Shaheed makes ITF Junior history

Shaheed Alam hopes to make the cut for the Australian Open Junior Championships in January next year.
Shaheed Alam hopes to make the cut for the Australian Open Junior Championships in January next year.PHOTO: VOXSPORTS

While the top women's tennis players are slugging it out in the season-ending WTA Finals here, Singapore's Shaheed Alam managed to create his own little slice of tennis history yesterday.

The 17-year-old won the Singapore Tennis Association (STA) Tanglin Academy International Tennis Federation (ITF) Junior Tournament at Turf City.

Shaheed, the third seed, upset the top seed, Taiwanese Yu Hua-chen, 6-3, 6-3 in the final.

He thus becomes the first Singaporean male player to win an ITF junior singles title.

Stephanie Tan was the first female player to do so, back in 2009.

Said Shaheed: "I wanted it really badly and was hungry for the win.

"I put everything I had into this tournament. So I feel really happy to be the first Singaporean boy to win the title and it felt like all my hard work paid off."

Despite having an unblemished record against Yu, after beating him in the STA Junior Age Group Tournament four years ago, the Singaporean did not expect to win as he had not trained much recently due to the haze condition.

In fact, he had to go to Malaysia and Indonesia to compete and get some respite from the haze.

Those competitions served him well, as he explained: "It was a nice progression because I lost early on in Malaysia but went to the semi-finals in Indonesia, and not making it to the finals definitely spurred me on a little more."

STA deputy general manager Wilson Tay said Shaheed's win is "a big step in the right direction" as he is part of the association's full-time tennis programme.

The initiative sees players train up to 20 hours a week and play in at least 12 international tournaments a year.

Tay added: "This is the first major result achieved under this programme and we want to build on this result."

His dream is that "we can see one of them in the junior grand slams one day".

That day may arrive sooner than later as Shaheed declared: "My goal is to qualify for the Australian Open Junior Championships in January next year."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 01, 2015, with the headline 'Shaheed makes ITF Junior history'. Print Edition | Subscribe