Wilson Cup looks to attract more female players

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The Abu Dhabi Wilson Cup produced 15 champions in 20 different categories.

A total of 470 players, competing in different age categories from Under-8 and above, took to the courts over three weeks at Zayed Sports City (ZSC) and more than 15 champions were crowned on Friday’s finals day.

It was the highest number of entries in the competition’s four-year history with trophies up for grabs in 20 categories (10 junior, four Open and six Cup).

With Open aimed at ex-professionals, coaches or advanced players and Cup for recreational and social, only 80 of those 470 participants were females.

Women’s Open champion Magali De Lattre took her fourth title, while Tanya Nanda (U-14), Anaya Singh (U-18 and Girls Cup), Maria Karachaliou (U-12) and Virginie Afota (30 plus) were among the other females to taste victory.

While Meeuws was pleased with the number of entries, the 37-year-old wants to increase the participation in the women’s game.

“The challenge is to get them involved in tournaments who do not usually play in tournaments before,” said the Belgian.

“The great thing about the Abu Dhabi Wilson Tennis Cup is that it is divided into Cup and Open divisions. The Open is for advanced players, while the Cup is for social and recreational. It’s open for any ability because we believe a tournament isn’t just about winning. At the end of the day, it’s about participation and developing.

“Females need to realise that this is a fun and social experience. Winning is not everything.”

Organised by ZSC and supported by PSS Academy, Wilson and the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, the community tournament – one of the biggest in the region, continues to go from strength to strength.

This year saw almost 600 matches played with the youngest player just six-years-old, while the oldest was 58.

It’s part of the organisers’ vision in promoting tennis and living a healthy lifestyle and is also a learning curve for the players especially for the juniors.

Their U-8, U-9 and U-10 events were round-robin, providing the opportunity to gain as much match practice as possible.

“For the younger kids, it’s crucial to get this exposure and get used to this tournament environment. They will get used to different things like dealing with a referee and wind conditions and playing against kids they don’t know,” added Meeuws.

“What I’ve been impressed with the most is the behaviour of the players. There was great sportsmanship. There was fair-play, smiles and they had plenty of fun. The standard of play was great but the sportsmanship and fair play was one that made me really happy.

“We want to develop grassroots and at these community events, this is where you build friendships.”

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Balooshi counts positives despite UAE's defeat to Belgium in Tennis Nations Cup

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Buoyant: Mahmoud Nader Al Balooshi.

Al Balooshi, who together with Omar Behroozian and Fahad Al Janahi, formed the UAE (A) team, welcomed the return of the competition following a five-year hiatus and said the week-long event gave the Emirati players some much-needed match practice.

The 22nd edition of the Nations Cup, held at Al Nasr Leisureland, saw UAE’s first team come through Group B before falling to Belgium.

“It was a great competition after a very long absence. We got to play some strong matches, it was very beneficial for us,” said the 36-year-old Al Balooshi, a long-time figure in the UAE’s Davis Cup squad.

“We were in desperate need to test ourselves, find out where we’re at, and the competition was stronger than usual this year.

“Omar was injured and couldn’t play in the semis. I wasn’t feeling 100 per cent either in the semis because the competition took its toll on me. We played lots of long matches over a whole week.”

Al Balooshi hailed the efforts of 17-year-old Al Janahi, who is being groomed to take over the Davis Cup helm after he and Behroozian retire and said: “Fahad’s results were really great. If he continues playing at this level, we expect him to lead the UAE team in the future.”

In the finals on Saturday, Belgium beat the Philippines 2-1 to take the men’s title along with Dh20,000, while the Belarusian/Russian duo of Angelina Gordienko and Katerina Karpuk sealed a 2-0 victory over the Philippines to triumph in the women’s event to claim Dh10,000.

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KEF Tennis Challenge displays talents of emerging tennis stars in UAE

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Over 70 participants took part in the event from all over the world.

The Eighth Annual KEF Tennis Challenge hosted by KEF Holdings, a UAE-based multinational diversified group that specializes in innovative offsite construction technology, concluded on Saturday, 5 March, with action-packed finals that saw Amit Batta and Vishesh Bhatia emerging as champions in the Group A category, and Ahmed Zachariah Faizal and Saad Yenepoya clinching the honors in the Group B category.

In Group A, pairing Batta and Bhatia won 6-2, 6-1, defeating opponents, Ganesh and Syed Zohair Raza in an exciting contest. The Group B finals saw Faizal and Yenepoya beat Thomas Jacob and Aaram Kurian, 7-6 (7-2), 6-2 with the four players battling it out to the finish.

This year’s tournament welcomed 70 players from the Middle East, US, UK, Germany, India, Mexico and more. The event was launched in 2009 by Faizal E. Kottikollon, Chairman and Founder of KEF Holdings and Shabana Faizal, Vice-Chairperson of KEF Holdings, who felt the need for a tournament that celebrated tennis as a sport at a grassroots level and encouraged players of all ages and backgrounds to pursue their love for the game.

Speaking at the finale, Shabana Faizal, Vice-Chairperson of KEF Holdings and Director of the KEF Tennis Challenge, said: “We are pleased to conclude yet another successful edition of the KEF Tennis Challenge, which celebrates sporting talent and invites talented players from around the world to display their best tennis.

“The sheer enthusiasm and sportsmanship displayed by our players both on and off the court year after year, tells us that the initiative that we have been running for the past eight years is indeed something that people look forward to.

“It is especially heartening to see players from countries including Kazakhstan, Pakistan, India and Mexico using this tournament as a platform to compete and interact with each other. For us, the tournament has always been a way to engage with seasoned regional, international and amateur players and understand what is important to them and what excites them.”

Category B winners: Ahmed Zachariah Faizal and Saad Yenepoya with Tournament Director, Mrs. Shabana Faizal, Vice-Chairperson of KEF Holdings, Mr. Phil Wickham, CEO Kaufmann Fellows and Mr. Faizal Kottikollon, Chairman and Founder, KEF Holdings.

Category B winners with their cheque at the post-match presentation. 

Vishesh Bhatia, one of the winners of tournament, added: “I have played in the tournament for several years now and have become more and more confident in my game. It is great to have a win under my belt but more than anything this weekend was a fantastic opportunity to meet other passionate players. I am really grateful to Mr.Faizal and Mrs. Shabana for this opportunity.”

Following the final matches, which took place at the KEF villa in Sharjah, winners and runners-up were awarded with trophies and cash awards totaling US$10,000. The guest of honour was Phil Wickham, CEO – Kaufmann Fellows, who also participated in the tournament, having traveled from Palo Alto, USA to be a part of the tournament.

Faizal E. Kottikollon added: “Eight years down the line, I still look forward to the challenge with the same level of excitement. It is great fun to watch players of all ages and backgrounds bond over their common love for this sport.”

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