·WTA Finals Ambassador Martina Navratilova leads Masterclass featuring 2014 WTA Future Stars Champion, Karman Kaur Thandi
· Sania Mirza honored for reaching WTA Doubles World No.1 and impact on tennis in India
All three champions - Navratilova, Mirza and Thandi - came together with WTA Finals Tournament Director and Vice President Asia Pacific, Melissa Pine, to lead a clinic which provided 34 budding young tennis players a unique opportunity to interact and learn from the global icons of the game. The masterclass saw Navratilova and Mirza demonstrate their legendary knowledge alongside Thandi and Pine, showcasing the talents and strategy that took them to the top of the game. It was part of an Asia-Pacific-wide WTA Future Stars grassroots initiative that seeks to engage U14 and U16 girls across the region for an opportunity to play at the season ending BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, which starts on October 23, 2015.
Pine stated, “Global icons such as Martina Navratilova and Sania Mirza have the power to inspire the next generation of tennis players in India and all over the world. We are in a unique position at the WTA to bring young, aspiring tennis players closer to their idols through events such as the WTA Future Stars clinics and provide them with a rare and unique opportunity to watch, listen and learn from the world’s greatest female athletes.”
“It’s wonderful to be able to share some of the knowledge I have gained in my many years of playing to young players like Karman,” said Navratilova. “She represents the future of the women’s game and it is my hope that events like the WTA Future Stars Masterclass and ultimately the WTA Finals inspires many more like Karman to pick up a racquet. My experience as a WTA Finals Ambassador last year was extremely positive and I am excited to return again in 100 days to this magnificent event.”
In India, more than 40% of the population follows tennis and the sport is continuing to grow in popularity with youngsters. Navratilova clearly enjoyed her time on court with Mirza and the kids and spoke with passion about current stars needing to engage and inspire the next generation of players. India will be sending representatives to compete in the 2015 WTA Future Stars tournament and aims to defend the U16 title after Karman Kaur Thandi lifted the inaugural trophy in 2014. Thandi has since gone on to represent India in the Fed Cup and is currently competing on the ITF circuit.
Not only did stars of the game demonstrate their expertise and share their knowledge with the next generation, the WTA also presented Mirza with a token recognizing her significant tennis achievement. Pine presented Mirza with a necklace on behalf of the WTA to commemorate her ascension to the WTA doubles No.1 ranking - becoming the first Indian woman to hold that honor.
“Thank you very much to the WTA for this recognition,” said Mirza. “I feel extremely honored to be No.1, it’s something that I’ve worked for all my life. I hope this makes girls in India believe that anything is possible; we can achieve anything we want if we put our mind and body to it. I am also happy that I was able to host the WTA Future Stars Hyderabad Masterclass at my Academy. Karman made India proud in 2014 by winning the Under 16 final. I hope to see another champion from India win the WTA Future Stars in Singapore at the 2015 WTA Finals. I’m also happy to attend the WTA Finals this year again as defending doubles champion.”
Due to their success on the 2015 Road to Singapore, Mirza and her partner Martina Hingis have become the first doubles team to qualify for the 2015 WTA Finals after winning Wimbledon last week.
After the presentation, Mirza joined Navratilova, Pine and Thandi on a panel at the Sheraton Hyderabad to speak about the masterclass, importance of doubles to the women’s game, 2015 WTA Finals and the impact of Mirza’s achievements on the rise of tennis in India.
Ms. Kalvakuntla Kavitha, Member of Parliament, Nizamabad Constituency in Telangana stated, “Congratulations to Sania for making India proud. Martina’s presence today and Sania’s winning will grow the seeds that I am hoping will grow. I will always give my support to Sania and the academy from my government. With this latest victory the Sania effect has grown, I hope it only increases.”
Always an inspiration for youth, Navratilova passionately added: “Do what you love. I love tennis; I never stopped loving it, that’s why I am still around it. It gave me a great life and if you do what you love, you will do it well, at whatever level. I always try to be the best tennis player, best hockey player, best pilot, and basically in whatever I do, I try to do the best even when no one is looking. Always be competitive, look in the mirror and say I did my best or I could have done better and that is it.”
Pine utilized the press conference to show her great confidence in the future of the Asia-Pacific region: “It has never been better than now. Looking back to 2008 when we opened the WTA office in China, we had only two events and now we have two offices in Asia Pacific, with as many as 23 events in the region. For the first time in history, Asia is hosting the year end finale, attracting all eyes of the world. We look forward to welcoming Martina Navratilova and Sania Mirza with her new partner Martina Hingis, back to Singapore. It inspires the new generations along the way. Tennis has never been better. ”