Dubai’s Al Habtoor Challenge intends to develop women’s tennis in UAE


The Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge is the oldest women’s tennis tournament in this region, but in the 19 years since its inception in 1998, not one Emirati player has made an appearance in the tournament, not even in the qualifiers. Tennis Emirates is keen to change that in the coming years.

Plan for academy

"We want to use this tournament to develop the women’s tennis," said Sara Baker, the secretary general of Emirates Tennis, at Sunday’s draw of the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge. "The plan is to work with Al Habtoor to create an academy for females, young and old, and develop UAE nationals in specific."

Struggling for acceptance

"We are struggling as a federation to make the UAE society understand this is a great sport for all genders," said Baker. "What we want to do is bring more nationals to come and watch the tournaments. Not just the ATP and WTA, and Mubadala for instance, but they need to see all the tournaments, at all the levels. The more they see females playing, the more accepting they will become."

Growth in numbers

"Tennis is a really good sport in all aspects – psychologically, physically, everything – and we need to make the people realise that," added Baker. "At the moment, there is a huge gap. Now we have five young girls and they are not so bad, but that is not enough. We need to keep building up, as a pyramid."

Working with the schools

"We need to take tennis to the schools, specifically the girls’ schools," said Baker, who hopes to see the academy in existence by the time the next Al Habtoor tournament takes place in 2017. "We are working with the education ministry towards that. That’s how we are doing that."

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