Watch: Sabalenka swaps tiebreaks for handbrakes with UAE F3 driver Amna Al Qubaisi

The Australian Open champion takes time out from her engagements at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships to tour the city

By Team KT

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Aryna Sabalenka (left) with Amna Al Qubaisi. — Supplied photo
Aryna Sabalenka (left) with Amna Al Qubaisi. — Supplied photo

Published: Mon 20 Feb 2023, 8:14 PM

Last updated: Mon 20 Feb 2023, 8:20 PM

Australian Open winner Aryna Sabalenka switched topspin for tailspin ahead of her first match at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, taking a guided tour of Dubai with the UAE’s first female Formula 3 driver, Amna Al Qubaisi.

Nestled in a BMW M4 Competition - 50 Year M Edition, the pair took in a host of the emirate’s most recognisable landmarks, including the new Museum of the Future and the world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa. After a pitstop at the city’s famous Kite Beach, the duo exchanged sporting stories, discussed their respective careers, and explored the importance of pushing personal and professional limits.

Aryna Sabalenka (left) with Amna Al Qubaisi. — Supplied photo
Aryna Sabalenka (left) with Amna Al Qubaisi. — Supplied photo

“Being in Dubai is always refreshing – the city has a lot to offer, from fantastic cars to great food,” said Sabalenka, who will take to Centre Court at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on Tuesday after receiving a first-round bye. “Of course, while I’m on the court the energy that the fans bring to the stadium is amazing.”

The Belarusian, currently ranked World No.2, is undefeated in 2023 and Dubai marks her first appearance on the WTA Tour since her maiden Grand Slam victory last month in Melbourne. Facing the Arabian Gulf, Sabalenka and Al Qubaisi stood in the shadows of the famous Burj Al Arab, where tennis legends Roger Federer and Andre Agassi played an iconic exhibition match atop the seven-star hotel’s helipad in 2005.

Aryna Sabalenka (right) with Amna Al Qubaisi. — Supplied photo
Aryna Sabalenka (right) with Amna Al Qubaisi. — Supplied photo

That same year, she revealed, a six-year-old Sabalenka picked up a tennis racquet for the first time.

“I have been playing the sport for 18 years. It’s taken a lot of hard work and dedication to get to the point that I am at in my career, but it is extremely rewarding,” said Belarus’s first Grand Slam champion as she posed for photos alongside Al Qubaisi – two females rewriting the history books in their home countries.

For her part, 22-year-old Al Qubaisi told how she is looking to use her national profile to help empower young Gulf women. In December 2018 – just months after the lifting of a ban prohibiting all women from driving in Saudi Arabia – she became the first female from the Middle East to take part in a Formula E test programme. And less than a year later, she competed in the Formula 3 Asian Championships.

Aryna Sabalenka (left) with Amna Al Qubaisi. — Supplied photo
Aryna Sabalenka (left) with Amna Al Qubaisi. — Supplied photo

“At the age of 13, driving and racing piqued my interest,” she said. “Ever since then, I’ve not looked back. The adrenaline I feel when I’m on the track is unparalleled. Being the first female Formula 3 driver in the UAE is a privilege and I am working to continue to grow the sport across the region, especially for women.”

The two seemed to quickly form a bond, with Al Qubaisi even entrusting her new friend to take the wheel for their journey back to the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel. “You’re a really good driver,” she wrote on Sabalenka’s Instagram. “Next time we go on the track.”

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