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Maria Sharapova in Singapore

The highly anticipated match between Maria Sharapova and Anna Chakvetadze here in Singapore had drawn much media attention over last couple of weeks and seemed to far surpass the “The Clash Times” between Roger Federer and Pete Sampras in KL. Whichever city Maria Sharapova plays in the media will always be there and Singapore is no exception. The prelude to the highly anticipated match drew huge crowds of fans to be part of the Sharapova phenomenon! Catching just a glimpse of the tennis glamor queen in person or in action at the Singapore Indoor stadium would be high on the list for tennis enthusiasts and Maria Sharapova fans alike.
We braved the rains to catch Sharapova in action!

I am glad that Singapore is finally bringing a high profile tennis match to its shores after years of being dormant. Our neighbors have fared much better attracting the likes of World Number one Roger Federer to play in the full fledge ATP Thailand Open (Bangkok) and Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) Clash of Times exhibition match. Unfortunately Singapore has always been lagging behind the tennis scene, so an international tennis event like was a welcome relief to deprived tennis fans. Judging from the turnout at the Singapore Indoor Stadium,the crowds were in force to support tennis queen Maria Sharapova. Singapore has greatly encouraged tourism and we are trying to make the tiny island of Singapore to be an attractive place for tourists to visit. We managed to secure the world’s first night F1 event. Singapore is also gradually becoming a tourism hub with the launch of our integrated resorts that are currently being built. The Singapore Flyer is about to take off and now finally a high profile tennis event led by Maria Sharapova is being held here in Singapore. Being a centre for sports and tourism excellence, I am surprised that nothing had been done earlier to promote any international world class tennis events or tournaments.

Finally got to our seats... And just in time... Well almost...

Before the match was played, I was also bemused at some of the articles I was reading on how people would go to such great lengths to obtain items that were “touched” or “used” by Maria Sharapova. I was reading this article about “Everything Sharapova Touches Turns into Money” and about “Sharapova’s hotel items to be auctioned”. There were talks about several request for her toilet seat that was turned down to my amazement!

Sharapova versus Chakvetadze Match Review:

I felt both happy and disappointed…

Inside view of the Singapore Indoor Stadium

Happy that finally after all that was being said about having a Wimbledon like competition at the Padang and after very short spells with the Heineken Open and Honda Kah Challenger series, Singapore finally managed to have another world class tennis event. I clearly remembered when Sampras, Chang, Edberg and Lendl came into town and played at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. I also recalled the classic encounter between Andre Agassi and John McEnroe in the early 90’s also at the indoor stadium. Singapore’s international tennis scene had been dormant ever since. Finally this Sharapova match had reignited the spark amongst us Singapore tennis fans, hopefully not only to fizzle away later. My question now is.. Will this match be like all the others? Or the start of many more world class tennis events to come? It might be just similar to the others… Starting with so much hype only to fade away in distant memory? I pray that this won't be labeled in my memory as the day Maria Sharapova come, conquered and left Singapore? Never to return again…

Disappointed that for such a high profile tournaments the officiating was highly sub standard. Fortunately this was an exhibition match and the players didn’t really seem to take it that seriously. But some of the things that I had witnessed shocked me and I hope that if we were going to organize a world class tennis tournament of similar nature, many things needed to be worked on. Having watched 3 Thailand Opens which were done at the highest professional order, this tournament lacked officiating experience that soon even had the players and fans complaining. The ball boys and girls seem to have lacked training and they often looked confused. At one stage one of the ball boys forgot to remove the ball which was near the net area when the player were ready to serve. They were slow and not really coordinated. The lines men were abysmal in my opinion you could hardly hear them and were unsure of the calls. The umpire had to do most the work. Some obvious calls went unchecked. The players seemed to tolerate this for awhile, but after the match wore on and when the game was was starting to get tight, they began questioning the lines men and clearly showing their frustration.

I was surprised and embarrassed that this was going on in such a high profile tennis match, especially in Singapore. There should have been more training and coordination involved and at certain stages it looked really silly. I don’t see this at the Thailand Open. The organizers here have to learn from this and rectify problem areas fast should they want to compete with our neighbors. The linesmen were also fortunate as they got a taste of the pace of professional women's tennis which they already had much difficulty judging. The men hit much faster especially on ground strokes and serves. I think what the organizers should do is to send some local representatives to learn from some international tournaments and see how these events are coordinated. But sometimes if it’s just a one off match or exhibition, it’s not cost effective to do that but more economical to get trained line officials, ball boys and girls instead of getting players from the National Tennis team to cover this event. The French Open ball boy/ball girl has a selection criteria. So does Wimbledon. Wimbledon has a proud history of producing the best ball boys and ball girls from their program. I know these are Grand Slams and a tournament in Singapore cannot be compared to a Slam, but this goes to show just how much effort is put into organizing such an event and that no stone is left unturned. It gives a better impression professionally. Well that’s my personal opinion, but I believe for a tournament to be truly successful the organizers needs to give the audience and spectators their money’s worth so they will come again. Reading the local tennis forum in Singapore, we got a lot of mixed responses about the match.

Singapore has still a long way to go in terms of building a professional tennis circuit here. The results of the match didn’t really matter to me. The players didn’t take it so seriously and Anna Chakvetadze seemed be having an off day playing with a barrage of unforced errors and double faults which was rather amazing for somebody ranked 6th on the WTA rankings. She eventually went down 6-0, 7-6 (12/10) to Sharapova. Well everybody has an off day sometimes and maybe this was Anna’s. The main thing was that Singapore was again back on the international tennis map today after a long absence.

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I was a photographer, courtside at the event. So happens I do know some of the players from a previous interaction. Even though they might not have performed as well as the Wimbledon ballboys or girls, I still feel that we should not denouce them so harshly. They only had 2 training sessions prior to the game. Just to let you know, there was a trained ball boy who participated in the Australian Open 2006 there. But he was put in the duty of linesmen. The more experienced players served the role as linesmen whereas the younger ones were the ballboys/girls. This is an opporutinity at exposure for them, and it's the first time for practically everyone. So I feel that we should actually encourage them rather than criticise them. Did you not forget Sylvester Wee's confident call of 'out'? Furthermore, Grand Slam events have courtside microphones, hence the calls are amplified. Like you mentioned, this is only an exhibition match. There were hence no microphones. From my position, the calls were rather audible in fact. I feel that we should rather give our full support to the Singapore tennis youths. Only then will the slogan, "Team Singapore, 4 million strong" be a truth.

i have been in this game for 25 years and seen singapore tennis develop from lela zainal to now...

i think its a wrong idea of getting a country's number 1 player to be a line offical or ball person is encouraging. what kind of exposure are you talking about? a player is always a player. the organising body should explore them by getting professional players to conduct workshops or hitting sessions for our players. this would be so much more encouraging rather then getting them to sit on a chair and call the lines or running and chasing around around for the yellow ball which is not their forte.

i have been a line official for the Spore Henieken Open. if you ask me how do our line officials perform during the MSL match? i can tell you is.. below standard.. line calls are not loud enough, and wrost still, out balls are not even call or signal.. you think 2 practise sessions is is enough to do a good job at a tennis match with 9k spectators? no way man... and STA got their bunch of umpires who are all qualify... i think they should fix the bill better.. get the right person to do the right job.

pardon me, everybody's entitled to his/her opinion.

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