This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BeBoldForChange, and this resonates strongly with the WTA’s vision for the WTA Future Stars initiative.
The WTA, in collaboration with SportSingapore (SportSG) and the Singapore Tennis Association (STA), introduced the WTA Future Stars initiative in 2014 to offer opportunities to young female tennis players in the Asia-Pacific region to enhance their lives through tennis. The WTA Future Stars tournament is held yearly in conjunction with the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.
As part of the program, the top U14 and U16 female tennis players from the Asia-Pacific region are provided valuable experiences and exclusive insight into the world of professional women’s tennis. A whole range of activities from coaching clinics to athlete development seminars are conducted to educate the young talent on various pathways available within the industry. After three editions to date, several WTA Future Stars members have gone on from the program to scale greater heights.
Following her WTA Future Stars U16 title in 2014, Karman Thandi from India has competed in junior Grand Slams and also represented her country in Fed Cup alongside one of her heroes, Sania Mirza. Other WTA Future Stars such as Nicole Tan from Singapore and Rifanty Khafiany from Indonesia have since secured tennis scholarships to attend college in the United States allowing them to train and compete while pursuing their education. The achievements of these WTA Future Stars are testament to the power of inspiration and are the motivation behind the WTA’s endeavors to continue to reach out to more young women around the world.
The WTA Legends who have shown their support for the event over the years include Martina Navratilova, Yayuk Basuki, Tamarine Tanasugarn, Alicia Molik as well as Li Na, who has lent her name to an award for two special WTA Future Stars representatives each year. The Li Na Inspiration Award celebrates sportsmanship as well as friendship, and is presented to the players who display exemplary conduct both on and off the court.
“As a mother, I really appreciate and identify with all the efforts that the WTA has put into the WTA Future Stars program,” said Li Na. “This program has the opportunity to open the eyes of these young female players to all the possible ways tennis can change their lives. Being able to encourage this group of talented girls to develop strong values through the Li Na Inspiration Award is definitely something I hold close to my heart and I wish every success to all the WTA Future Stars.”
The WTA Future Stars has grown each year since its inception in 2014 starting with 24 players from 12 countries. The event welcomed new participating countries in 2016 including Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka and Pacific-Oceania with a record 40 WTA Future Stars qualifiers hailing from 18 countries in Asia-Pacific. Starting in the Asia-Pacific region, the goal is for the program to become even more global in the near future to touch the lives of more young females around the world.
The invitations for entry to the 2017 WTA Future Stars have gone out and the WTA is looking forward to welcoming a new pool of emerging talent into the program.
Donna Kelso, Tournament Director of the WTA Future Stars said, “This is such an exciting time as we start on another year of working with some of the most promising talent in the region, and when better to kick things off than on International Women’s Day. Being involved in the WTA Future Stars is one of the most rewarding experiences I have been involved in, having the privilege of giving these young girls a glimpse into their own potential future and providing them with both on and off court “money can’t buy” experiences. I look forward to the day that I am able to welcome some of these young athletes onto the WTA Tour!”
“I am delighted we are able to inspire the WTA Future Stars through the opportunities to interact with the greatest in women’s tennis at the WTA Finals. Every time I see a young girl’s face light up when they meet their favorite player, I know that we are doing something special. It is truly an honor to be part of the legacy we are building in Asia-Pacific,” said Melissa Pine, Vice-President of WTA Asia-Pacific and Tournament Director of the WTA Finals.
This article was first seen on www.WTATennis.com.