KUCHING: Sarawak’s junior tennis player Mohd Assri Merzuki will stay back in Romania for a few more weeks of training to add extra gloss to his game.
Sarawak Lawn Tennis Association president Patrick Liew said Assri’s training stint was supposed to end on Jan 7 but had now been extended to Jan 30 to enable him to put more shine into his much improved play.
“Assri has made good progress under the guidance of coach Doru Sorin Muraiu, and played in a national U-16 tournament in Romania where he finished third in the singles,” he added.
Liew said he would apply to the principal of SMK Joseph to extend the study leave of Assri who is in form four this year.
“We have already invested more than RM100,000 on Assri through private sector and individual sponsorships. We are hoping the state government will come in to support Assri financially so that he can develop into a better player.”
Liew disclosed he had discussed funding for Assri with Social Development and Urbanisation Minister Dato Sri William Mawan Ikom.
“I’m positive the state government will come in to support future training stints and tournaments planned for Assri,” he added.
Liew said SLTA had great expectations from Assri.
“I’m looking at semi professional status for him. By the age of 18, he should be the national number one player and ranked among the top 10 in Asia.”
Liew said to attain this status, Assri would need to put in a lot of hard work, discipline and commitment.
He felt consistent training and constant tournament exposure were equally important for Assri to grow into a good player.
Liew said after Assri returned, he would arrange for him to play in at least 10 ITF tournaments, both locally and internationally, every year.
The tournaments comprise four in Malaysia, three in the Philippines and one each in Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Liew said he might even send him to play in tournaments in Korea and Japan.
Assri started playing tennis at seven. He won many national age-group competitions before graduating to ATF tournaments in 2007.
At 10, he won the Sportexcel-Milo U-12 singles and doubles titles in 2004. He was part of the national junior team in 2008 for the ATF World Junior U-14 Team tournament in Indonesia where Malaysia finished 11th out of 17 teams.
In the U-14 Team tournament in Shenzhen, China, the following year, Assri was also part of the Malaysian team that finished seventh out of 16 teams.
He finished fourth in the singles and was runners-up in the doubles in the ATF Asian U-14 in August 2008.
In September the same year, Assri was knocked out in out in the first round of the ATF Asian U-14 in the Philippines but teamed up with Hong Kong’s Kelvin Wong to win the doubles title.
Assri also played in two tournaments in Bangladesh last year.
In the first series of the ATF Asian U-14 tournament, he lost the singles in the semi-final but won in the doubles.
In the other series, he finished runner-up in the singles but won the doubles.
His latest tournament was the Asian U-14 Masters in Bahrain where he finished third in the singles but won the doubles.
Assri also took part in the U-16 Junior Davies Cup in Shepperton, Victoria, Australia last year where Malaysia finished in 12th out of 17 teams.