DUBAI // Tennis Emirates face the first crisis of their eight-month existence as plans for a permanent home continue to flounder. The group revealed at a press conference in Dubai yesterday that they are looking to replace the current rent-a-court policy with a permanent national base. "We need our own hub, home and facility and we are not far from it," said Dr Abdullah al Nuaimi, the general secretary of Tennis Emirates. "We've had discussions with both Dubai Sports City and Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi, but both are linked to the private sector where Tennis Emirates would have difficulty in utilising, managing or assisting the running of the centres.
"We spoke to the people responsible for running Zayed Sports City [Abu Dhabi firm Mubadala] and it didn't work, we just couldn't afford the fees." Finance, according to al Nuaimi, is not the sticking-point. "It's not just a question of fees, it is also the ability to manage our own facility. What we want from our home is a local tennis hub that we can manage ourselves. We cannot use it as tenants. Tennis Emirates runs on a society-based system that does not go very well with the privatisation of courts and facilities."
Tennis Emirates, created to control all aspects of the domestic game under one, International Tennis Federation-recognised umbrella, are working to evolve the local game. A technical agreement with the Madrid Tennis Federation brought in Jorge Martin Munoz as the new national coach and he masterminded the Davis Cup team's promotion to Division III of the Asia / Oceania zone last month. With the number of local and international tournaments taking place in the Emirates having trebled since October, the required work is definitely being done.
None of that, however, changes the situation for the four players who spent six hours a day preparing for the Davis Cup on a single, rented court in Dubai. And while doubts linger over the permanent centre solution, Tennis Emirates might have to back-track and hire existing facilities that are under-subscribed, such as the state-of-the-art complex at Zayed Sports City - the home of the annual Capitala Championship.
A spokesperson from Mubadala suggested a deal between the two parties remains a possibility: "Mubadala and Global Spectrum, the sports facilities manager for Zayed Sports City, are in active discussions with Tennis Emirates. The nature of the discussions are confidential, however they are ongoing and we are confident of arriving at an arrangement that is acceptable to all parties involved," the spokesperson added.
Al Nuaimi's preferred option is to establish purpose-built Tennis Emirates facilities in every emirate, with one central hub. "It would not be advisable just to have one huge home," he said. "Better to have a hub that collects national centres across the emirates. We are now appealing to the federal government to provide us with locations where we can build new courts. We're speaking to Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. How lucky will we be? I'm optimistic, because it's proven very difficult to utilise existing facilities, if not impossible."
Al Nuaimi added a new national centre would strengthen the UAE's bid to host its Division III competition of the Davis Cup, announced by Tennis Emirates yesterday. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org