UAE’s Salah Tahlak hit a new milestone for the Arab world when he was voted onto the prestigious 12-member WTA Global Tournament Council Board, an announcement revealed yesterday.
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Tahlak, the tournament director of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and vice president of corporate communications at Dubai Duty Free, has been a member of the ATP Global Tournament Council since 2010 and has now become the first Arab, GCC national and Emirati to serve on both tournament councils on the men’s and women’s tours.
Through his role as a council member, Tahlak will participate in high-level debates and discussions that decide the governance and future of professional tennis.
Commenting on Tahlak’s recent election, Colm McLoughlin, the executive vice chairman of Dubai Duty Free, said: “On behalf of Dubai Duty Free, I want to sincerely congratulate Salah on his election on to the WTA Global Tournament Council Board.
“This move is a reflection on the importance that Dubai and the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships have put into building up tennis in the region.
“Since taking on the role as tournament director of the Dubai Tennis Championships 11 years ago and subsequently being appointed to the ATP Tournament Council four years ago, Salah has been a great ambassador for Dubai and Dubai Duty Free and has shown unparalleled commitment to the sport of tennis, both here in the UAE and around the world.
“During that time Salah has represented the UAE in the international tennis community, in many different roles. Earning the trust of his colleagues once more is a tremendous accomplishment, and this election to the WTA Council proves that the world of tennis believes in the importance of his work.”
The Global Tournament Councils comprise representatives from players and tournaments alike and are responsible for issues such as the annual calendar, rules, regulations, governance, prize money, bonus and new events.
The next ATP and WTA Tournament Council meetings will be held in Melbourne, Australia, in January to coincide with the Australian Open.
The Spanish duo of Nicolas Almagro and Feliciano Lopez will replace Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gaël Monfils at the forthcoming Mubadala World Tennis Championship.
Tsonga has been forced to make a last minute withdrawal from the upcoming event in Abu Dhabi due to an arm injury while Monfils suffered a torn hamstring earlier this week.
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Speaking following his withdrawal Tsonga said: “Unfortunately my team have advised me that I need to rest my arm in order to give myself the best possible chance for success in 2015. I am very disappointed that I will not be able to compete this year in Abu Dhabi.”
Nicolas Almagro will return to the capital for a second time, having exhilarated fans by reaching the final two years ago, finishing runner-up to Novak Djokovic in a thrilling match.
He will open his 2015 campaign on day one of the annual tournament against reigning Australian Open Champion, Stan Wawrinka, and if he makes it through that match, will have another chance against Djokovic on day two.
"The tournament will give me a great opportunity to play against the top players in the world and of course I’ll be hoping to repeat the success I had two years ago although I know it will be tough,” Almagro commented.
Monfils will also be withdrawing from the tourament following an injury and is set to be replaced by World No14 Lopez.
After a strong performance at Wimbledon earlier in the year the Spaniard went on to beat Rafael Nadal in Shanghai, a defeat the world number three could look to exact revenge for in the competition.
Six of the world’s best players will compete for the title in Abu Dhabi with Almagro and Lopez joined by world number one Djokovic, world number three Nadal, Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray.
Between them, this year’s line-up hold 24 Grand Slam titles and all three previous tournament champions will return to the capital in January.
Tickets for January’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship are on sale at www.ticketmaster.ae and all Virgin Megastore outlets across the UAE or by calling 800 TM UAE (800 86 823).
Prices start from AED 50 for upper bowl seating, with exclusive premier hospitality packages also available including food and beverage offers, star player meet and greets and premier stadium seating.
Pete Sampras believes the first step to producing tennis talent in the UAE should be building a national centre that can act as a hub for the sport in the region.
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Sampras, who made his first-ever visit to Dubai last weekend when he participated in the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL), has been critical of American tennis of late, claiming it will take a long time before his country can return back to its glory days in the sport.
But while he is not currently optimistic about tennis in the US, Sampras sees plenty of potential for growth in the Middle East and the 14-time grand slam champion says having a facility to nurture talent is essential.
“You need a facility, like an academy to bring [together] all the great athletes from around the region,” Sampras told Sport360°. “You can get good coaching, good technique, good information – from nutrition, to weightlifting, everything. Just develop an arena to build champions. And that’s a start.
“And from there, you hopefully find a couple of good young pros who have some talent and you help them throughout the years and hopefully you’ll find someone that’s great.”
Tennis Emirates, the federation governing the sport in the UAE, have recently stated that plans for building a national tennis centre were in the works, but no details have been revealed regarding the location or timeline for the completion of the project.
At the moment, Al Nasr Club provides a couple of courts for the national team players to use but there is no official venue dedicated to the training of local talent.
There is only one player ranked in the ATP at the moment, that is Omar Behroozian, who lies at No1,847 in the world.
On the junior level, three boys – Fahad and Fares Al Janahi and Abdulla Ahli – are between No1429 and 2324 in the world, while no girls are currently ranked.