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Roger Federer spent some time training children during his last visit to Abu Dhabi.
Roger Federer spent some time training children during his last visit to Abu Dhabi.

Tennis Emirates hope Nadal and Federer will inspire

Tennis officials are hoping the chance to watch the world's top two players compete in Abu Dhabi will help the grass-roots development of the sport in the country.

Tennis officials are hoping the chance to watch the world's top two players compete in Abu Dhabi will help the grass-roots development of the sport in the country.

"Watching today's champions performing to a top level here is bound to encourage young players to try even harder to rise to higher levels than they are at the moment," Slah Bramly, the technical director of Tennis Emirates, said.

The third staging of the New Year tennis exhibition at Zayed Sports City, again featuring Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, was officially launched yesterday.

Bramly, who attended the launch, added: "This venue will add further credibility to the UAE capital as a centre for tennis."

The emphasis so far at the Abu Dhabi tournament has been showcasing the talents of the world's leading men as Federer and Nadal were initially joined by Britain's Andy Murray, the inaugural winner, and Andy Roddick, the former US Open champion.

The world's top two now have a quartet of grand slam runners-up in Robin Soderling (Sweden), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France), Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic) and Marcos Baghdatis (Cyprus) in opposition.

At yesterday's launch it was announcement that Mubadala, the government-owned development company, are underwriting the six-man event for at least the next two years.

But no provisions have yet been made to promote the women's game even though nearly half of the spectators (44 per cent) at last year's three-day event were female.

In a survey taken then, 62 per cent of Emirati women who attended the tournament, said that they play tennis regularly.

John Lickrish, the managing director of Flash Entertainment, who established the men's exhibition in Abu Dhabi two years ago, was cautious about doing too much too soon to expand it by inviting top-class women.

The facilities at Zayed Sports City are excellent at Centre Court level but the back-up courts have limited capacity was Lickrish's explanation for reticence.

"If we ran a men's and women's event at the same time then some of the players would have to play on a court that would make it a secondary event for them," he said.

"It is something that we have considered but at the moment we want to make minor tweaks with a view to improving the overall quality of the event.

"But we don't want to do anything drastic that could alter the structure of the tournament," he added.

 

wjohnson@thenational.ae

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