Opinion | Off the Cuff

A tennis fan's first live match in Dubai

Watching the stars battle it out on the tennis court

  • By Mahmood Saberi, Senior Reporter
  • Published: 20:00 February 19, 2013
  • Gulf News

I am not a very sporty type and the thought of getting up early on the weekend to smash furry balls around the tennis court fills me with dread.

But for some reason I love to see people play and I have spent long hours lying on my couch, late into the night, watching practically every game in the Olympics, such as beach volleyball, and tennis, which has become a very popular spectator sport thanks to some stunning female players.

When I read a newspaper report recently about how people queued up in the unearthly hours of the morning to buy tickets to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships men’s finals and semifinals, I was intrigued and felt the urge to go and see the matches.

The report said the tickets for the main events on March 1 and 2 had sold out within hours of the opening of the box office at Garhoud and the buyer of the first ticket had stood in line since 1.30am at the Dubai Tennis Stadium.

Expensive clinics

These must be huge fans, I thought to myself, of a game which I had heard so much about in my home over the past couple of years as my son was being pushed into various expensive tennis clinics to help him build up muscle and speed.

After a couple of years, and a couple of even more expensive racquets, my son has gone back to more interesting hand-held games.

The sale of tickets were being restricted to four per person to avoid ‘black-marketing’ and organisers were warning people against buying tickets from scalpers — those guys who make money standing in queues and selling tickets for an obscene profit on eBay or souq.com.

Sure that I would not get tickets for the first-day match between the striking six-footer Serbian Ana Ivanovic (‘the reason why men watch tennis’) and the powerhouse Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, I cajoled my sports journalist colleague to sneak me into the stadium.

He asked me to wait at a coffee shop at the Irish Village on that day of the match and handed me a ticket to a seat in the grandstand and disappeared into the crowd chatting into his mobile phone.

I am a bit ashamed to say that I have never watched a tennis match in Dubai before, even when Sania Mirza from my hometown drew a packed house some years ago.

I sat on the last seat up high above the court and suddenly realised it was a chilly evening and I had forgotten my jacket back at my workplace. This was the first match played in the night.

The two players strode onto the court exactly at 7pm to enthusiastic applause from us, and their brief bios were displayed high above on a screen.

Someone in the stands shouted, ‘Ana’ and I was reminded of the article I read in our tabloid! section about the rules and etiquette of watching a tennis match and when it is proper to cheer or clap (when someone two rows ahead stood up to go out, she was politely told to sit down as the match had begun).

In Ana Ivanovic’s bio it was mentioned that she was presently living in Basel, Switzerland. That immediately sent me into a reverie about her lifestyle, which I imagined would be eating Swiss chocolates, gorging on Swiss cheese, going for walks with the beautiful Alps in the background.

But obviously, the lifestyle of the tennis stars is a bit different than that and five minutes into the game and despite the chilly breeze, there was a sheen of sweat on the shoulder blades of the players as they battled it out for the big money.

Gulf News
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