DUBAI // Tennis Emirates are ready to take a more active roll in the future of the sport as it implements new measures designed to protect and grow the game in the country. Development measures introduced in previous years, including ranking and registration schemes, had been discontinued after seeming to fizzle out, but now the governing body are promising widespread and long- lasting change. The organisation's general secretary, Dr Abdullah al Nuaimi, said the governing body will regulate the sport in the country and require all players, coaches and tourna- ments to be registered and sanctioned.
"We want everyone involved in tennis in this country to be known to us," he said. "All players, coaches, officials and all private and government institutions providing services to the tennis community should join our membership programme." He said no one would be exempt from the ruling, which was approved by the Tennis Emirates president, Sheikh Hasher bin Juma, working alongside the Ministry of Sports and Youth Welfare. A ranking system has been introduced, replacing the system which was started in 2007, and grass-roots schemes include the creation of national junior training centres in the seven emirates.
New players will be encouraged into the sport via the International Tennis Federation's (ITF) Play and Stay scheme, a first for the Emirates. The strategy has been developed in consultation with the National Olympic Committee to improve the performance of the country's national players in international events such as the Olympic Games and the Davis Cup. A change to the scheduled season, now running from October to September, has brought the calendar for UAE tournaments in line with the rest of the world. In the past, most events clustered around late spring, including the prestigious Dubai Tennis Championships.
Five new circuits have been established, covering junior and adult competition, catering for children aged eight, nine and 10 in the School Circuit, 12 and 14 in the Development Circuit, 16 and 18 in the Junior Circuit and the Open Men's and Women's Circuit. There is a Veteran Circuit for women over 30 and men over 40. More emphasis will be placed on doubles competition as well as singles in an attempt to develop all-round skills and support the team formats of the Davis Cup, Fed Cup and ITF events.
Tournaments sanctioned by Tennis Emirates will count towards the UAE National Tennis Ranking and singles and doubles results will count towards a combined national ranking system, with each season's top eight earning entry into a Masters competition. Prize money will be available for senior tournaments. "Our aim is to organise at least 40 national competitions this season along with the international ITF junior events and veteran's tournaments that we traditionally organise," said Slah Bramly, Tennis Emirates' technical director.
"Hopefully, by the end of the first season, we will have more than 1,000 ranked players taking part in competitions across all emirates." The international performance of UAE teams will also come into sharper focus, although al Nuaimi said that improvements will not happen overnight. Currently languishing in the Asia Oceania Zone Group IV, the UAE Davis Cup team are to reap benefits of the new, more organised tennis structure.
"We want to see improvements but we can't promise we will move into Group II overnight," he said. "That could be a few years away. What we are doing is improving tennis issues in the UAE that will help our international performance." He also warned that unregistered coaches and unsanctioned open tournaments will not be tolerated. "Everything will be organised and regulated so we know who is doing what, who is coaching and if they have the right qualifications in tennis in our country," he said.
"Why would sponsors want to get involved in unsanctioned tournaments anyway? If anyone wants to organise a tournament they have to come under the umbrella of Tennis Emirates." Al Nuaimi said that the 2009/10 season marked a new era of joined-up tennis development in the country and promised the changes were here to stay. "We know we have made mistakes in the past," he said. "We may make new mistakes but we have learnt from the past and we wont make the same mistakes twice."
Changes will be implemented by private consultancy firm, MediaPro Middle East. "Tennis is the only UAE sport to put a full structure in place," said MediaPro managing director, Eric Gottschalk. "We will implement ranking, control of the national competitions, fulfil ITF requirements and satisfy the strategy of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Welfare." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org