Singapore’s tennis team is going into the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur as the underdogs, a role that the Republic’s top tennis player, Stefanie Tan, embraces.
Tan, 24, who plays professionally on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) circuit, cited the example of this year’s French Open champion teenager Jelena Ostapenko as an inspiration.
The 19-year-old Latvian Ostapenko took the tennis world by surprise when she beat favourite Simona Halep for the title in May. “She was completely under the radar prior to the event, no one expected anything from her. She was a complete underdog, but she played fearless tennis and that got her through her matches,” said Tan in an interview with Yahoo News Singapore.
“It really showed that anything can happen if you believe in yourself, stick to your guns, and most importantly, be fearless,” she added.
The national tennis player, who reached a global career high of 438 in singles on the WTA circuit this year, is preparing to represent the Republic at the biennial regional Games in the singles and doubles competition.
Singapore’s participation in the previous SEA Games ended in the early stages of the draw at the hands of “strong opponents”. Tan hopes that her more focused preparation this year will enable her to go on a deep run. Reflecting on the experience from the previous edition, Tan said, “What I learned from it was that I was able to closely compete with them, and at that point in time, my preparation was not ideal as I had just graduated from college in the US and competed in the Games within a week of returning home.
“Right now, I have been gearing all my efforts towards the SEA Games – training better, playing better, and also with more experience. I hope to be able to play my best tennis and pursue further in the event,” she said.
Kuala Lumpur opens the multi-sport event on 19 August, and the tennis competition takes place from 21 to 26 August. Tan says she is relishing the opportunity for her family and friends to watch her in action. “The atmosphere is different for an event like this compared to my usual tournaments,” she said. “It has been a while since my family and friends have seen me compete, and so I’m excited to have their support and will try my best to do them – and more importantly, the country – proud.”