Crowning our Building a Championship Scholarship Winners

Tennis Juniors Vienna Lai and Walter Tam on their New Road to Success

HKGTA 20221207 0339[1]
F74075F4 96B7 41A4 8999 316049A228C0[1]

With a dedication to training the best athletes of tomorrow, HKGTA and Rafa Nadal Tennis Center have come together to present Building a Championship Scholarship. The programme which opened for enrolment in September of 2022 brought together some of The Academy’s most promising male and female tennis junior to compete for a full tennis scholarship – covering training costs for a full year, a trip to the first Rafa Nadal Academy in Spain.

Following a cavillous selection process evaluating a myriad of physical ability, sportsmanship conduct and future perspectives, HKGTA made the very difficult decision in awarding Walter Tam (13) and Vienna Lai (15) this prestigious crown.

Ahead of the scholarship programme, we spoke to both winners to get to know them better.

Congratulations on winning the HKGTA Building a Championship programme! How do you feel?

Vienna Lai (VL): I’m thrilled! I was really surprised [with the announcement]. Thank you HKGTA and Rafa Nadal Tennis Center for this amazing opportunity. It is going to be an exciting journey and a chance for me to work even harder! I can’t wait to travel to Mallorca! [I will] keep working hard to pursue my dreams!

Walter Tam (WT): I feel very happy and honoured that I can be training here!


What do you hope to achieve throughout the course of the programme?

WT: hope I can improve my technique and tactics; but the most important thing I want to achieve is my mentality when I’m playing a match. How to control the pressure at a certain moment makes all the difference.

VL: I wish to improve my techniques and mentality on and off the court. I hope to get my first ITF title very soon.


What do you think about HKGTA & Rafa Nadal Tennis Center?

VL: I’ve been training here for a month now. Coaches are professional. Everyone is hard working and friendly. It is an all rounded training especially with a professional physiotherapist. I like the atmosphere and training quality so much. I love to be part of this big family!

WT: I think both RNTC and HKGTA are provide a good environment and programme for training – it includes first class facilities, coaches and attentive players to allow me to ace my game.


What other sports or extracurricular are you involved with aside from tennis?

WT: Basketball!

VL: Besides tennis I also know how to play badminton and table tennis but I enjoy playing the piano and dancing the most. Listening to music always makes me feel less stressed.


You have quite a list of accolades! Which one are you most proud of and what is next on the list you hope to claim?

WT: I think the proudest moment for me in tennis in 2022 was the Thai ITF U14 doubles final. That was the first time that I was paired with my partner and we played a very competitive game, we won champions in both weeks of the tournament.

VL: The most impressive title was the Hong Kong National tournament when I was 14. When I was younger, I used to have a lot of ups and downs in a match. No one has ever believed I could beat the other girls. I’ve never won a singles title before that, and it was also the first time that I beat all the other girls who had a higher ranking than me. My next goal is to get my first ITF singles title… and soon!


Who are some tennis players that you look up to? Why?

VL: I  always look up to Federer and Nadal. They always have the best mentality. I think the hardest thing to control in a match is not your technique or fitness but your mentality. Whoever wins against yourself will win.

WT: Hands down, Nadal. His technique and tactics are extremely impressive. The thing that I want to learn from him is his “fight spirit”.


What do you look for in a coach?

VL: I like coaches who are passionate about my progress and care about my performance in a match. They will tell me what I should improve on and how to grow better as a person.

WT: When the coach sees that players aren’t doing something well enough, they need to call us out. That’s the only way to improve. Doing so requires a lot of patience, and that in itself, teaches us patience.


What is your tennis routine like? How often do you train?

VL: I train six days a week and three hours for every training session. It is actually quite exhausting to have intense training every day after school. I wake up early for school but arrive home really late as I live far away from HKGTA. It is definitely hard to be a student-athlete! But I will do my best and pay my full effort to give what it takes!

WT: I train at HKGTA six days a week for 3 hours. It includes an hour of fitness and two hours tennis. On Saturdays, I only train for two hours and focus only on tennis.


What do you think are attributes a tennis player should have in order to succeed?

WT: To me, the four most important aspects are physical fitness, tactics, technique, and the right mindset.

VL: I personally think that hard work, confidence and self-discipline are the most important factors in order to be a successful tennis player.


If you could compete with any tennis player – past or present – who would you want to play against?

WT: I want to play with Nadal! I think that would be fun and the experience will teach me a lot of his tennis expertise.

VL: I would like to compete against Emma Raducanu. I think I have a similar game style and mental game as her. She’s a rising star!


What are some memorable moments on the court that you can share with us?

VL: This question reminds me of last year’s Junior Billie Jean King Cup in India. I was playing a deciding doubles match against Korea. We were down 1:6 2:5 and the opponent even got a match point. We came back at last, winning the super tie break 10:6. We did not play well from the start, but came back point by point. We ended up representing Hong Kong ranked 6th in the tournament.

WT: I competed in  a match in one year ago which started at 6:15pm and I played for over four hours… up until the court needed to close. That match was exhilarating! I was losing 5:7 2:4 and I fought back in the end to close the gap.

830E922B 1016 40AC 82BA A07CA0898585[1]
IMG 20221120 152724[1]