HYDERABAD, India – Playing with a world champion is a dream come true for sports fans and potential athletes, and on Tuesday 30 local junior players and 10 children from the Freedom Again Foundation had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be on court with six-time Grand Slam winner and two-time WTA Finals doubles champion, Sania Mirza.
Mirza, who is the only player from India to achieve the WTA World No.1 doubles ranking, joined WTA Future Stars 2016 Indian representative Shivani Amineni and Bollywood superstar Neha Dhupia to lead a tennis clinic at the Sania Mirza Tennis Academy in Hyderabad.
Dhupia kicked things off with a fun warm-up session, while Mirza and Amineni demonstrated doubles drills and tactics on court, offering professional tips on match strategy and the winning mentality. Melissa Pine, Vice President of WTA Asia-Pacific and Tournament Director of the WTA Finals, also joined the trio to stage a doubles masterclass.
“It means a lot to me to be a part of the WTA Future Stars again this year," said Mirza, who is hosting the WTA Future Stars clinic in Hyderabad for the second time. "The WTA Future Stars masterclass provides the platform to impart my knowledge, encourage more kids in India to lead a healthy lifestyle, and inspire future tennis stars to believe in themselves and achieve their goals.”
For the 10 children from Freedom Again Foundation, the WTA Future Stars clinic provided a chance to learn a range of basic tennis skills, some of them being introduced to the sport for the very first time. For the 30 local junior tennis players, the masterclass provided a unique opportunity for them to gain valuable and professional on- and off-court advice from the WTA stars.
"The children from Freedom Again Foundation have thoroughly enjoyed the invaluable experience today, learning from our local tennis superstar Sania Mirza and rising talent Shivani Amineni. We are heartened by the WTA's support to conduct the WTA Future Stars clinic here, inspiring our children to pursue their passion, no matter what it may be,” said Mushir Mohammed Khan, spokesperson for the of Freedom Again Foundation, an NGO that supports the needs of the underprivileged and increase standards of living in Hyderabad through food distribution, monetary and clothes donations and other special projects.
After its first stop this year in Bangkok, the WTA Future Stars program continues to succeed as an initiative that aims to promote the sport and bring together players from across the Asia-Pacific region. In the WTA Future Stars tournament, held in conjunction with the BNP Paribas WTA Finals presented by SC Global in Singapore, each country sends two representatives, one each in the U14 and U16 categories, to compete against each other in October. The WTA Future Stars regional outreach will make its next stop in Indonesia in September.
Amineni, 2016 WTA Future Stars alumnus and U16 runner-up, said, “Participating in the WTA Future Stars last year was a great motivation for me to work hard and continue to pursue my passion. Last year’s experience was an amazing one for me, and making the final in Singapore has really driven me to push myself harder to achieve my dreams of becoming a professional WTA player.”
“I’m so happy to be back to be able to share my story with the next generation of WTA Future Stars. I hope to be able to inspire my peers here to chase their dreams to embark on their own journey in the race to the WTA Future Stars finals in Singapore in October later this year."
WTA Charities is the WTA's global philanthropic organization dedicated to making a positive impact across the globe. Our mission is to be a social responsibility vehicle built on the WTA's values to empower and provide for a better future. We're dedicated to combining, strengthening and enhancing the community and charitable efforts of the WTA through its members (players, alumnae and tournaments), along with our partners.