Abu Dhabi Open banks on Arab icon Jabeur to inspire Emirati tennis players

Her participation in the star-studded Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open is going to be a massive boost for tennis in the country

by

Rituraj Borkakoty

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Tunisia's Ons Jabeur is the first Arab player to reach a Grand Slam final. — AFP
Tunisia's Ons Jabeur is the first Arab player to reach a Grand Slam final. — AFP

Published: Thu 11 Jan 2024, 8:54 PM

The Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open (February 3-11) is going to be the first WTA 500 tournament to take place just after the end of the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the new year.

The excitement will reach a fever pitch if Tunisian trailblazer Ons Jabeur, a three-time Grand Slam finalist, makes history Down Under and becomes the first Arab tennis player to win a Major.

But regardless of her result in Australia, Jabeur has already become the greatest source of inspiration for every aspiring tennis player in the region.

Her participation in the star-studded Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open is going to be a massive boost for tennis in the country as organisers are expecting a packed stadium for her matches in the Capital.

“We are very excited about having Ons Jabeur, who is the superstar from this region, probably one of the most exciting players in the world at the moment,” Nigel Gupta, Tournament Director at Abu Dhabi Open, told the Khaleej Times.

“The way the WTA is growing now, it’s a pathway to lead into the new regions and new cities like Abu Dhabi. It’s so important for youth in the next generation to have inspirational players like Ons from the region who they can really relate to.”

Nigel Gupta, Tournament Director (second left)
Nigel Gupta, Tournament Director (second left)

Gupta says the Abu Dhabi Open organisers and the UAE Tennis Federation are banking on Jabeur’s soaring popularity to grow the game at the grassroots level in the country.

“We want to make sure we engage with the schools, we engage with the universities, the younger generation,” he said.

“With the WTA 500 event at the doorstep, we want to make sure that they (kids) have the opportunity to see these players up close and personal, and be kind of an inspiration and hopefully to drive, the future champions from the region and from the country as well.

“I think tennis has become more popular over the last 10 years, the UAE Tennis Federation has also done a lot of hard work. I think a good number of home-grown talent could be identified and nurtured.”

The Tournament Director is also brimming with excitement about a new programme launched to identify the best local players.

“We have got one programme, the Road to Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open, for local players. We have seen over 1000 players participate in it,” he said.

“We have partnered with the UAE Tennis Federation on that as well to create a new series of events within the current circuit, with the idea of identifying and grooming the local talent and try and provide a pathway for development as well.”

The best young players from this initiative will get a chance to train under former French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero at one of the best tennis academies in Europe.

“We will be having the finals of the Road to Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open during the tournament and the winners will be taken to a training camp in Spain at the Juan Carlos Ferrero Academy,” Gupta said.

“We are trying to find the best ways to enhance the development of the top players in the UAE.”


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