A push for Singapore tennis
Already popular here, the sport can go much further with a strong development
Growing up in Canada, I remember how I wasn't able to play tennis outdoors for most of the year because of the weather.
Singapore is blessed with mostly sunny days all year round, so it is little surprise that there are so many outdoor tennis courts all over the country in condominiums, schools, clubs and Sport Singapore facilities.
Singapore has enjoyed world prominence over the last three years by hosting the WTA Finals, the biggest women's professional event outside of the Grand Slams.
The popularity of tennis within the local community is on the increase with the support to promote the sport provided by SportSG and the Singapore Tennis Association (STA).
If the aim is for Singapore tennis to reach a higher level, then the next step is to focus on the power in numbers within the younger generation.
This will eventually translate into a bigger pool of talent from which there will be a higher probability that more Singaporeans will chase the dream of turning professional.
SportSG has implemented several initiatives as part of their strategy to grow the sport in Singapore.
They have not only introduced a mini-tennis programme in primary schools in Singapore, but they have also launched the ActiveSG Tennis Academy which is aimed at providing Singaporeans of all ages and skill levels access to playing tennis.
In many countries where tennis is a mature sport, especially in the West, academies are readily available for aspiring players to live and breathe the sport, and these schools consistently produce players who make the pro ranks.
Academies will also enhance the game at the grassroots as it provides the infrastructure to build and maintain a pipeline that consistently produces players armed with the basics and are passionate about the sport.
With the arrival of the WTA Finals here in 2014, a number of programmes and clinics were introduced to promote tennis.
In the inaugural year, SC Global, in collaboration with STA, launched a programme called Tennis For Every Child, which introduced the sport to primary school children who would otherwise not have had access to playing tennis.
As part of the efforts to engage the next generation of players, the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) is also working on plans to further enhance and expand our WTA Future Stars programme in Asia.
Last year, 18 countries participated in the programme and the WTA is looking to expand on its success so far.
Our strategy is to increase the level of play amongst the young hopefuls so that they not only gain valuable competitive experience from sparring against one another, but also get the motivation to keep on improving themselves.
It is important to continue to provide opportunities for young children to be introduced to the sport and also for them to enjoy the game.
When they have fun on the court, they will naturally want to spend more time and be motivated to keep getting better.
Whether they end up ultimately playing professionally or earning a college scholarship should not be the only focus as tennis can help with so many other aspects of life.
Whatever the pathway they choose, playing tennis helps to inculcate focus, discipline and drive which are values that will benefit them in life.
The interest and enthusiasm for the sport here are encouraging and the fact that Singapore has a player who has made the WTA ranking is a big achievement that the country should be proud of.
With a current WTA ranking of 460, Stefanie Tan is a strong young woman who is hungry to improve and I am rooting for her to continue to progress in her career as a professional tennis player.
I know that the tennis community here is very active with numerous competitive leagues amongst clubs and even corporate groups.
The interest is definitely there so Singapore now has to focus on developing the right springboard for future success and be patient in building a strong foundation among the younger players as a starting point.
It takes time for players to not just hone their skills but also to develop the physical and mental strengths to become a champion.
Success does not happen overnight and it will take years of hard work, commitment and perseverance to see the results.
My first column of the year comes after a compelling Australian Open where Serena and Venus, and Roger and Rafa, proved they still had game.
Many here were still talking about their exploits days after Serena broke the Open era record by capturing her 23rd Grand Slam singles title.
Young Singaporeans have watched and been inspired by these icons for so long.
Put more rackets in their hands and get more of them out on the courts to play.
Bring them out to the Singapore Indoor Stadium to witness the best in action at the WTA Finals to inspire them.
Let them see for themselves what they can achieve if they work hard and believe in their dreams.
Have faith in the process, give it time to develop, and tennis will have a promising future here.
Canadian Melissa Pine is a former NCAA player and a columnist for The New Paper. She is the vice-president of WTA Asia-Pacific and also the tournament director of the WTA Finals.