Meet the Dubai boy crowned the new national U-14 tennis champion

Tenth grader Rayan Sajjid Koothrat began playing the sport at just three and a half years old


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Sat 12 Feb 2022, 8:25 AM

Last updated: Tue 17 Jan 2023, 11:57 AM

Rayan Sajjid Koothrat, who has been crowned the new national U14 Tennis Boys Champion in New Delhi, began his tennis journey at a tender age when most children play with toys.

His parents put him in tennis classes when he was around three and a half years old.

His coach back then, who soon spotted the talent in the little boy, conveyed to his parents that he had the potential to be a good player if he could pursue the sport.

“I later joined her academy, and since then there have been many challenges, but eventually it’s been an uphill journey for me,” says the student of GEMS Our Own High School, Al Warqa’a.

Rayan, who recently clinched the U14 Boys Nationals in October 2021, held in India, trains for four hours daily on court and does fitness training, while working with his Tunisian professional coach.

“I have been training in Dubai under Coach Chakib Jmaii at Zayed Abbas Tennis Academy for the last six years. I travel to India and other countries for AITA and Junior ITF tournaments.”

Rayan, who has been enrolled under the Knowledge and Human Development Authority’s (KHDA) Rahhal Programme, says that his parents and school have been instrumental in ensuring that his passion for sport continues without compromising his education.

“I try my best to finish my portions as early as possible so that I don’t have to put pressure on my tennis training during the examination time. Most of the times, I train even on the days before I go to take an exam,” says the Grade 10 student.

Rahhal’s programme to support gifted school children in Dubai by allowing them time outside of school to pursue their talents has also proved to be significant in Ryan’s progress.

Under the Knowledge and Human Development Authority’s Rahhal programme, students can attend school part-time and spend the rest of their time honing their main skill set.

Rahhal is the Arabic word for traveller. For students in Rahhal, it means the world is a classroom.

Any Dubai private school regulated by KHDA can choose to participate in Rahhal. Participation is voluntary.


Students in Rahhal are enrolled in their school as any other pupil, so upon successful completion of any stage, they will get the certificate offered by the school.

Rayan adds, “My school helped me in managing things by enrolling me in the Rahhal Programme. I joined the Rahhal Programme in 2019 and I am still part of it today. It is an amazing programme that gives me the flexibility to focus on my dream of becoming a top 10 player in the world of pro tennis, while at the same time not compromising my studies.”

While tennis is undeniably rated as one of the most expensive sports, Rayyan further says, “Everything related to tennis is a costly affair and it is very important for me to get sponsorship for my training and tournament travels to sustain the growth. Up till now, my father has been managing the cost, but the expenses have been increasing every year, and it has now reached a level where sponsorship is really necessary.”

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