Alexis needs to play smart to go far in Paris

Alexis Lynn Tan has had intensive training in preparation for this week's event.
Alexis Lynn Tan has had intensive training in preparation for this week's event. ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

When Alexis Lynn Tan arrives in Paris with her father David this morning, the wide-eyed schoolgirl must keep her excitement in check.

Any thoughts of sightseeing and cafe-hopping must be shelved. Instead, gym training and a running workout feature prominently on her to-do list.

In fact, hours before she boarded the 13-hour flight last night, she was at a boxing class as part of her cross-training.

That is how seriously the Methodist Girls' School Secondary 1 student is taking the Longines Future Tennis Aces (LFTA), an Under-13 tournament held alongside the first week of the French Open.

With her parents' support, she skipped school from Tuesday onwards so that she could practise every day at the Tanglin Academy and Winchester Tennis Arena's clay courts, the same surface she will compete on this week.

She is hoping her intensive preparations so far will help her to hold her own against opponents from 15 nations, including Spain, Italy, France and the United States.

Alexis, 12, said: "I'm telling myself to take this super rare opportunity seriously because it's the biggest competition for me so far.

"I know that if I go back to school, I'm at a disadvantage compared to the overseas players because they are probably spending more time on court than me.

"And perhaps they don't have to worry so much about schoolwork than I have to."

Just like her favourite player Agnieszka Radwanska - known for using her on-court intelligence to defeat bigger and stronger rivals - the 1.59m-tall, 42kg Alexis has to rely on other means to overcome her opponents.

She said: "Other players in my age group are much bigger and stronger than me.

"So instead of using power to overcome them, I have to play smart. I might not be the biggest player but I can try to run down every ball, use my footwork and angles and hit deep."

She will need to be at her best. Since the inaugural LFTA in 2010, no Singapore representative has progressed beyond the first round of the tournament.

Regardless of her results, Alexis is determined to make her first trip to the French capital a memorable one after the Longines event.

Armed with her little Smiggle notebook, she hopes to roam the Roland Garros grounds and add to her prized collection of WTA players' autographs amassed in recent years.

A certain Spaniard, in particular, would do nicely. Alexis said: "I hope to get Rafael Nadal to sign. And then go shopping."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 22, 2016, with the headline 'Alexis needs to play smart to go far in Paris'. Print Edition | Subscribe