ABU DHABI // A lack of interest from women players in the UAE forestalled a Tennis Ranking Masters event to be staged for them yesterday, but promising schoolgirls came out in force at the Zayed Sports City tournament.
Serbia's Sofia Sabljarevic took her first tentative strides towards emulating her illustrious compatriots Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic by capturing the Under 16s title, outlasting Grace Talih, the top-seeded Lebanese player, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 in a hard-fought final.
Sabljarevic richly deserved her accolade, having taken out the second-seeded Emirati Fatma Janahi 6-3, 6-0 in the semi-finals. It was the first time she had beaten the top two seeds in the same event.
Rikeeta Perreira justified top seeding for the girls U12s competition by cruising past Raj Sengupta, her Indian compatriot, 6-0, 6-1 in the final.
Perreira made it a double by winning the U14s final title with a 7-6,4-6, 6-4 victory over Sanjana Sudhir in an epic encounter lasting more than four hours.
Slah Bramly, technical director of Tennis Emirates, who organised the festival, was pleased with its success. "It is the first time such a top local tennis event has been hosted by the capital and we look forward to bringing more events here," he said. "At Tennis Emirates we are committed to developing tennis in Abu Dhabi and this is the first step."
"This event provides valuable practice for important tournaments to come. It is not often that the top players from the UAE all enter the same tournament and have a chance to play competitively against each other. It makes it a good measuring tool for our Davis Cup team and helps with the preparation for the GCC championships next month."