MWTC Diary: Kareem Allaf seizes chance to learn from the very best in Abu Dhabi

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Golden chance: Abu Dhabi resident Kareem Allaf has been the designated hit­ting partner for the players at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.

When it comes to the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, what happens off the court is just as fascinating as the action on centre court each day.

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Many tournaments claim to have big emphasis on the com­munity but this event really put their money where their mouth is.

Between the autograph sign­ings, the on-court clinics and the Q&A sessions, UAE residents have had plenty of opportunity to interact with the ‘Abu Dhabi Super Six’ – the star players of the tournament.

One Abu Dhabi resident who has been given a golden chance is Syrian junior Kareem Allaf, who after relentlessly contacting the MWTC organis­ers, managed to get himself the lucrative position of being the designated hit­ting partner for the players this weekend.

The 16-year-old, ranked in the top 200 in the world junior rankings, has warmed up with Murray before his matches these past couple of days, and had a 90-minute practice with Novak Djokovic.

Allaf wasn’t just on-court with Djokovic, he also had the legen­dary Boris Becker – the coach of the world No1 – feeding him the ball. Talk about pressure!

“It’s an unbelievable experi­ence to hit with the profes­sionals,” Allaf told Sport360°. “When you watch them on TV it’s unbelievable pace and when you try to experience it in real life, it’s like a whole other experience.”

On his 90 minutes with Djoko­vic, he added: “He was really consistent, had a lot of pace and it was really tough to keep up. I was dead after an hour-and-a-half.

“Novak doesn’t speak in practice. But with Murray, he was speaking to me, he asked me a few questions like where I’m from, what do I do, where I’m playing…

“Having Boris Becker on the court added extra pressure. There was another Wimbledon champion on the court, who won Wimbledon when he was just a year older than me.”

Murray said he remembers a time when he was a junior hitting with pros that he looked up to.

“Until I was 15, when I was training at home in Scotland there wasn’t anyone to practice with.

“Then when I went over to Barcelona, I practiced with (Carlos) Moya a couple of times at the academy I was at, and I also practiced with (Guillermo) Coria a few times, he was one of my players to watch. I remember that well,” the world No6 said.

“The kids that I lived with, in the dormitory in the academy, would come and watch the prac­tices and supported me when I was playing points against them. It was probably annoying for the pros coming along and having a bunch of 15-year-olds clapping all of the points I managed to win,” he added laughing.

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