It is his first trip to Paris and his first time competing overseas on clay in two years. But national youth tennis player Matthias Wong will seek another first today as he aims to become the first Singaporean representative at the Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament to progress beyond the first round.
The 12-year-old is armed with ample time on the surface and is aided by a new tournament format at this year's edition of the annual event.
The national youth tennis player arrived in France on May 14 to train at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in Nice, which is helmed by Patrick Mouratoglou, ahead of the June 1-3 tournament.
Mouratoglou is the coach of 23-time Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams.
Matthias' father William, speaking to The Straits Times yesterday as his son practised alongside 19 other boys aged 13 and under at the Longines Tennis Academy in Paris, believes he has adapted well to the playing conditions.
The 50-year-old, a real estate business owner, is aware of the challenges that Matthias faces today, but hopes his son will embrace the experience positively.
DAY 4 SELECTED RESULTS
Men's 2nd rd: Grigor Dimitrov (Bul) bt Tommy Robredo (Esp) 6-3 6-4 7-5, Horacio Zeballos (Arg) bt Ivo Karlovic (Cro) 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-5) 6-3, David Goffin (Bel) bt Sergiy Stakhovsky (Ukr) 6-2 6-4 3-6 6-3, Dominic Thiem (Aut) bt Simone Bolelli (Ita) 7-5 6-1 6-3.
1st rd: Renzo Olivo (Arg) bt Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Fra) 7-5 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-4. Women's 2nd rd: Venus Williams (USA) bt Kurumi Nara (Jpn) 6-3 6-1, Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) bt Petra Kvitova (Cze) 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-5), Samantha Stosur (Aus) bt Kirsten Flipkens (Bel) 6-2 7-6 (8-6), Lesia Tsurenko (Ukr) bt Ekaterina Makarova (Rus) 6-2 6-2, Jelena Ostapenko (Lat) bt Monica Puig (Pur) 6-3 6-2, Garbine Muguruza (Esp) bt Anett Kontaveit (Est) 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 6-2.
"All the players here are the top in their respective countries' age groups, so we just want to see that Matthias tries his best," said William. "Hopefully the exposure he gets at this tournament and the experience of playing with all the top players will inspire him to work harder to be a better player."
Matthias, who won last year's Singapore Tennis Association Spex/Tanglin Academy Under-12 clay-court competition, said: "I feel confident, but at the same time a bit nervous because some of the other players are very strong.
"I will not fuss over any mistakes that I make, I'll just move on and focus on the next point."
His time at the Mouratoglou academy has been fruitful, as he noted: "I learnt how to slide better and I know the important things that I should do on clay.
"I had some preparation at the academy, where the coaches advised me to hit more drop shots on clay, as well as slice and lob more."
The Longines tournament, now in its eighth year, takes place alongside the French Open, tennis' second Grand Slam of the year.
While previous editions were held in an elimination-style format, this year's tournament will feature round-robin matches on the first day before the knockout stage, ensuring that competitors get to play at least three matches each.
The overall winner will receive a Longines watch, a trophy and a scholarship, valued at US$2,000 (S$2,800) a year, until they turn 16.