This young Emirati tennis player can't wait for Nadal's comeback

Marwan Al Janahi, who once played a practice round with Nadal in Abu Dhabi, is inspired by the Spanish legend's fighting spirit

by

Rituraj Borkakoty

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Rafael Nadal arrives for a practice session in Brisbane. (right) Marwan Al Janahi played a practice round with Nadal a few years ago in Abu Dhabi. — X/Rituraj Borkakoty
Rafael Nadal arrives for a practice session in Brisbane. (right) Marwan Al Janahi played a practice round with Nadal a few years ago in Abu Dhabi. — X/Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Thu 28 Dec 2023, 9:10 PM

Last updated: Thu 28 Dec 2023, 9:11 PM

You cannot blame Marwan Al Janahi if he is itching to watch the Brisbane International (December 31-January 7), a warm-up tennis tournament ahead of the Australian Open.

This 15-year-old Emirati tennis player is curious to see if his idol, Rafael Nadal, can cope with the demands of competitive tennis again.

The 36-year-old is making a comeback after a year-long absence due to a hip injury — the latest in a long list of injury issues that have plagued the Spanish icon.

But it’s the never-say-die spirit of Nadal that has endeared him to millions of tennis lovers, including Marwan.

Nadal fans are hoping that he performs a miracle again and adds to his 22 Grand Slam titles in what could be the final season of an incredible career.

Unlike the vast majority of Nadal fans, Marwan can boast about exchanging a few shots with the icon on a tennis court.

“It was at the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Tennis Championships a few years ago that I met my idol, Rafael Nadal. I had a few hits with him on the practice court,” Marwan told the Khaleej Times.

Marwan (left) on a practice court with Nadal in Abu Dhabi
Marwan (left) on a practice court with Nadal in Abu Dhabi

“I admire all great players like Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. I am also a big fan of Dominic Thiem because of his style of play,” he says.

“But Nadal’s is the most inspiring story. What amazes me is that he is basically a right-hander, he writes and eats with his right hand.

“But when he plays tennis, he uses his left hand. It’s incredible.

“Also, his fighting spirit, he never gives up, he keeps coming back from every injury crisis. He never shows any emotions. That’s why I love him so much, he also is a really nice person, on and off the court.”

Marwan also fondly remembers the day when he met Nadal’s greatest rival, Federer, for the first time.

Marwan with Federer at the 2019 Dubai Tennis Championships
Marwan with Federer at the 2019 Dubai Tennis Championships

“I have been a ball-kid for several years in the Dubai Tennis Championships. I have worked in matches featuring players like Djokovic, Federer, Daniil Medvedev, Nick Kyrgios and Stefanos Tsitsipas,” he says.

“I have been able to speak to a few of these players. The most memorable one was Roger when he won the Dubai title in 2019, it was his 100th ATP title.

“My dad (Naser Yousef Al-Marzouqi) is the General Secretary of the UAE Tennis Federation. He took me to Federer, I was very nervous, but I was very happy at the same time to be able to meet a legend like him.”

Marwan also has tennis ambitions of his own.

Marwan serves during a local match
Marwan serves during a local match

“I come from a tennis family. Most of the Emirati tennis players like Hamad Al Janahi are from our family,” said Marwan who began playing the sport at the age of four.

“I have been playing ITF events and tournaments organised by the UAE federation.

“My goal is to become the best Emirati player and the best player in the Gulf region. Hopefully, I can also play ATP tournaments and the Davis Cup for the UAE.”

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