Dubai: Abdul Ghafoor Behroozian, the Chairman of the Fujairah Tennis and Country Club (FTCC) has predicted a boom in the sport following a surprise visit from 2020 Dubai Open finalist and current world No. 19 Elena Rybakina.
The 21-year-old Russian who switched her allegiance to Kazakhstan in June 2018, is currently on her preseason training in Dubai with coach Stefano Vukov and physical fitness coach Dario Novak, while building up towards a proper functioning season next year. The young Kazakh, who lost in three sets in February to then world number one Simona Halep, took time off from her training schedule to pay conduct an impromptu clinic with tennis trainees at the FTCC, on Tuesday.
“For Elena this may not be a big thing. But for us in Fujairah, her visit is surely going to inspire these young kids into something big in tennis in the future,” Behroozian told Gulf News.
“Her visit is perhaps the first of many steps that we have planned to ensure that some big tournaments happen in this part of the country. Hopefully, she [Rybakina] will honour us with her presence then as well. We are in consultation with the proper authorities in tennis, and we will reveal these plans in the near future.”
Behroozian promised that Fujairah has the full support of the authorities to bring in quality tennis tournament to the emirate. “We have adequate facilities here to bring a few tennis tournaments here, and we are going to spend time and money to make sure that this kind of tournament takes place in Fujairah. That was our aim from Day One and we are closer today than we were six months ago,” Behroozian related.
“Of course, we have started talking to the ITF and they have been advising us on our next steps. There are some steps that we have already taken with the guidance of the ITF and that’s why I am saying we are much closer now than before,” he insisted.
Rybakina joined some of the youngsters at the FTCC tennis courts along with former UAE Tennis Association General Secretary Khalid Al Ali and his panel of coaches. The World No. 19 moved around with the youngsters and encouraged them to stick to their dreams.
“Once upon a time I too was a young kid wanting to do well. I had a dream and I have started fulfilling this dream. I am happy to be of help to these young players as my presence will definitely encourage them to do better in their sport in the future,” she added.
Born in Moscow, Rybakina began with Gymnastics and ice skating, but was advised by her dad to switch to tennis as she was too tall for either of the sports. And although she received no proper formal tennis training, Rybakina first carved a niche for herself with a career-high junior ranking of No. 3 and along with it two junior Grand Slam semi-final appearances at the age of 17.
“I quite like this place really and it will be a pleasure to visit Fujairah some time again,” she said.
“The people are so nice and friendly and the facilities here are amazing. If they really have the vision and focus, I am sure they can venture out and stage some international tournaments in the future. They have five courts, a gym, swimming pool, accommodation and everything else that is needed to conduct tournaments. I wish them well,” she added.