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Tennis: Diyas, Puig help launch ‘Junior Road to Singapore’ in Pattaya

Tamarine Tanasugarn (second left), WTA Finals Tournament Director Melissa Pine (fourth left), Zarina Diyas (second right) and Monica Puig helped launch the ‘Junior Road to Singapore’ for U14 and U16 girls. Photo: PTT Thailand Open.

Tamarine Tanasugarn (second left), WTA Finals Tournament Director Melissa Pine (fourth left), Zarina Diyas (second right) and Monica Puig helped launch the ‘Junior Road to Singapore’ competition for U14 and U16 girls by hosting a clinic for 16 schoolchildren on the sidelines of the PTT Thailand Open in Pattaya. Photo: PTT Thailand Open.

February 12, 2015: Kazakhstan No. 1 Zarina Diyas and Monica Puig of Puerto Rico – both 21 – joined Thai legend Tamarine Tanasugarn, 37, and two top Thai teens in launching this year’s WTA Future Stars ‘Junior Road to Singapore’ in Pattaya on Thursday.

 

The two teenagers, Manita Bootsarakimvisit and Thasaporn Naklo, represented Thailand in last October’s inaugural WTA Future Stars event, which was held as part of the first WTA Finals to be held in Singapore.

 

Manita competed in the U16 age-group and Thasaporn won the U-14 final at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, while Diyas and eventual champion Puig were two of four players competing in the WTA Rising Stars, a category decided by fan votes for stars rising up the rankings. Tamarine remains her country’s most successful WTA player, winning four singles and eight doubles titles, and reaching the top 20 in both disciplines.

 

The three generations of tennis players launched the ‘Junior Road to Singapore’ by conducting a clinic for 16 schoolchildren on the sidelines of the PTT Pattaya Open, a WTA event featuring most of Asia’s top stars.

 

Melissa Pine, the WTA Finals Tournament Director, said the various ages of tennis talents at the clinic represented the range of participants in the new-look WTA Finals, which features Future Stars, Rising Stars, the main singles and doubles participants, as well as a Legends Classic for retired players.

 

“One of the aspects that makes the WTA Finals Singapore so unique and exciting for fans is the cross-generation nature of the event,” Pine said.

 

“This ‘Junior Road to Singapore’ clinic brings together WTA Future Stars, WTA Rising Stars as well as Thai tennis icon Tamarine Tanasugarn, and is a great example of highlighting this characteristic in a local grassroots setting and also reaffirms WTA’s commitment to developing and support grassroots tennis.”

 

Thasaporn, 13, is again eligible for this year’s U-14 tournament and the first step in defending her title is winning the qualifying tournament in Thailand, one of 18 countries invited to host qualifiers this year. Last year, 12 countries participated in the preliminaries.

 

“Playing the final in the Indoor Stadium was a great experience and I was very excited to meet Li Na,” said Thasaporn, who started playing when she was eight and practises for three hours every day after school.

 

“I didn’t expect to win, so I was really happy and excited after the match. It was an exciting trip. I really liked it, so I would like to go again.”

 

Thasaporn also has another reason for returning to Singapore – to try and get up close and personal with her idol, Serena Williams.

 

“I want to meet Serena. I like her because she’s a really good player. I saw her play in Singapore, but didn’t get her autograph. Maybe this year!”

 

The qualifiers will be held between June and August, with the winners competing in the WTA Future Stars event in Singapore and enjoying the experience of watching and mixing with the top stars in action. The young teens will again take part in off-court activities including a Welcome Dinner, the WTA Finals Draw, Opening Ceremonies, the WTA Fan Zone and community service activities.

 

This year’s WTA Finals in Singapore will be held from October 23-November 1.

 

Source: WTA (www.wtatennis.com); Editing by SportAsia

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