Shaikh Hasher Al Maktoum presents the ITF Award to Abdul Rahman Falaknaz while Nasser Al Marzouqi, Sara Baker, Ahmad Abdul Malek and Roberta Al Julfar look on. Image Credit: Alaric Gomes/Gulf News

Dubai: A former top official from Tennis Emirates (TE) has insisted that the setting up of a dedicated tennis centre is the only way forward for the sport to thrive in the UAE.

Abdul Rahman Falaknaz, one of the founding members of TE in 1983, was presented with the “ITF Award for Services to the Game” award by Shaikh Hasher Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, President of Tennis Emirates in the presence of Sara Baker, Asian Tennis Federation member and TE officials Nasser Al Marzouqi and Ahmad Abdul Malik.

The former vice president of the governing body for tennis in the UAE said the sport will progress only if the nation has a dedicated tennis centre. “I do not understand why we don’t have a dedicated tennis centre in our country. Even lesser-known countries in Asia such as Bangladesh, Oman and Sri Lanka have tennis centres where members of the various national squads can assemble and train. One of the biggest priorities should be to have a tennis centre if we are to see the sport thrive in the UAE,” Falaknaz told Gulf News.

“Over the years we have done everything we could to ensure a phased growth of tennis in the country. The tennis centre is being spoken about since the past few years, but it is now high time we put this as a priority,” he insisted.

Falaknaz became only the fourth person from the UAE to receive the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) highest award for service rendered to the sport. Nasser Al Madani was the first to receive it in 2011, followed by Shaikh Hasher in 2015 and Abdullah Al Shaibani last year.

Falaknaz spent more than three decades in key positions in TE starting off with its establishment in 1983. But Falaknaz made way for young blood in a reshuffle of the board in 2016.

In the past, the board of directors led by Shaikh Hasher has initiated plans to set up a dedicated centre for tennis in the UAE. However, the project has never taken off due to various reasons.

“As sportsmen and administrators of sport in the UAE we all realise the importance of cultivating sports at the grassroots level. At Tennis Emirates we have the wise leadership of Shaikh Hasher and we would urge him to undertake this task of building a tennis centre for the UAE,” Falaknaz said.

“In my opinion, the authorities need to either approach His Highness Shaikh Mohammad [Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai] or Shaikh Hamdan [Bin Mohammad, Crown Prince of Dubai] to make a request. I am sure they will gladly agree to the proposal,” he added.

Falaknaz further said that he would be willing to even fund the project. “I am willing to part-fund the project even if it is a centre with just one court,” he said.

“I think we owe at least that much to our country,” he added.