Dubai : French player Aravane Rezai feels the need for more top tennis tournaments in this part of the world, if the sport is to make an impression on young minds here.
"It is very important that we have more tournaments as this will be one of the ... quicker ways in raising the profile of women's tennis in the region," Rezai told Gulf News after beating Austria's Sybille Bammer in three sets 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 on Monday.
"I know such big tournaments don't happen here all the time, but there is a need for similar events that will be evenly spread out during the year so that players have a better chance of knowing the place and its culture. Of course, this is not my decision but only a suggestion," Rezai stated.
Though born and brought up in France, Rezai's parents migrated from neighbouring Iran.
She took up tennis after a childhood stint as her older brother's ball girl. Rezai is currently sitting on a career-high ranking of No 21.
Though she competed for Iran at the Women's Islamic Games, winning the gold medal in 2001 and 2005, Rezai had to make the choice of representing her adopted country with a heavy heart.
"Yes, you can say that I have had the best of two worlds. But with all honesty, I love to play here because this is a Muslim country and I can identify with the place and its people and feel at home.
"Secondly, there are a lot of Iranians here and whenever I play I get support from the French and the Iranians," she explained. "This is one of the countries that I can relate to and share my feelings with and identify with. The people here understand my religion and culture and this is very close to my Iran. I live in France and have dual citizenship, but I was born in France, so I have to represent France rather than Iran," Rezai said.
Yesterday, she fought till the very end before going down in three sets 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 against sixth seed Jelena Jankovic in their second round encounter.
"Winning against top-ten players means I have the game.
"It's just the question of having the experience and that can happen only with time," shrugged the 22-year-old.