Returning Serve Singapore Tennis Association and the WTA Tour
TSL speaks to Ms Beier Ko, ex WTA player, Managing Committee Member of the Singapore Tennis Association (STA) and head of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Finals sub-committee in STA about the impact of hosting a world-class tennis tournament in Singapore and the future plans of the STA.
Having the WTA Finals held in Singapore is an obvious boost to the profile of tennis in Singapore. What are, in your opinion, the tangible benefits for the sport in terms of exposure?
The tennis sport scene in Singapore will benefit greatly from this tournament as the best women tennis players in the world will be here competing for the year-end finals tournament. Kids, adults, fans and aspiring tennis players will all get the chance to experience the thrill of watching high-level professional tennis matches right at home. Hopefully, this will inspire attendees to pick up the sport and become lifelong tennis fans. The tennis fraternity will also benefit from more sponsorship for local programmes. For example, STA’s “Tennis for Every Child Programme” is sponsored by SC Global.
In what ways would the WTA Future Stars Tournament & Southeast Asia (SEA) Junior Tournament leave a positive impact on our own local tennis players?
These tournaments serve to showcase the best upcoming tennis players in Southeast Asia and give them the opportunity to meet one another and play more matches. It is a home advantage and is always welcome by any player. Having local fans and being familiar with the match conditions (climate, weather, court surface, etc) can definitely be an important edge to win a match. Also, playing with the top juniors in Asia and Southeast Asia, our local players will be inspired and motivated to improve their game. It is only through these competitions that our young players can improve.
The WTA Finals present an opportunity to STA to build on the capability development of its technical staff e.g. ball kids, lines judges and volunteers. What has STA done so far to leverage this opportunity?
Developing a ball kids programme provides aspiring tennis players a chance to learn about the game and be on the court with the tennis stars. As a ball kid you develop fundamental skills, such as agility, coordination, discipline and organization, which can be used toward progressing to become a good tennis player.
The volunteers give STA a team of tennis enthusiasts and create a tennis community that STA can look into exploring more with for future tournaments and events.
The Line Officials program helps develop our local talent of tennis officials. STA wants to increase the number of officials and the quality of officiating. With a growing number of Line Officials, Singapore can tap into this resource to host more tournaments and provide quality officials to its events.
Ball kids gathered for the WTA
And what are STA’s plans to leverage the WTA Finals to engage the different communities in Singapore?
If we do get access to the players, then STA would like to have these famous internationally-acclaimed tennis players to make appearances at our heartland neighbourhood and introduce tennis to those who don’t have access to the sport yet. There should be no barriers to entry. We believe that tennis is a sport for all and it will be STA’s mission to provide the means to anyone who would like/want to participate in the sport.
Creating more tournaments and opportunities for our players by working together as a collaborative region is something that STA aspires to achieve. With the rise of Asian tennis players in the professional rankings, more children and youths are starting to pick up the sport and if we work together as a region, we can really help them to succeed in the international scene.
WTA player Monica Puig, amongst the Singapore Tennis supporters community
Creating a culture of sustainability and tending to different streams of revenue is crucial in helping an NSA grow both as a sport and as an organisation - where do you see the STA in 5-10 years’ time in this regard?
STA sees the programmes it organise to continue to grow in the next 5-10 years as a result of quality, world-class tennis tournaments happening in Singapore. We also foresee an increase in demand for tennis tournaments and programmes and participation in our SPEX programmes will grow. This will provide STA with a more robust stream of revenue, which STA will use to implement more development programmes, provide better training and organise more tournaments for our players.
We are also targeting the growth of our young local players. Once we develop a structure to produce a steady flow of players coming through the ranks, we will be able to see positive results in our senior teams. That’s our ultimate goal.