Sarawak tennis hungry for more highs this year


KUCHING: Sarawak Lawn Tennis Association (SLTA) is looking forward to surpassing its 2009 achievements in the new year, said its president Patrick Liew.“Although we ended 2009 on a high note, we are looking forward to better, if not maintain, our achievements and hosting at least eight international tournaments in 2010,” he said yesterday.

Liew, who is also Kuching Division Lawn Tennis Association chairman, said SLTA was also looking to develop more ITF-ranked junior players in the world and pushing tennis development not only in urban but also rural areas.

“Within the next five years, we hope to be the top sport in Sarawak in terms of having the largest number of junior players, spectators at the tournaments and with strong support from the parents, public and private sectors,” he said.

“2009 was a fruitful and successful year for SLTA as it is not only recognised for being the state tennis association in the country that had successfully organised the most international tournaments but in terms of development of junior and elite players … we are making good progress.”

He said last year also saw state junior Ariez Elyaas Deen Hasham teaming up with Mohamed Nazim Khan from Kuala Lumpur to create history by being the first Malaysian pair to reach the semi-finals in the boys doubles competition at the 14th Sarawak Chief Minister’s Cup (II) ITF World Junior Championship (Grade 3) played here last October.

Ariez and Nazim, both 16, had beaten the combination of Malaysian Juan Antonio Los Santos and Thai Chanon Varapongsittikul 5-7, 6-3 (7) in the quarter-finals but lost 6-7 (4), 4-6 to the combination of Leander Lazario (Philippines) and Nuttanon Kadchapanan (Thailand) in the semi-finals. Liew added that SLTA had done a good job in putting Sarawak on the world tennis map and there had been an increase of foreign players coming to Sarawak to play and gain ITF ranking points.

The organising of the international tournaments had also generated much tourism revenue and interest among the youngsters.

“We have seen more new players taking up the sport not only in Kuching but also in other divisions such as Kapit, Mukah, Sibu, Miri and Bintulu,” he said.

Last year, SLTA organised seven international tournaments. Liew said more than RM6 million in sports tourism was generated from the tournaments.

They were the ITF Under 14 (Group II) Championship, 13th Chief Minister’s Cup ITF World Junior (Group I) Championship, World Junior Team Event Asia-Oceania Championship, ATF Asia Under 14 Championship, 14th Chief Minister’s Cup World Junior ITF Championship (Grade 3), Kuching US$10,000 ITF Women’s Circuit and Asia Girls Under 16 Championship.