Play on clay? Tanglin Tennis Academy shows the way
Tanglin academy says the surface gives young tennis hopefuls a unique experience
Singapore is peppered with tennis courts, housed in many condominiums and increasingly located in more and more schools.
There is also a smattering of public facilities including the one at Kallang Tennis Centre, and all feature the cost-friendly hard courts.
The Tanglin Tennis Academy is different.
The tennis school at Turf City - launched in 2012 - is home to nine hard courts, six mini-courts and six clay courts.
It is the only organisation in Singapore with clay courts, which were installed in 2014.
The academy specialises in tennis programmes and workshops catered to those aged four to 18.
While the Republic has struggled to unearth top quality tennis talent despite the existence of so many courts, the school's director, Elvin Chee, believes the clay surface is necessary as it requires players to develop various playing styles and the ability to adjust fast.
Speaking to The New Paper recently, Chee said: "Clay courts have an acquired taste. They're like wine. You do need a certain level of competency to be able to appreciate them.
"People who were born from 1965 onwards probably have never played on clay courts here and that's why that generation has never understood clay courts.
"We hope to bring the experience of clay courts to children, at least they can say they've had the experience before."
According to Chee, the last public clay courts in Singapore were located at Farrer Park and Dempsey Road.
They closed in the late 1970s due to the high maintenance costs - the surface is easily affected by weather changes, unlike grass and hard courts.
While the academy's tennis lessons are for teenagers and children, they cater for adults, too.
Chee said it is not uncommon to see parents train at the same time as their children.
"Tennis is a very good social sport. Over time, our place has virtually become a family centre, which is good because it develops the sport as well."
The school offers training programmes for different age-groups for children and different levels for adults, with registration fees starting at $30.
One of the specialised programmes is the "Play & Stay" scheme where children train with three different coloured balls - red, orange and green.
The different colours indicate different levels of expertise at the game and serve as a tracker for parents and children.
Chee plans to set up more clay-court programmes, and hopes to rope in former national players, like former Singapore women's No. 1 Lela Zainal.
Zainal, 43, recently returned to Singapore from abroad and Chee said: "We spoke to Lela, and she's our number one priority.
"The good news is she did tell us she's very interested in developing kids."
The academy aims to develop young Singapore talent, and is proud of the fact they can hone their playing skills on the school's red clay courts as well because, according to Chee, the surface "makes a player complete and evolves their game".
“People who were born from 1965 onwards probably have never played on clay courts here... We hope to bring the experience of clay courts to children, at least they can say they’ve had the experience before.”
— Tanglin Tennis Academy director Elvin Chee, whose academy at Turf City is home to six public clay courts, nine hard courts and six mini-courts