ABU DHABI, January 4, 2017
After a thrilling three days of action at The Zayed Sports City’s International Tennis Centre, The 2016 Mubadala World Tennis Championship reached fever pitch during a nail biting showdown between Spanish sensation Rafael Nadal and Belgian newcomer David Goffin, which saw the reigning champion retain his title and a record-breaking fourth at the tournament. But the true winner of the event was the Abu Dhabi community according to organisers and Nadal himself.
Away from the seven magnificent matches, thousands of fans descended on the Tennis Village over the three day tournament, witnessing a total of nine money can’t buy coaching clinics with tennis’ elite, seven autograph signing sessions from the players and even Al-Ain footballer Omar Abdulrahman as well interactive activities focused on growing the tennis community in the region and giving youngsters the opportunity to get up close to their sporting idols. Due to the tournaments success and feedback from fans, organisers announced that the tournament will return 28-30 December 2017 for the 10th edition, with tickets going on sale soon.
Amongst the youth that accessed coaching from the world’s best was 13-year-old Emirati Hassan Al Nowais, whose dream was fulfilled during a private coaching clinic with none other than World No.1 Andy Murray. Al Nowais, who had earlier reached out to Murray on Facebook to invite him to return to the capital, was delighted with his live encounter with the Scotsman, dubbing the hit about on centre court as an unforgettable experience. Ensuring it was a family affair, Andy’s mother Judy Murray also hosted her own coaching clinic with young children and their parents, to pass on some of the fun yet crucial developmental skills she taught the Murray brothers early on which built the foundations for each to grow and take World No.1 spots in men’s singles and doubles.
Speaking about the importance of teaching children basic co-ordination skills from a young age, Judy said: “You can develop good coordination skills, basic physical skills like running, jumping, skipping, hopping and catching that pretty much underpin any sport that’s out there. It’s not about starting them early with tennis; it’s about starting them early with good, basic physical skills.”
Also hosting a mixed age coaching clinic, Canadian superstar Milos Raonic added his thoughts on the importance of giving kids access to sports and the core skills required, saying: “I think it is one of the most important things – that exposure is critical because then they can see what tennis is about and they can really grow a true passion for it – whether that is a passion to become a top competitive player or even just play recreationally. I think those are all personal decisions, but decisions that after exposing a kid to, the kid can really make their choice.”
Speaking about the noticeable growth in the UAE since the beginning of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship nine years ago, Raonic commented: “It’s very important because here in Abu Dhabi they really try to grow the community of tennis and it’s becoming more and more a part of the culture. It’s great to see the difference in how much it has grown in the past few years alone.”
That growth has also shown tennis is truly a game for all, as the final day was opened with a centre court showdown featuring UAE Disabled Federation tennis players. Showing off extraordinary skills and manoeuvring his way around the court, Mohammed Al Zaraouni from the UAE said that he was thrilled to play on centre court and looking to learn more from the stars of the tournament. Jo Wilfried-Tsonga was on hand during a coaching with the Disabled Federation earlier in the day, offering advice and tips on improving their game.
Building on the sporting star power and delighting Emirati fans, Al Ain midfielder Omar Abdulrahman amplified the tournament experience further after hosting an autograph session. Ahead of his appearance, Omar took some time to have a kick about on centre court with Nadal, testing out the Spaniard’s football skills following a cheeky call-out video Omar directed at Nadal ahead of the season-opener. The pair showed of their flicks and tricks in what acted as warm-up for Nadal’s match, which he went on to win in straight sets.
Reigning champion Rafael Nadal also trained with the stars of the under 10s and under 12s Mubabala Community Cup, which took place across the UAE in the lead up to the championship. The Cup sees local tennis talent from age 8 and up compete to win a once in a lifetime coaching session with the stars of 2016, inspiring the next generation of tennis stars and embedding the sport in the UAE culture.
Nadal was all smiles throughout the session and is renowned for his commitment to offer children access to tennis equipment and coaching across the world. Speaking after this win, the Spaniard said: “When you have success this many times here, it’s because of something special. You like the court, you like the place and you especially like the crowd – I’m very happy here. It’s a great atmosphere and I feel the love of the people. Many thanks to everybody who makes this great event possible each year. Next year is the tenth edition which shows it is special.”