Years after talk of partnering a top tennis training centre to develop local junior players first surfaced, the Sydney-based Voyager Tennis Academy's new collaboration with the ActiveSG Tennis Academy has now made this a reality.
The partnership, a two-year contract worth a six-figure sum, will offer a pathway for beginners to reach elite levels at an affordable price - 10 weekly sessions cost $130 in total, or from $6.50 to $8.60 per hour.
Hourly group lessons at private academies here can start from more than $20 per hour.
Voyager, founded by former pros Ryan Henry and Luke Bourgeois, has groomed Australian champions like Anastasia Berezov, 15, the youngest to earn a Women's Tennis Association ranking last year.
Ethan Lye, 17, one of the Republic's top juniors, has trained with Voyager since 2014. He said: "I've learnt different tactics used at a professional level, as well as how to plan and schedule my year while making sure there is time to study.
"One of the many things that really makes Voyager better than most programmes I've experienced is the level of coaching staff. Each coach I've worked with has a high-level playing background and can relate to every struggle I go through in training and matches."
Sport Singapore (SportSG), then the Singapore Sports Council, had explored other partnerships, which its chief executive Lim Teck Yin said were not feasible "given the state of development of the tennis scene in Singapore then".
But, referring to the popularity of the courts at Heartbeat @ Bedok now, he told The Straits Times yesterday: "What has changed is there's a growing interest not just in the central district but also further afield, (that) people want to play good quality tennis."
The revamped ActiveSG programmes start from Sept 16 at seven locations islandwide, with a core team at Heartbeat @ Bedok Development Centre comprising one head coach from Voyager, Allen Belobrajdic, senior head coach Sharin Jamal and six other local coaches.
Voyager managing director Ryan Henry said: "We hope, over the next couple of years, to contribute towards producing more Team Singapore athletes that will make the nation proud in international competitions."
Lim told ST that Voyager had impressed with its development philosophy for young players and its track record of developing players who could secure tennis scholarships.
He also stressed that this partnership was not intended to "usurp anybody", and that the programmes were not a duplication of the Singapore Tennis Association's (STA) efforts. He added: "I would say it benefits the system, to be able to inject new expertise, experience and knowledge. Our system as it is today has brought us this far... I think we all aspire to do better."
STA deputy general manager Wilson Tay welcomed news of the partnership, noting that it would allow local coaches to learn more.
"In general, anything that boosts tennis is good. If an organisation like Voyager is suitable to help us boost grassroots-level tennis, the more the merrier," he said.
STA president Clement Leow agreed, adding: "This partnership will make it more accessible for Singaporeans to take up tennis as well as to progress in it. We will work together with SportSG and Voyager to strengthen our national team."