World No. 19 Elena Rybakina visits the Fujairah Tennis and Country Club
World No. 19 Elena Rybakina, who visited the Fujairah Tennis and Country Club last November, being greeted by chairman Abdul Ghafoor Behroozian. The sprawling facility, looked at the foothills of the Fujairah mountains, will host the ITF event. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Fujairah, the northern emirate in the UAE hemmed by the seafront and the mountains, will make a major footprint as tennis hosts when they host the inaugural Fujairah International Women Tennis Tournament from January 18-24.

To be held at the sprawling Fujairah Tennis and Country Club (FTCC), the first edition of the $25,000 prizemoney competition will the biggest on the 2021 ITF Women’s World Tennis Tour Calendar during that week.

“It’s an absolute honour and privilege for Fujairah to enter the ITF ranks with such a high-level competition. Our gratitude goes out to everyone including the UAE Tennis Federation and our chairman Abdul Ghafoor Behroozian, who was instrumental in clearing the hosting of this competition during a short time frame,” tournament director Khalid Ali told Gulf News.

“I need to put my gratitude on record for the patience shown by the ITF especially Andrew Moss from the ITF for accepting our request at such short notice. This is an untapped area as far as tennis goes and I am sure we will all see the benefits of this competition in the long run,” he added.

Ali, a former board member of the UAE TF, took over the functioning of the FTCC last year and has till date, managed to attract emirati talent to train at the facility nestled at the foot of the mountains in Fujairah.

“We’ve had the ITF junior tournaments in the past where we’ve had some of the top stars today like Alexander Zverev and Ons Jabeur making their way through the ranks after playing in our competitions. To use this is a matter of great pride and satisfaction. We have started with baby steps and now we are on the brink of hosting a real big tennis tournament for women,” Ali narrated.

Clinic by Rybakina

Elena Rybakina, runner-up to Simona Halep at the Dubai Women’s Open last year, had conducted a clinic for youngsters at the FTCC in the last week of November 2020.

The tournament will be held immediately after the conclusion of the qualifiers for the 2021 Australian Open that are scheduled to be played in Dubai. “We couldn’t have asked for a better slot on the calendar,” Ali observed.

“While the 16 qualifiers will head to Melbourne, the rest of the girls can have an option of playing at a new event at a new venue for the first time-ever. It is a win-win situation for everyone,” he added.

As per the initial acceptance list, Kaja Juvan of Slovenia is currently the highest-ranked player at No.104, followed by French girl Oceane Dodin (No.107), Greet Minnen of Belgium (No. 110), Swiss girl Stefanie Voegele (No.116), Italian Sara Errani (No.131) and Austrian number one Barbara Haas (No.149).