Former world No1 Jelena Jankovic hosted a kids’ clinic at the Habtoor Grand Beach Resort and Spa this week in Dubai alongside Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov, where scores of youngsters got to hit with the tennis pros.
Dolgopolov, who peaked at No13 in the world last year but slipped to a current ranking of No57, has been doing his pre-season training at the hotel for the past few weeks, while Jankovic is a frequent visitor to Dubai and a regular guest at the Habtoor Grand, which plays host to the ITF women’s tournament, Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge.
Launched by Khalaf Al Habtoor, Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group, who is a keen tennis enthusiast, the tournament has been running for 16 years and it kick-started Jankovic’s career when the Serb won it back in 2003.
Returning to the site where she has had lots of success in her early years as a tennis pro, Jankovic was happy to give back to the Dubai community.
“It was lovely seeing such a large group of children attend today’s clinic,” said the 28-year-old. “I hope we have inspired them to enjoy the sport. It was the beginning of my professional career when I won the tournament here.
"When you win it gives you inspiration to win more events and become better. Winning Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge was a great start for me and it will stay in my memory forever.”
Jankovic is coming off a stellar season where she returned to the top-10 after reaching the quarterfinals at Roland Garros, winning Bogota, making the finals in Charleston and Beijing, and finishing the year with a semi-final appearance at the WTA Championships.
This isn’t the first time a kids’ clinic has been held at the hotel this year. Earlier in 2013, former players, Fabrice Santoro and Selima Sfar also spent time hitting with children from across the UAE.
Roger Federer was bundled out of the Shanghai Masters by world number 42 Gael Monfils on Thursday in another demoralising early tournament exit, but the defiant Swiss is still eyeing a strong finish to the season.
Federer, desperate to recapture his best form, went into the match boasting an overwhelming 6-1 record against the flamboyant Frenchman but although he showed flashes of inspiration, he went down 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3.
It follows a fourth-round loss at the US Open and a second-round exit at Wimbledon to players he would have brushed aside at his peak, results that have contributed to a slide to number seven in the rankings.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion described the third-round defeat to Monfils as "a tough loss" but said the margin between success and failure was small.
Federer still believes he can compete at the sharp end of the men's game, saying he can turn his season around as he bids to qualify for next month's season-ending World Tour Finals in London, featuring the top eight players of the season.
"I can still finish strong. I believe that," he said. "There's not much time left. But if I do qualify for London, that gives me an extra shot there. I usually play well indoors. So I hope this year's going to be one of those years again.
"It's just important not to worry too much, to be honest. It's important to keep on doing what I'm doing," added the 32-year-old. "Obviously I might get tougher draws as we move along with my ranking not being in the top four anymore. But that's OK. I don't really care that much about the rankings if I'm not world number one."
Monfils said Federer still inspired fear in opponents. "When he's on the court, he's still Roger. He can rip it from anywhere. He can do stuff that not many players can do.
"Maybe it helps a little bit because you know he has had a couple of losses," he added. "So it's less fear, but still, you know, you're not going, 'OK, I play Federer, it's an easy draw'. No, definitely not."
On a day of shocks in Shanghai, third seed David Ferrer lost 6-4, 6-3 to Germany's Florian Mayer and Tomas Berdych, seeded fourth, saw his campaign ended by Spain's Nicolas Almagro in three sets.
But top seed Novak Djokovic had few problems in disposing of Italy's Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-3 and world number one Rafael Nadal, chasing a record sixth Masters title in a single season, saw off Carlos Berlocq of Argentina 6-1, 7-6 (7/5).
Djokovic, who plays Federer's conqueror Monfils in the quarter-finals, said of the Frenchman: "I'm sure he was very motivated to beat Roger today. He succeeded in that. I don't think he's going to lack this kind of motivation for our match tomorrow."
Seventh seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga brushed aside Kei Nishikori 7-6 (7/5), 6-0 and Juan Martin del Potro progressed with a walkover after German veteran Tommy Haas withdrew with a back injury. Switzerland's eighth seed Stanislas Wawrinka beat Canada's Milos Raonic, the 10th seed, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4.
Top seed Juan Martin del Potro all but guaranteed his spot at the season-ending ATP Tour Finals in London as he beat fellow big server Milos Raonic 7-6, 7-5 in Sunday's Japan Open final to take his third title of the year.
Third seed Raonic, also runner-up last year, had proved an irresistible force at the $1.43 million Tokyo event, not dropping a single set and firing a tournament-high 64 aces before running into an immovable object in the shape of del Potro. Another 17 failed to get the job done against the giant Argentinian.
Del Potro, beaten in the 2008 final by Tomas Berdych, clinched victory with a whipped forehand pass and celebrated with an ear-splitting roar of delight after a hard-hitting contest lasting an hour and 46 minutes.
"This is a fantastic win for me," del Potro told reporters, flanked by the silver trophy engraved with some of greatest names in tennis. "Milos serves aces all the time. You have to try to stay patient and not get frustrated. I waited really patiently for my chance in the last two games. You have to be more aggressive with players like Milos."
Del Potro, given a wildcard to play his first tournament since a shock second-round exit at last month's US Open, caught fire in the 11th game of the second set with four breathtaking points, securing the break with a clinical volley after a classic chip-and-charge.
He double-faulted on his first match point in the next game but made no mistake with his second, reacting superbly to a Raonic volley to blaze a forehand cross-court and seal his 16th career title and third of 2013 after successes in Rotterdam and Washington.
Del Potro, US Open champion in 2009, earned $312,000 and moved up from sixth to fifth in the Race to London standings for the season-ending World Tour Finals. The 25-year-old is also projected to rise from seven to five in the new ATP rankings.
Raonic, who won his fifth career title in Bangkok last weekend, climbed from 11th to 10th in the race to play at the prestigious eight-man event from November 4-11.
"Rankings are just the icing on the cake," said the 22-year-old, who had won his only previous meeting against del Potro in Montreal earlier this year. "There's not a lot to be down about. Maybe that double-fault in the tiebreak. But in the second set he hit four winners to break me – there's not much you can do about that."