As a child, Tara Moore was hitting balls at the Hong Kong Tennis Centre in Wong Nai Chung Gap Road when she was spotted by tennis enthusiast, the late Scott Fu.
Fu had connections with the famous Nick Bollettieri academy in the United States, where former top-ranked players such as Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Monica Seles had learned their craft.
So at 10 years old, Moore packed her bags and headed to a new life in Florida, where she trained with the celebrated coach until she was 16.
She then moved to the United Kingdom to pursue a professional career and is currently the fourth-ranked British women’s player.
Although Hong Kong missed out on a top player, local fans will see the 24-year-old Moore in action for the first time when she takes part in next month’s Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open at Victoria Park, alongside world number one Angelique Kerber, Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki.
“It will be my first time to play in Hong Kong,” said Moore, whose father is English and studied at King George V school, and whose mother is from Hong Kong. “I actually return to Hong Kong quite often because my family is there.
“As for the tournament, I can’t predict the future, but I will go out there and do my best and, hopefully, put on a good performance. It’s going to be really good fun.”
Moore, who Bollettieri once said was the best player in his programme, turned fully professional in 2010 and is ranked 168th in the world.
At Wimbledon this year, she reached the second round, bowing out to two-time grand slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova in three sets. Her performance on her favourite grass surface had the British media drooling, with some suggesting the 1.64-metre player could venture deep into the tournament in the future.
Moore has won eight International Tennis Federation circuit titles and is also an accomplished doubles player.
She said she hoped to receive a warm welcome from Hong Kong fans at the October 8-16 tournament and that she still had a good relationship with the Hong Kong Tennis Association.
Her decision to pursue a tennis career outside of Hong Kong was practically forced upon her.
“I was very young when I left Hong Kong,” she said. “Basically, this guy at the tennis centre, Scott Fu … he said I had potential. He was sort of a mentor to me.
“I had some help getting sponsors and before I knew it I was going to Florida. Then when I was 16, I moved to the UK National Tennis Centre and trained there for a little bit.
“It was tough to leave the Bollettieri academy. It taught me so much and Nick taught me so much.
“I also loved the tennis centre in Hong Kong. I was excited to do that at that time of my life and it provided me with a really good grounding.
“In terms of leaving Hong Kong, I didn’t really make that decision to leave, it was kind of made for me. I have a great relationship with Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Tennis Association and you never know what will happen in the future.”
With British tennis enjoying success on the men’s side with Olympic champion Andy Murray winning Wimbledon for this third grand slam, Moore is hoping she can play a part in helping the country’s women reach the top.
“I’ve got to just take each tournament as it comes and do my best,” said Moore, who says her main weapon is her forehand.
“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my career but as long as you love your job, that’s the main thing.
“I had a really good time at Wimbledon this year. I played well and hopefully it’s just the beginning and I can continue that.”