Tennis official pleased with local boost


Dubai: A top official from the annual Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge (AHTC) is confident the growing interest from the domestic tennis community will further enhance its status as one of the top ITF-ranked women’s tournament in the world.

Now in its 20th year, the AHTC has a prize fund of $100,000 (Dh365,000). First held in 1998, this year marks a major milestone for the tournament. To mark this occasion, the organisers decided to conduct competitions for locally-based players in various age categories starting from boys’ under-12 right up to men’s super singles, with a total prize money of Dh16,000.

The round of 16 matches got under way at the Habtoor Grand Resort Autograph Collection and the Al Habtoor Tennis Academy at Al Habtoor City. The quarter-finals for men, women and super singles will be played on December 13 followed by the semi-finals next Friday, December 15, and the finals the following day.

“We were looking at something that would help us mark this special occasion of completing 20 years, and all of us felt that the best way to do this was have a competition for the local tennis community so that they can be engaged and involved in driving this tournament forward,” Hani Al Khafief, the tournament adviser, told Gulf News.

“It is a fact that not many tournaments last this long. So for us to truly celebrate this milestone we had to do something special as our way of giving back to the local sporting community. Entry to watch matches will be free and we urge people to come and see some of the best players line alongside some of the most promising youngsters,” he added.

“For us it is business as usual and we are all systems go for yet another tournament. Friday is a free practice day and the sign-in for the singles was held between 4 and 6pm,” the official related.

The draw for the qualifying round was scheduled to be held later on Friday with the first round of qualifiers starting off from 10am on Saturday.

This year’s line-up in the main draw features some of the top WTA players including 2016 Dubai Open champion Sara Errani along with former world number seven Belinda Bencic, the 24-year-old from Hungary Timea Babos, former Australian Open semi-finalist Patty Schnyder and Japan’s highest-ranked player Ayumi Morita.

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