Tennis: Shaheed makes a strong point

Singapore tennis player Shaheed Alam hitting a backhand at the Singapore Futures event, where he earned his first ATP singles ranking point.
Singapore tennis player Shaheed Alam hitting a backhand at the Singapore Futures event, where he earned his first ATP singles ranking point.PHOTO COURTESY OF ANDREW JK TAN/SPORT SINGAPORE

S'pore teenager aims to build on first ATP singles ranking point earned on home soil

There was little fanfare, no crowds and just a handful of usual observers - training mates, coaches, parents - cheering him on from outside the court.

But it was in this familiar setting of home at the Kallang Tennis Centre last week that Singaporean Shaheed Alam made history, earning his first ATP singles ranking point on the men's professional tennis circuit.

That precious point came when the 18-year-old beat Australia's Jake Delaney 6-3, 6-4 in the first round of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Singapore Futures (F1). His tournament, however, came to an end when he lost 7-6 (11-9), 4-6, 0-6 to Japan's Sho Katayama next.

He is just the second Singaporean to reach this milestone - Roy Hobbs also chalked up a point at another Futures event in Tarakan, Indonesia in 2015 - but doing so on home soil was extra special.

"It felt different from all the other events that I've taken part in before," said Shaheed, who was Singapore's first male player to win an ITF junior singles title in 2015.

"I was quite nervous at the start but the nerves went away as I got into the match."

This is the first time that Futures events - three tournaments are held back-to-back-to-back until next week - are being held in Singapore. These are entry-level tournaments on the men's professional tennis circuit, after the top-tier ATP World Tour and the ATP Challenger Tour.

The Singapore Tennis Association and Sport Singapore are co-organisers of the tournaments, which offer US$15,000 (S$20,797) in prize money each.

Added Shaheed: "Some people might think it's just one point, what's the big deal, but I don't think they understand how difficult it is to even get one point.

"There are so many people out there trying every week just to get one point. With this point, I'll have a better chance of getting into at least the qualifying rounds of tournaments.

"I might not have been able to get the chance to play in the main draw if Singapore didn't host a Futures event. It's a very good platform to break through."

He was one of seven Singaporeans who received wild cards to play in the tournaments. The events saw entrants from traditional tennis powerhouses such as the United States, Spain, Australia, and also Asian nations such as India, China, Japan and Indonesia.

Singapore is likely to continue hosting these lower-tier tournaments, in part to offer local players a chance to earn ranking points, and also to help develop the capabilities of officials.

Said tournament director Gilbert Ng: "The tournaments will help us develop more white-badge chair umpires."

White badges are the basic level of certification given by the ITF. Singapore does not have any certified white-badge chair umpires, who need to officiate at least 25 matches a year to retain the badge.

Added Ng: "This is the perfect platform to be on to get into the world of professional tennis. Parents and budding players can also get a taste of what it's actually like to play professional tennis.

"Often times they don't have a clear idea of what professional tennis is like."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2017, with the headline 'Shaheed makes a strong point'. Print Edition | Subscribe