Tennis: Serving tennis up to broad base is bringing a net gain

Eight-year-old Jerry Chea Ree making a forehand return during the Singapore Tennis Festival at the Sports Hub yesterday. These and other activities are part of the experience tours that SportSG will conduct during the week of the WTA Finals.
Eight-year-old Jerry Chea Ree making a forehand return during the Singapore Tennis Festival at the Sports Hub yesterday. These and other activities are part of the experience tours that SportSG will conduct during the week of the WTA Finals.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Tennis may not have the broad reach of team sports like football or basketball but that has not prevented the ActiveSG tennis academy from registering significant growth in the past 15 months.

Launched in July last year with an initial group of 300 students at its first centre in Kallang, the academy has expanded to five centres island-wide with more than 2,700 participants. A sixth centre, at Our Tampines Hub, is expected.

ActiveSG chief Lai Chin Kwang told The Straits Times yesterday: "What we have done is to not just depend on engagement on the tennis court itself. We engage schools and bring the sport to the students such as through playing mini-tennis in the school hall so they get to experience the game and find out that it's quite fun."

He noted that the academy has linked up with three primary schools including Naval Base Primary, which last year signed up its entire Primary 4 cohort for its mini-tennis programme.

Growing the base of players will allow budding talent to be spotted at an early age and funnelled into the national set-up.

Lai said: "This is also one of our aspirations, to create more opportunities for such talent to surface, to spot boys or girls with the potential to play at the elite level as they spend more time with us."

Shaheed Alam, the first local male player to win an International Tennis Federation Junior singles title with his victory in Singapore in 2015, welcomed ActiveSG's broad-based approach.

"For sure it's a good platform to source talent, for younger kids to come through the ranks," said the 19-year-old, who competed at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.

"Getting them started with mini-tennis is a very good idea. It's easier to have more rallies and for kids to enjoy the game. That's how I got started too."

The inaugural Singapore Tennis Festival, a month-long event launched by Sport Singapore in conjunction with the WTA Finals, began on Oct 1.

SportSG will also conduct experience tours - which include group workouts, mini-tennis games, coaching clinics - during the Oct 22-29 WTA Finals.

For more information, visit www.tennisfest.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2017, with the headline 'Serving tennis up to broad base is bringing a net gain'. Print Edition | Subscribe