HE TURNED the Schools’ National Tennis Championships B Division final around – and did it while battling the flu.
Raffles Institution (RI) were down 2-0 against Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) when Lee Kaiyi stepped onto the court for the third match.
Feeling drained and weak, he very quickly went down 5-2 in the first set.
That’s when he decided enough was enough. Kaiyi showed tremendous resolve to regain focus and battled for every point, and in a magnificent fightback, turned the tide on his rival, winning the next five games to take the first set 7-5.
There was no stopping Kaiyi from then on and he romped to a 6-0 win in the second set, helping RI lift the Boys’ B Division tennis title.
Ng Sok Khim, a housewife, was beaming after her son’s stunning come-from-behind win and she said: “I am happy for Kaiyi not because of his win but that he has shown his strong willpower and determination to succeed.
“As parents, we are really grateful and feel very blessed to have him as our son.”
Kaiyi, 15, is developing a taste for success on the tennis court, coming in second at last year’s ECM Libra Foundation – LTAM Junior Championships.
“I felt that I played really well in that competition last year, losing only one match in it,” said Kaiyi. “My confidence was really boosted because I hadn’t been playing well previously.”
Kaiyi was part of the national team that took part in the ITF World Junior Tennis Championships in 2010.
Even though Singapore entered the competition as underdogs, Kaiyi and his teammates managed to finished ninth.
“I was proud to be able to beat players from bigger teams like the Philippines and bring pride to the nation,” said Kaiyi. “It also gave me a confirmation of my abilities.”
His favourite player is Roger Federer because he admires the Swiss maestro’s composure and elegance.
While Federer is considered a veteran these days, Kaiyi is only at the start of his own tennis adventure.
The Secondary 4 student has been playing in open competitions since he was 13, and has regularly beaten older players – even some in their 20s – over the years.
Coach Chen Chee Yen, who has been training Kaiyi since he was nine, said: “Since Kaiyi was little, he has shown a lot of promise and has the potential to become a top player in the country.
“He shows great composure and behaves like a gentleman on the court.”
Chen has also been impressed with the youngster’s dedication and discipline, revealing that his protege has hardly missed training sessions, even when ill.
Kaiyi trains five or six times a week. When exams are around the corner, it is reduced to two or three times a week.
“Training can be quite hectic at times,” Kaiyi admitted. “I’ll usually reach home at 8pm or 9pm, and by that time, I’ll be so tired that I don’t have the mood to study.”
Luckily, his parents have been very supportive.
“My mother accompanies me to my training sessions and matches,” said Kaiyi. “And my dad often drives me.”
Said mum: “He really loves the sport and, as long as his passion for it is there, we’ll be supporting him.”
Training can be lonely and even boring, but Kaiyi knows who to turn to for inspiration. “To see Roger Federer, at his age, still going strong really gives me motivation to train harder to become a better player,” he said.