Tennis: Jensen Hiu, 36, comes out of retirement to represent Singapore at Davis Cup qualifiers

Tennis coach Jensen Hiu will make his competitive return to the national team, 13 years after retiring, and play in the Davis Cup qualifiers in Oman next month alongside Roy Hobbs, Steve Ng and Shaheed Alam.
Tennis coach Jensen Hiu will make his competitive return to the national team, 13 years after retiring, and play in the Davis Cup qualifiers in Oman next month alongside Roy Hobbs, Steve Ng and Shaheed Alam.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

36-year-old set to play Davis Cup doubles 13 years after being out of national fold

Thirteen years after hanging up his racket, Jensen Hiu is returning to competitive tennis.

Now 36, and more than a dozen years since he last represented Singapore, he passed the national trials this month and will play in the Davis Cup qualifiers that start on Jan 29 next year at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Muscat, Oman.

Bahrain, Bangladesh, Guam, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Myanmar, Oman, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates are the other teams involved in the Pool while the draw will be made at a later date.

Roy Hobbs (27-years-old), Steve Ng (21) and Shaheed Alam (19) are the other members of the Singapore team. Shaheed was born a year after Hiu made the first of his six Davis Cup appearances (1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004).

It is a fact that does not escape Hiu. Each time he faces a young player across the net, he is also locked in combat against Father Time, against hair loss and against his fresh-faced opponent.

After retirement in 2004, the Singapore Institute of Management business graduate started an academy called Advantage Tennis in 2006. It now has 11 schools and more than 1,000 students under his charge.

But he still longs for the kick that competition provides.

"I was busy with my academy, my life had become mundane and my fitness was going down," the veteran told The Straits Times.

"When I saw that my academy had become stable, I felt I should get my fitness back and rekindle my passion for tennis."

Hiu started sparring with the younger national players two months ago.

From Dec 8-15, he trained on the Thai island of Phuket where he played against local professionals, pounded the running track and pumped iron at the gym.

And last Saturday, he was at the trials conducted by the Singapore Tennis Association.

"It was a one-man show and one of those Rocky Balboa moments (the 2006 movie of the same name depicted an ageing boxer who came out of retirement for one final fight)," Hiu recalled.

"It was tough coming back, but I enjoyed it. I have to watch my diet, cut out the alcohol and take recovery supplements but I feel leaner and I feel renewed vigour when I wake up."

AGE IS BUT A NUMBER

It's surreal to play against someone who had played in the Davis Cup before I was born... Jensen is a player who still has that fire.

SHAHEED ALAM , national tennis player, on his 36-year-old team-mate's drive.

While he previously donned national colours as a singles specialist, Hiu will play in the doubles next year although the identity of his partner is not confirmed yet.

But he already has the respect of his team-mates.

Shaheed said: "He is an old-school player who comes to the net a lot and slices the ball while the younger guys like to hit from the baseline.

"It's surreal to play against someone who had played in the Davis Cup before I was born. But it just goes to show that one is never too old to compete and Jensen is a player who still has that fire."

And Hiu feels that his game has evolved as he takes inspiration from another 36-year-old - 19-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer.

"With maturity, I am pacing myself better, I am relying more on strategy and proper technique than brute force," he said.

"I can't do a (Rafael) Nadal by running all over the court, it's more (Roger) Federer for me now - less power, more grace."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2017, with the headline 'Hiu out to show age no barrier in comeback'. Print Edition | Subscribe