By Lin Xinyi
WHEN he was 15, Kenneth Low followed his heart, packed his bags and headed to the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida.
Never mind that some friends and even family questioned the move.
Bollettieri has coached 10 world No.1 players, so attending the boarding school which combines intensive tennis training with an academic curriculum was a step the aspiring tennis professional was ready to take.
There, the former St Andrew's Secondary School student put in countless hours on the court and in the gym.
But a torn tendon in his shoulder in 2004 limited his progress.
Before he had completed his University of Miami Online High School diploma course, Kenneth, then 17, returned to Singapore.
Determined to remain involved in the sport, he started the Sports Management Group (SMG) a year later, and is its managing director.
The Hong Kong-based Entertainment Group and the SMG were the organisers behind Maria Sharapova Live - an exhibition game between the former world No. 1, whom Low knew from his days in the academy, and fellow Russian Anna Chakvetadze at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in 2007.
Earlier that year, the SMG was also involved in an exhibition game featuring Roger Federer and Pete Sampras, two of the sport's all-time greats, when they starred in the Clash of The Titans in Kuala Lumpur. It was played before a sell-out crowd and was a huge success.
So, even if his career path did not work out like he originally planned, Kenneth, now 20, has no regrets.
'Without going to the tennis academy I wouldn't have met the agents and players...The trip opened my eyes. I realised there was more to tennis than playing the sport.'
More recently, the SMG co-organised the inaugural Racket Sports Asia Tennis Championships with Racket Sports Asia.
The tournament, which ended last month, boasted a total purse of $25,000 - the largest for an amateur tennis event in Singapore.
In addition to the prize money, the co-organisers each coughed up $25,000 for operating costs, said Kenneth.
Such a move during the global financial crisis, which has seen numerous sponsors worldwide pulling out of sports events, might come as a surprise to most.
But he believes there is a need for tournaments that can attract top players from the region and raise the level of local tennis.
The former national junior tennis player said: 'SMG focuses on bringing world-class sports entertainment to Singapore.
'The development of local tennis is something that's missing... and I want to give back to tennis with a platform like this.'
As in any business, he hopes that the annual tournament will be a financial success in the long-term.
But that is not his only goal.
He said: 'Hopefully, a champion from this tournament will go on to become a world-class player.
'I hope to play a part in helping to groom someone that will go on to represent Singapore.'
This article was first published in The Straits Times.