x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Advantage UAE after keeping place in Davis Cup Group III

Jose Martin Munoz, the UAE tennis coach, confident his team can make it to the next level with proper planning and hard work.

Hamad Janahi of UAE returns a volley against Shahin Khaledan of Iran in theie Davis Cup qualifier match held at Aviation Club in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
Hamad Janahi of UAE returns a volley against Shahin Khaledan of Iran in theie Davis Cup qualifier match held at Aviation Club in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

Anything that could go wrong, went wrong. That Murphy’s law sums up UAE’s campaign over the past week in the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group III.

On the eve of their opening rubber against Pacific Oceania, Hamad Al Janahi was rushed to hospital with a suspected kidney infection.

Mahmoud Nader, returning to the team after a two-year absence and called up for doubles, had to take Al Janahi’s place for UAE’s opening singles.

The next day, Omar Al Awadhy, the torchbearer of UAE tennis, was just two games away from giving his team an unassailable 2-0 lead against Cambodia and a place in the promotion playoffs when he picked up a stomach injury that scuppered those hopes.

Nader then sprained his ankle in the doubles against Vietnam on Friday and was rushed to the hospital.

Despite those setbacks, the UAE held on to their place in Group III and the national team coach Jose Martin Munoz is proud of the fight his wounded soldiers put up.

“Even with all these inconveniences, we thought we were very close [to qualifying for the promotion playoffs],” the Spaniard said. “We are not far. So we are really looking forward to the next Davis Cup.”

The next Asia/Oceania Group III matches are scheduled for April and, given their experience here, both Munoz and Al Awadhy are optimistic about their chances of challenging for a place in Group II — a grade they have never made before.

“We were in Group IV last year, and the first year in Group III is not very easy,” Al Awadhy said. “So our target was to try to stay in Group III.

“Yes, we had our chances here. If we were very far from the other teams, I would be like, ‘Yes, we still have a lot of things to do’.

“But because we were not very far, because the matches we lost were very close, I feel that it’s not a big difference.

“Hopefully, if we can stay 100 per cent fit, make sure we are physically ready, I think we can challenge these teams. We want to give it a go next time. We were not far this time, so obviously it is an achievable target but we have to work very hard to try to get there.”

Al Awadhy has set himself the task of getting into better physical shape and getting enough matches under his belt through tournaments in Britain and Qatar. Munoz is hoping his other players will also hit the Futures Tour.

“We need to sit down with the federation and make a good schedule for these seven months,” the Spaniard said. “It’s not going to work if we go just one month before the tournament to prepare.

“It’s better to prepare right through the year: have the players playing Futures tournaments, have a good plan, have at least two or three good courts for practice. That will make it easier to reach our goals.”

arizvi@thenational.ae