The WTA Future Stars tournament is held yearly in conjunction with the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. As part of the program, top U14 and U16 female tennis players from 21 countries around Asia-Pacific are provided valuable experiences and exclusive insight into the world of professional women’s tennis.
As the Junior Race to Singapore drew to a close,Mio Kozaki and Ayu Ishibashi emerged the champions of the U14 and U16 qualifying events. Seasoned players with considerable experience at international events, Kozaki and Ishibashi will be gunning for both titles at the WTA Future Stars event.
“I can’t believe that I managed to fend off all my opponents and qualify for the WTA Future Stars event! It’s going to be a great week in Singapore, playing matches,learning from my peers and the best in the industry,” Mio Kozaki exclaimed after winning her final match in the qualifiers.
Kozaki is the top U14 junior in Japan and is already travelling around the world competing in international tournaments., Her best result so far was achieving second place in an International Tennis Federation (ITF) Grade 5 Nepal Junior tournament this year. This left-handed junior is striving for bigger and better results. Her short-term goal is to be the top girl Japanese junior player and her long-term goal is to compete on the WTA circuit and win all 4 Grand Slam tournaments.
What makes Kozaki such a formidable opponent is that she loves the demanding athleticism of the sport.
“I love running for the ball, it gives me a sense of determination and feeling of achievement when I eventually do win the point,” she told the WTA Finals team. “The more exhausted I feel after a match, the happier I am because it means that I worked hard.”
When asked what she will be focusing on in the lead up to the WTA Future Stars event, Kozaki had it all planned out.
“I’m focusing on improving my strength, so that I can hit more powerful shots”
She acknowledges that she is currently not a very hard hitter but will use the WTA Future Stars event in to learn from her peers how hit more aggressive and penetrating shots.
“I’m so proud to be representing Japan at the WTA Future Stars event. I hope that my performance will reflect well on Japan, and enhance awareness of tennis in my country,” Ayu Ishibashi told the WTA Finals team.
Filled with patriotism, it is only fitting that her favourite player be newly crowned US Open Singles Champion and fellow compatriot, Naomi Osaka.
“Naomi is so calm and mild-mannered, both on and off the court, she is a fitting representative of our Japanese culture. At the same time, she’s incredibly courageous and tenacious during her matches and plays the most amazing tennis,” explained Ishibashi. “I hope that she manages to qualify for the WTA Finals so that I can watch her play live!”
Ishibashi hopes to follow in Osaka’s footsteps and has set her eyes on a long-term goal- to play at a Grand Slam tournament. She might be only 16 years-old, but she is self-aware, and is always striving to overcome her weaknesses.
“My weakness is my footwork, I really need to improve on that. I hope that I can learn to move around the court faster. I think that’ll help me become a more all rounded tennis player,” Ishibashi acknowledged.
Ishibashi cannot wait for the Meet the Mentors session that will feature the WTA Legends and believes that she will gain valuable advice from them.
“I’m looking forward to meeting the WTA Legends who will be in Singapore this year., I consider myself so lucky to be able to get advice from these esteemed women and past champions!”
The WTA Finals team wishes both Kozaki and Ishibashi the best in their preparation for the WTA Future Stars event in Singapore!
The WTA Future Stars event is held in conjunction with the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. Catch the WTA Future Stars U14 and U16 Finals on 21 October before the opening ceremony of WTA Finals for free. Click here to get your tickets to the WTA Finals.