Former world tennis champion Martina Hingis could not hold back her tears during a visit to a Phuket kindergarten yesterday, where she met children who had lost their families in the tsunami tragedy.
The Swiss player, a VIP guest of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, was overwhelmed as she was told how Maneerat Ruengrat and Akkarapong Wongsupab were orphaned by the tidal wave. She was shown pictures of their destroyed homes by her compatriot Tony Perdon, who has fostered the two orphans.
Hingis paid a visit at the Patong Kindergarten in Patong district yesterday morning and was welcomed by 20 young children affected by the tsunami. She autographed tennis balls for them and left a message in the visitors’ book that read: “Wish you all luck from now on after the things you have been through. I hope to support from far away”.
The 24-year-old, accompanied by Mario Widmer, a friend of her mother, and her manager Lisa Chaffey, also stopped by at Patong beach.
She spent some 25 minutes exploring the affected area and expressed her sympathy for the victims to Lawn Tennis Association of Thailand vice-president Chaipak Siriwat.
She said she had read news about the incident at home and realised many people had lost their lives. As a Unicef representative, she decided to visit the island to lend a helping hand.
Hingis said she was impressed by the fast recovery of tourist attractions and the environment and that she planned to return in November.
Chaipak, meanwhile, invited the former queen of the court to play an exhibition match during her next visit here to commemorate the first anniversary of the tsunami.
Hingis entered the US$170,000 (Bt6.5 million) WTA event in Pattaya last week, but lost her first match against German Marlene Weingartner in three sets. She is hoping to return to the women’s circuit after being sidelined by an injury.
Published on February 08, 2005