PARIS - An eye-opener. That was the biggest takeaway from the Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament for Singaporeans Adithya Suresh and Sarah Anne Wong after they both lost every match in the French capital on Thursday (May 31).
Their coach, Nandagopal Balasubramaniam, had even tipped Adithya as having a decent chance of advancing past the round-robin stage of the May 31-June 2 event.
But it was a chastening experience for the 12-year-olds as they struggled to adapt to the authentic clay and quality opponents.
Adithya was beaten 3-0, 3-1 by Thai Suphawat Sae Oui , 3-1, 3-1 by India's Aditya Rathi, 0-3, 3-2, 7-1 by Mexican Maximo Llamas, and 3-0, 3-0 by France's Gabriel Debru.
Sarah lost 3-0, 3-0 to Britain's Talia Neilson Gatenby, 3-0, 3-0 to Japanese Mio Mushika, 3-0, 3-0 to Australian Hana Sonton, and 3-1, 3-1 to Germany's Pauline Bruns.
"The experience was enjoyable and I made friends from many countries. However, honestly in Singapore, there aren't as many good players than the ones I faced (in Paris). The clay courts are more slippery than the one I trained on (at the Savitar Tennis Centre at Fairmont Hotel) which makes it harder to play on," said Sarah.
"I need to work on my groundstrokes, minimise my double faults and train harder," the Primary 6 Marymount Convent pupil added.
Adithya, who will be staying on in Paris for a week to train at Liberty Country Club, also wants to become a better all-round player as he hopes to turn professional one day.
"If I like this academy, and how things play out and its programme, this might be the place for me. (Training at) Savitar is different as it's artificial clay, and it moves like a hard court as it's a carpet with sand on top. Whereas the real clay (at La Chataigneraie) was a demanding surface and it showed me you have to get the ball from deep if not you're always on the run," said the Secondary 1 student at Anglo-Chinese School (Independent).
The boys and girls' finals were held on Saturday (June 2) on a clay court directly under the Eiffel Tower.
Killian Feldbausch of Switzerland and Spaniard Victoria Jimenez emerged victorious and each received a Longines watch and a tennis scholarship worth US$2,000 (S$2,700) a year until they turn 16.
They also had the chance to play in an exhibition match alongside the brand's ambassadors Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, and the event's mentors Alex Corretja and Arantxa Sanchez.