KUCHING: Four Sarawakians are expected to benefit greatly from the training programme at the National Tennis Academy at the National Tennis Centre in Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur.
They are professional player 20-year old Mohd Assri Merzuki, 14-year old Alvin Teng, the recent Asian 14 and Under Series tournament girls singles champion Elysia Wan, 14, and 16 year-olds Belinda Chai and Linda Liong.
Sarawak Lawn Tennis Association (SLTA) president Dato Patrick Liew said yesterday the academy was an initiative taken by the National Sports Council in collaboration with Lawn Tennis Association of Malaysia (LTAM) effective March this year.
Currently, there are 10 boys and 12 girls training under the programme with national coach Deen Hesham Abdullah Tan at the helm.
Deen is assisted by two foreign coaches James Peter from Australia who takes care of the development players and Eric Pietrsz from Holland who trains the elite players.
The trainees stay at the national tennis centre and study at schools in Kuala Lumpur.
They are also provided with board and lodging, allowances and arrangements to compete in ATF or ITF junior tournaments in the country and nearby countries.
“Although it is still in the initial stage, I can see the players are progressing well and some of them have already won ranking points,” said Liew who is LTAM vice president.
“We are fine-tuning the programme and overcome the shortcomings. Most importantly, it has the financial backing from the government,” he added.
He felt that the academy provided a very good opportunity for those players who aim to go into tennis full-time.
It is also a good opportunity for the tennis associations of other states who had limited resources to send their players for a systematic and professional training programme.
“This is also part of the long-term programme that will eventually produce players who shall take up the country’s challenge at international competitions such as the Davis Cup and Fed Cup,” said Liew.
According to him, Assri, who had completed his training stint in the US, is now training at the academy in preparation for next year’s challenge in the Davis Cup.