KUCHING: Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are among some of the top players who have ruled world tennis for years.
In Sarawak, tennis is seen as a super friendly sport, particularly to beginners, and Datuk Patrick Liew, the president of Sarawak Tennis Lawn Association (SLTA), told New Sarawak Tribune that due to its popularity among the younger generation, Sarawak could also produce its own world stars.
“We want to put Malaysia on the map of the tennis world,” he said last Sunday at the ITF World Tennis Tour Men’s Pro Circuit M15 tournament.
The singles qualifiers kicked off on July 31 and has attracted players from 18 countries. The tournament, which offers a prize pool of USD15,000 (RM66,765), is held at the SLTA complex, Jalan Crookshank here.
“One of our objectives of organising international events such as the M15 is also to prepare our players for the coming Kuala Lumpur Malaysia Games (Sukma) so they can get the experience of high-level action,” Liew explained.
The three players representing Sarawak at Sukma Kuala Lumpur are Hii Shieng Wee, Jimmy Liong and Mohamad Aiman Hansen.
Liew said with the nation entering endemic phase of Covid-19, SLTA could finally organise tennis tournaments again and bring back sports tourism.
“On our part, we help to bring in these overseas players and they in turn bring in revenues for the hotels, airlines and the food and beverage sector.
“This M15 is considered as good timing as right now, Kuching is having the Kuching Food Festival and these international players can also experience our local delicacies.”
He added: “Besides that, the tournament is also to showcase a lot of our junior tennis programmes, mooted four years ago to let our young players get a feel of high-level tournaments.”
Liew said SLTA’s goal was to produce top players who compete internationally. “I have bid four times for international tennis events to be organised in Kuching.
“Besides being SLTA president, I’m also vice-president of Malaysian Tennis Association and chairman of the Tournament and Officiating sub-committee that plans and organises local and international events.
“We want to see our players be more active and we want to get more young youths into tennis. They can become top professional players and can eventually make the sport a career.”
Liew, who has been involved in tennis for the past 20 years, said Kuching was fast becoming a favourite venue for international players “due to our friendly people and our venues and officials are of international standards.”
He added that they also had volunteers aged 70 and 80 years old, who play tennis socially, involved in their activities.
Meanwhile, Liew said the M15 qualifying rounds would have 48 draws, which would be played on Sunday (July 31) and Monday (Aug 1).
“On Tuesday (Aug 2), we will have the main draw with 32 players. The final of the doubles will be Saturday and the final of the singles and closing ceremony will be on Sunday (Aug 7).
“The champion will walk away with USD2,160 (RM9,614), the runner-up gets USD1,222 (RM5,439) while the player in third place pockets USD753 (RM3,351).”