More than 10,000km away, the top tennis players are battling it out in Paris on the red clay at Roland Garros – the second of the four Grand Slams in the professional calendar. Back in Singapore, under the midday sun, four Southeast Asian (SEA) Games tennis athletes decked out in Team Singapore gear and wielding their racquets stepped onto the court at Yio Chu Kang Tennis Centre. They were all smiles as they welcomed a score of young children beaming eagerly at them. Two weeks from now, Stefanie Tan, Wee Khee Yen, Angeline Devanthiran and Sarah Pang would be taking on some of the region’s best tennis players at the 28th SEA Games.
Leading the Singapore tennis team is Stefanie Tan who had just returned in time for the SEA Games following a very successful collegiate tennis career. Looking to leverage on her experience in the United States, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) All-American said: “When we were in season, we had matches every week and were going non-stop so that really helped me in terms of match exposure. Also by being the No. 1 Singles, I played against girls who were really good players and I definitely benefitted from that.”
Stefanie Tan speaks to the media on her goals at the 28th SEA Games.
Soon to follow in her footsteps is 20-year-old Wee Khee Yen, who will be commencing her college studies at Sam Houston State University after SEA Games. When asked about this next chapter of her life, she commented: “I am really looking forward to it because you get a good education while at the same time you get to play tennis. I am just going to try my best and play a lot of matches in singles and doubles, and at the end of the four years I would decide if I want to continue my tennis career.”
Taking a slightly different approach is Angeline Devanthiran, who has been out of school since 2009, and is going full-speed ahead and training full-time in hopes of reaching her goal – to break into the top 100 on the WTA tour. “So far it has been quite good because right now we have the WTA Finals here in Singapore and that is pretty inspiring for me. I am really hoping one day that I will be playing in there,” said the 19-year-old.
Angeline Devanthiran takes a wefie with clinic participants.
With that said, the reality is that what we see on television are the cream-of-the-crop players amongst the thousands of people playing on the professional circuit, let alone the countless number of juniors, developing and recreational players. Less than one percent of tennis players will ever hoist a trophy at a professional event or even walk the red carpet at a player’s party. Behind all this fame and fortune lay an arduous task of climbing up the rankings.
Even with all the adversities ahead of her, Devanthiran remains hopeful and full of belief. “Yes, it’s not easy and everyone wants to be number one,” she said. “There will be times that you think you can’t make it and want to give up but you have to keep pushing on, and with a little bit of luck, we will all get there one day.”
Wee added with an advice: “Always remember why you are playing the sport in the first place. Ultimately it is because you enjoy it and that’s why you started tennis”.
Team Singapore athletes, in red, Angeline Devanthiran [first from the left], Sarah Pang [second from the left], Wee Khee Yen [standing on the right] and Stefanie Tan [squatting on the right], with WTA Finals Tournament Director, Melissa Pine [centre].
Come June 6, there will be no thousands of seats and no tickets required at the Kallang Tennis Centre. There will be no millions of dollars on the line and no global stardom to be earned. But there will be athletes who have trained wholeheartedly day-in and day-out, taking a step at a time to strive for their goals. Will you be there to show your support for our Team Singapore?