Dubai Duty Free Tennis: Tournament has been a learning experience for Emirati Al Janahi

He paired with Kareem Al Allaf in the doubles

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Leslie Wilson Jr

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UAE's Abdulrahman Al Janahi. — Supplied photo
UAE's Abdulrahman Al Janahi. — Supplied photo

Published: Tue 28 Feb 2023, 11:58 PM

Kareem Al Allaf and Abdulrahman Al Janahi had not met for six years. Then all of a sudden, they found themselves playing doubles together in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

The chemistry was good, but not good enough to pull the irons out of the fire and beat Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Tomislav Brkic and Ecuador’s Gonzalo Escobar. Though they lost 6-1, 6-3, they had their chances.

“In the second set it got a bit close,” said Al Janahi, the only Emirati player in the tournament. “We were toe-to-toe with them; it was one point here, one point there.

“One of the nice things, when the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships come around every year, is that we are in the tournament environment. Whether we’re hitting partners, or getting wild cards into the tournaments, we get to interact with the players a lot. You see how different the level is, the level of focus it takes and the commitment.”

An engineer from Abu Dhabi, Al Janahi admits that work commitments do not allow him to practice and play as much tennis as he would like. But that does not deter him.

“As part of my work I spend three months a year in South Korea,” he said. “In Abu Dhabi, it's difficult to find people to practice with. I have a few people I play with there, but it's similar to what Kareem does: he comes to Abu Dhabi two weeks a year, and practices a bit. It isn’t enough.”

Al Allaf, who was born in Syria and grew up in Abu Dhabi before moving to the U.S., said he was just happy to have the opportunity to play in a tournament like the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

“I grew up in Abu Dhabi and I played all the junior tournaments here. I then went to the U.S., and played at the University of Iowa,” he said.

“I'm 700 in the world and I was lucky to get into this tournament. I felt like this was my chance. Thanks to Mr. Salah Tahlak (Tournament Director) and the UAE Tennis Federation, but especially this guy (Al Janahi), for helping me get a wild card into singles, and qualifying.

“Today we got to play doubles at home in front of friends, and family”

Al Janahi said that there was "no person more deserving of a wild card than Kareem."

“When I heard there was a slot in the tournament and that I would lay with him the first thing was to fight for him to get the wild card,” he said.

“The past month has been a lot of dedication and working hard to do the best I can on the court. “

Asked what was needed to encourage more Emirati youngsters to play tennis Al Janahi said: “ Searching for talent is the key priority right now. We did have a lot of talent from Kareem's generation. He used to play against my cousin and my younger brother. Let's say they were the prodigies of UAE tennis. They were expected to do great things.

“But that generation has moved on to different pursuits. So for the future, I think searching for talent from a young age is the priority right now.

“We did have our golden player, it was Omar Behrouzian, No. 1 in the UAE, the highest achieving UAE tennis player,” he added. “For the juniors at the moment, we don't have any prospects, but they are searching for talent. Hopefully, we will have something in the next few years.

“It's just about getting the youngsters to enjoy the game. A lot of them, the youngsters, don't enjoy playing because of the pressure that's put on them, a lot of expectations. Getting them to understand and focusing on how they can enjoy it more can help with that,” Al Janahi said.

What did he like most about the chemistry playing alongside Al Allaf?

“I'm more of a singles player. I'm used to playing singles throughout the year. But I did enjoy it. I think once we got onto the court, we had an expectation they would be very fast. The game is very fast-paced in doubles.

“In the end it just showed that they had more experience on a doubles court and it helped them get the last push that they needed, to win. But we’ll be back, for sure.”

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