(From left) Elena, Alexei, Anthony and Alex Popyrin at the Dubai Tennis Stadium. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Life will take a full tennis circle for young Alexei Popyrin as he plays the qualifying round at the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open on Saturday morning.

As a nine-year-old, Popyrin and younger brother Anthony were ball kids during the 2009 Dubai Tennis Championships. That was the time their dad Alex was based in the UAE for a little over two years, and the youngsters were a constant presence at juniors tennis tournaments along with their mum Elena.

After moving out of the UAE, the Popyrin family set up base in Spain some time in late 2010 and the two boys continued with their tennis careers while participating in Futures tournaments around the world.

Earlier this year, Alex sent in an email requesting Tour Director Salah Tahlak for a wild card. That was the start of realising a dream. “At first it was excitement, and now that I am here I know I am here to play on the very court that I was a ball kid so many years back. It is such an awesome feeling,” Alexei told Gulf News after hitting on Court 3 with Anthony on Friday.

“It’s been my dream to be playing here and tomorrow I will realise this dream. And no, I am not going to be nervous or anything. I love to be on the big stage. I believe I’ve got the game to make it past the qualifying, and that is going to be my goal here this week,” the 17-year-old added.

Tahlak was pleased to have one of the ball kids playing in this tournament that completes 25 years this week. “We’ve always believed in giving something back to Dubai and to tennis,” Tahlak told Gulf News.

“To have one of our ball kids in the qualifying rounds shows that we have been doing something right. We wish him all the best and hope he can make it through to the main draw,” he added.