SINGAPORE - It takes a powerful mix of resilience and positivity to become a WTA Legend, two qualities that Tamarine Tanasugarn, the highest-ever ranked woman from Thailand, undoubtedly exhibited in her 22-year career.
“At my time, we had to fight,” Tanasugarn recalled earlier in the week at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. “My mom and dad and myself, we had to do everything on our own. It does take time, you do right and wrong things.”
Tanasugarn fought to become a Top 20 player in both singles and doubles, winning 12 titles across the two disciplines. Since retiring in 2016, the three-time Olympian hopes to inspire a next generation of young talent by running her own academy - appropriately called The Ace - and through the WTA’s Future Stars program.
“I’m concentrating on the under-10 tennis, because I want to expand more tennis players in Thailand, when they’re having fun and love to play tennis. It starts from the kids. When they’re into tennis, they’re still focused on having fun with the tennis. I love to see that, and when you have a lot of players who love tennis, definitely I hope in the future we will have a tennis star from Thailand again.
“The WTA also has that goal, to help Thai juniors to know about how fun tennis is, and learn about the tennis life, what is a good opportunity for them. If you’re starting doing well in the juniors, it gives a great opportunity with education. You can get a good scholarship overseas, like in the States or Australia or many countries. So it does give you a lot of opportunities to meet so many important people everywhere in the world. I feel happy, because tennis gave me a lot of things in my life.”
Among others, it gave her the opportunity to travel the world, something she continues to do in her third year of coming to Singapore.
“You can see all the cultures and everywhere in the world. Everywhere is changing, everywhere and everything is new. I miss that because since I retired, I probably do a lot of stuff at home with my family, but traveling is fun. I’m happy to see all my good friends again, with all the memories we had on the Tour. It’s just fun.”
On hand for the WTA Future Stars trophy ceremony and various WTA Legends events throughout the week Tanasugarn brought a definite sense of fun to a career that spanned over two decades. playing her best tennis on the lawns of Wimbledon, where she reached the second week a whopping seven times, upsetting then-World No.2 Jelena Jankovic to finally reach the quarterfinals in 2008.
“Wimbledon is really my favorite tournament. I always wanted to do well there, and I’m glad I’m just kind of happy when you love to play tennis and you’re enjoying playing tennis, challenging yourself. It’s just great memories at Wimbledon.”
Peaking at World No.19 in singles, she also reached the second week once at each of the Australian and US Opens, and it was at Arthur Ashe Stadium where Tanasugarn both endured and enjoyed one of her career’s most memorable moments.
Two games from knocking out former World No.5 Daniela Hantuchova back in 2003, Tanasugarn held serve for 5-3 and screamed in celebration, saluting her support team as she strolled to net, thinking she’d already won.
“Ohh,” she cringed, dissolving into nervous groans at the memory. “Wow. Wow, wow. I’m very embarrassed though, actually! Me, I just played point by point, but I sometimes miscounted the games. At that time I was only thinking, ‘Okay, I have to hold my serve to win the match,’ but I thought that was my last game.
“I jumped and everybody was quiet, and Daniela was looking at me strange. I was like, ‘Oh, what happened?’ I looked: ‘Oops, 5-3.’ And I was like, ‘Uhh.’ I was jumping, because we were on a center court.”
Where another player may have froze in response to such an obvious gaffe, she returned to the baseline and smiled, ready to win the match for a second time.
“Luckily I had quite positive thinking. I was like, ‘Okay, if I win the match, I will jump even more.’ I just focused on myself, and good that I managed to finish the match. It’s kind of embarrassing; nobody does that on a center court, but I did!
“It happened, and you can’t stop a lot of moments. Whether you want it or not, you can’t control it sometimes, but you have to move on and be positive. I could have gone the other way, like, ‘Oh, what am I doing?’ But I’m kind of glad that I managed to be positive and forget about that thing, and lucky that I made that match.
“Life...oops!” the Legend finished with laugh.