday where she will be presented with a Porsche 911 GTS, for being the best player on the tour after the regular season's 57 tournaments and winning the Porsche Race to Singapore.

Tan said: "I was very close to getting it last year but I was happy for the eventual winners. Luckily, I've got another chance this year."

He has bought tickets to watch the WTA Finals, the prestigious season-ender featuring the year's top players, since Singapore started hosting it in 2014. That year, he even managed to snag a photo with Halep after one of her matches.

"I'll bring that photo with me and hopefully I'll be able to get her to autograph it. I think it'll be very special and hopefully will show her that I've been supporting her for a long time," he said.

"For someone to go through the ups and downs like she did this year and emerge stronger than before, I think it's something we can all look up to."

Undergraduate Natalie Ow was also among those who could meet the world's top-ranked player on Friday.

The petite 21-year-old, who is 1.51m and plays golf, said she admires the 1.68m Halep for her ability to hold her own against the taller and stronger players that form a majority of the professional tour.

"I can relate to her a lot and it's amazing how despite her size she still manages to beat players who are much taller. She's really powerful for someone who her size," said Ow.

Currently pursuing a degree in communications, Ow is due to write a story about an event that took place this week - and hopes to make her assignment about Halep.

She said: "I hope to be able to ask her how she feels about playing opponents who are stronger and taller than her."

Besides the meet-and-greet opportunity, each reader will also receive a WTA Finals jumbo ball and a pair of tickets to the Oct 22-29 event at the Singapore Sports Hub.

Other stars like reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, Venus Williams and Karolina Pliskova will also be competing at the US$7 million (S$9.49 million) tournament.