WTA Finals Singapore - Behind the Tennis Tournament

Thursday, October 30, 2014 Singapore Sports Stories 1 Comments


WTA Finals Singapore, Simona Halep serving against Ana Ivanovic - Tennis
Tennis Stars: Simona Halep serving against Ana Ivanovic in the WTA Finals Women's Singles Round Robin match. It was the first time the year-end tournament was held in the Asia-Pacific region. Photo: Singapore Sports Stories
Last week, the Singapore Indoor Stadium was star-studded. The world’s top female tennis players were here for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. Going almost unnoticed amid the smashing serves and riveting rallies, the silent but sound ballkids zipped about the court, retrieving and passing the balls, ensuring that the matches were seamlessly played.

It seems simple but behind the orchestrated routines, the ballkids had to undergo trials and training before they were ready for the WTA finals. Since the turn of the year, Singapore Tennis Association (STA) started recruiting kids between 13 to 16 years old for the tournament. “It started very early in beginning of the year in January, February when information was sent to schools for recruitment,” said Mr Greg Tan, General Manager at STA.

80 participants from the region were shortlisted with 42 eventually selected for the finals, of which 38 were based in Singapore. “Majority of them (the ballkids) have played some form of tennis before be it at school level or a more competitive level such as the junior age groups,” said Mr Tan. Some of the participants also had experience in being a ballkid.

MENTOR

However, the scale of the WTA finals meant that rigorous preparations were required and STA enlisted Mr V.T. Rajah and Mr Meqsud Alam, both experienced in the tennis field, to mentor the ballkids. Mr Tan said: “They have been involved in tennis for a very long time. Mr Rajah is a coach for a very long time. He teaches the juniors and runs a centre at Bedok. For Mr Alam, he has taught ballkids before.”

The ballkids underwent seven months of training under Mr Alam and Mr Rajah. “First thing we wanted to focus on were the players’ habits. Certain players want a towel every now and then, certain players don’t use a towel,” said Mr Rajah, a tennis coach at Raffles Girls School.

WTA Finals Singapore Ballkids tending to Ana Ivanovic and Simona Halep - Tennis
Ballkids: The ballkids' roles involved more than just retrieving balls, they also tended to the tennis players, ensuring that matches flowed smoothly. Photo: Singapore Sports Stories
During the preparation, the ballkids had training camps and also practiced at local tournaments. “Through that exposure, they go through the real thing. We assess them on where they went wrong thereafter and go back to the drawing block,” said Mr Rajah. Mr Alam added: “Before the WTA, we also did the Rising Stars competition and it gave the ballkids more confidence.”

Mr Rajah and Mr Alam had many long days in the buildup to the WTA finals and their efforts in guiding the ballkids culminated in a smooth WTA finals Singapore. “The way the ballkids did their job had a lot to do with both of them (Mr Alam and Mr Rajah) and how they motivated them. It all reflects on their coaching and how they actually mentor the kids,” said Mr Tan.

Mr Alam said that he wishes to thank the kids in a post-tournament party. “I think there was not enough time for them, maybe we will do a party for them… we want to do it because it was such a hectic ten days.”

This was the first time the WTA finals were held in the Asia Pacific region and Singapore will be the host for the year-end event in the next four editions. Mr Rajah shared that the WTA officials commended the ballkids performance at this year’s tournament and he looks forward to next year’s. On the likelihood of them mentoring again, Mr Rajah said without hesitation: “Because we are proud of the ballkids, we will do it again.” 

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