The inaugural edition of the WTA Future Stars in Shenzhen, featuring top young talents from the Asia-Pacific, North America and Europe, concluded with an exhilarating finals performance on Center Court today, crowning the first two champions of the WTA Finals at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. 54 players from 23 countries and regions participated in the event which aims to showcase and develop the talent of the next generation of tennis players.
The top under-14 and under-16 players put their skills to the test, throughout the week preceding the 2019 Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen, with the final two decided on one of biggest stages of women’s tennis.
Clervie Ngounoue of the United States emerged victorious in the under-14 event with a 6-2, 7-6(2) victory over Kayla Cross of Canada.
“It was a different feeling for me walking down those stairs onto the big stadium court. To be able to walk off with the win, it was such as great feeling and such a great experience too,” Ngounoue said after her win.
In the under-16 event, Reese Brantmeier of the United States battled past Annabelle Xu of Canada 6-3, 6-4 to emerge as the champion.
“I was honored to even be invited, so to win it is just something on another level. It’s been a fantastic experience all around and winning it just sent it over the edge,” said Brantmeier after the final. “It’s been an incredible event. I got meet so many people from all over the world that I’m hoping I’ll get to see a lot in the future.”
WTA Legends, Zheng Jie from China and Alicia Molik from Australia, presented the young champions with their trophies as they also honored two Future Stars with the Li Na Inspiration Award. The award is given to two young players each year who have demonstrated the highest levels of sportsmanship throughout the tournament and development camp, on and off the court.
The Li Na Inspiration Award recipients who received the honor were Rosie Sterk of Great Britain and Vaiani Dusserre Valleaux of Pacific Oceania.
“It was so exciting. To have so many people watching, but with the reason why we won it—it was really nice,” said Rosie.
“It was exciting with so many people. I was a little nervous but really happy,” said Vaiani.
The WTA Future Stars platform was developed to foster young females at the junior level by dedicating additional resources and programming available through the WTA Tour. What began as a grassroots initiative in 2014, introducing sport to less privileged communities, with 24 players from 12 countries in 2014 has now evolved globally with over 198 participants; and most recently expanded into new markets including the US, UK and Canada in 2019. The program continues to grow showcasing high performance players, providing development and mentorship opportunities from the stars of the WTA.
Donna Kelso, WTA Supervisor Operations, Member Relations and Tournament Director of the WTA Future Stars said, “It’s very exciting and rewarding to have been involved with WTA Future Stars since its inception, beginning with 12 countries and 24 players, to now 23 countries and regions with 54 players here this week. The level of competition has increased in depth, as well as the number of players we’ve been able to give this opportunity to. The brand itself, WTA Future Stars, has evolved such that it’s been recognized by federations around the world who are wanting to be involved with the event. It’s become recognized more and more by WTA players and coaches and through that we’ve been able to put together a much more in depth and diverse program. WTA Future Stars itself is not only about competition, but it’s a more holistic opportunity for young girls to thrive in life, using tennis as our platform.”
Melissa Pine, WTA Vice-President of Global Program Development added, “We’re extremely proud to see this event grow in leaps and bounds this year. The WTA is an inspiring platform for girls around the world. The WTA Future Stars program is the perfect vehicle for our organization to give back to the next generation of women who will benefit from the values tennis provides. Whether they become a professional WTA player, or the CEO of their own company, the experience they have gained here will leave a lasting impression.”
For more information and tickets to the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen, please visit www.ShiseidoWTAFinalsShenzhen.com.