MELANIE LAU SHU PING might have been hesitant about picking up a tennis racquet when she first started out, but there is no doubting her passion for the sport now.
Introduced to the sport at the age of nine by her mother, the soft-spoken girl who will celebrate her 14th birthday on Oct 30 has gone on to win nearly a dozen tournaments since then.
"I started when my mother asked me if I wanted to play and I agreed, but I didn't really enjoy tennis until I started playing in tournaments," admitted the Form 3A pupil of Chung Ching Middle School, Seria, when met last week.
"I played in my first tournament when I was 10, and I won one for the first time when I was 11 a Belait district-level competition.
"So far I think I have won 11 or 12 tournaments, and I join 12 or 13 every year," she added.
Training at the Panaga Club twice a week, the Malaysian girl who is based in Brunei Darussalam also trains in Miri at the Miri Division Lawn Tennis Association once a week and represents Sarawak.
Counting Sarawak's overall victory at last December's ECM Libra Foundation-Lawn Tennis Association of Malaysia (LTAM) Junior Team Championships at the National Tennis Centre in Kuala Lumpur as her proudest moment in the sport, Lau's says her next tournament will be the 2009 HEAD Singapore International Tennis Federation (ITF) Junior Championships from Nov 14-21.
It will not be her first ITF tournament as she also competed in the Brunei Group 4 ITF Junior Circuit Tournament in March but was knocked out in the first round.
The competition is set to make a return to the National Tennis Centre of the Hassanal Bolkiah National Sports Complex in Berakas from Nov 22-29 and Lau is aiming to be one of the contestants.
The interview eventually shaped its way to the inevitable question, and she was quick with a reply.
"Turn pro? Yeah maybe, but I still have to train harder though," said Lau with a shy smile.
She is not the only one who has the belief she can make the next step in the sport.
"She has the potential to be a world-class tennis player," agreed Panaga's resident coach Domingo Feliciano, who has been working with her for the past three years.
"The only hindrance is the scheduling in schools because it is really tough to balance studying and training and since she is a good student as well, I understand that her parents do not want her to compromise," he added
Feliciano stressed that tons of hours practising would be required to turn Lau into a professional, but it is a target the coach feels can be achieved.
"She has the drive to win. She is very small, petite even, but she has a big heart and a good mind for tennis.
"Everyone dreams about turning pro but to fulfil that you need to be willing to work hard, and you must be in the right environment with the right people supporting you.
"But she definitely has the potential," he repeated.
Courtesy from The Brunei Times