ABU DHABI // Tennis balls whizzed by on gleaming green and white surfaces yesterday as spectators' eyes followed the back-and-forth action.
It wasn't Centre Court at Wimbledon, but an interactive tennis zone inside the capital's Marina Mall.
"The kids are having lots of fun and it's in the mall - in Europe you'll never see this in the middle of the mall, it's unbelievable," said Willem Verhaert, the managing director of Professional Sports Services (PSS), a UAE company that organised the event.
Timed to coincide with the Wimbledon tournament, the "Fit for the Future" initiative is sponsored by Mubadala Development Company, the Abu Dhabi-based investment and development company, and Wilson, the sports gear company.
Amina Taher, Mubadala's communications manager, said the initiative was intended "to enable the local community to get involved in the sport".
The zone, near Paris Gallery in the mall, launched on Thursday and closes on Saturday. It tests budding athletes' tennis skills and fitness levels through tennis drills as well as reaction and accuracy tests, while allowing them to beat the summer heat by staying in air-conditioned space.
Reaction from participants has been very strong, organisers said.
"The parents are all very happy," Mr Verhaert said. "We give them a little introduction to tennis and they can play against each other. There's a reaction speed test, so it's quite competitive and it's good for them."
Ffiona Kirubi, a supervisor from PSS, said, "It's been great to see kids still have an opportunity to still engage in sports even though it's pretty hot outside."
Ms Kirubi added, "It's always good no matter what age you are to engage in some sporting activity - especially in the UAE as the weather doesn't always permit it. It's vital for kids to get used to sports at such a young age and retain that as they get older."