This tennis fan travelled from Poland to Dubai with grandson to support Iga Swiatek

But Elizabeth Okine's son-in-law is a cricket fan who admires Brian Lara


Rituraj Borkakoty

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Elizabeth Okine (left) with her grandson Joseph and son-in-law Joseph Richards. — Photo by Rituraj Borkakoty
Elizabeth Okine (left) with her grandson Joseph and son-in-law Joseph Richards. — Photo by Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Thu 22 Feb 2024, 10:24 PM

Last updated: Thu 22 Feb 2024, 10:25 PM

Draped in an elegant white dress, Elizabeth Okine was taking in the picturesque settings at the Irish Village, which houses the Dubai Tennis Stadium, the venue for the award-winning Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Elizabeth looked on as fans passed by and people at the eateries enjoyed their beverages and snacks.

It was 5 pm and Elizabeth seemed to be in no hurry to get inside the stadium and grab her seat.

The reason which brought her from Krakow, Poland, to Dubai was Iga Swiatek, her compatriot who is now a national icon in her country.

The four-time Grand Slam winner was scheduled to enter the centre court for her quarterfinal match at 7 pm.

So Elizabeth, 64, had plenty of time to enjoy the settings, before getting into the stadium to cheer for her favourite player.

“We are all very proud of Iga in Poland. People in our country always loved tennis, but the sport has become so much bigger after Iga started winning Grand Slams,” Elizabeth said.

The impact of world number one Swiatek can also be seen in Elizabeth’s family with her eight-year-old grandson, Joseph, now showing a serious interest in the game.

“We have come here to Dubai for this tournament. Joseph plays tennis now, and he really loves the sport. In fact, a lot of young kids have started to play tennis after Iga’s success,” said Elizabeth who played tennis in her youth.

Joseph lives with his mother, Klaudia, and Elizabeth in Poland.

His father, Joseph Richards, a flight attendant at Emirates and a Dubai resident, is not such a big tennis fan.

“I am from Trinidad and Tobago. I like tennis, but of course, I love football and cricket, these are the two most popular sports in my country,” said Richards.

Richards admitted to trying to get his son into football.

“I kind of pushed him into football, but he is a better tennis player. He adores Polish players like Iga (Swiatek) and Hubert Hurkacz. Also, his mother (Klaudia) was also a very good tennis player,” he said.

Richards doesn’t have a favourite player in tennis.

“I have come here with my mother-in-law and son because they love tennis. I love cricket and football,” he said before revealing the name of a family friend who is also a cricket icon.

“I have known Mr Brian Lara for a long time. My uncle is his family doctor, so we go a long way back,” said Richards who also admires other West Indies icons like Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh.

Richards, who met his wife in Dubai when she also worked for the Emirates, said cricket does make its way into the dining table conversations in the family.

“My son, my wife and my mother-in-law know cricket. My son knows very well, he also knows how big Mr Brian Lara is for West Indies,” he said.

While Prince Lara is Richards’ favourite cricketer, his mother-in-law opened up about her ‘best’ tennis player of all time.

“Among the young ones, I like what I see of Jannik Sinner. He is very good. I also like (Novak) Djokovic, who is obviously a great player,” Elizabeth said.

“But I love Roger Federer. He is the master, the best player ever!”

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