x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Progress made by Emiratis a sign of clinic's success

Impact of training with world¿s best players, such as Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, encourages coaches to continue Mubadala Tennis in Schools programme.

Ali Mansouri and Ali Khouri got a chance every young tennis player dreams of when they exchanged shots with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal during last year's Mubadala World Tennis Championship.

Now the 12-year-old Emiratis are emerging as stars of the local tennis scene because of the Mubadala Tennis in Schools programme.

"These two kids are now pursuing playing at the higher level," said Gyath Rustom, one of the tennis coaches who will again visit the schools to develop local talent as part of the third Mubadala Tennis in Schools programme.

Rustom believes more Emirati children will take up the sport because of the tennis drive that is expected to attract hundreds of youngsters aged seven to 11 between now and December in the build-up to the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.

"Logically each school is going to start with 20 children and with visits to 40 schools planned, we are looking at an 800 figure including some kids who may have never picked up a tennis racket. Let's say we choose the most talented two from every school, which gives us 80 children, to take them to the next level as well as hundreds of others who are getting involving and playing," Rustom said.

The 80 young players will take part in a skills competition at Zayed Sports City on December 10 and eight will then be selected to play on the opening day of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship on December 29.

"I am very optimistic of this programme," Rustom said. "I can say, if we do it properly, providing them the right programme and keep them in the programme, we will have four or five kids who will be good enough to pursue at the higher levels in the sport.

"Visiting schools and looking for talent is only the beginning. We have a second programme to take those selected to the next level. Part of that includes the Mubadala Community Cup as a natural stepping stone giving slightly older kids the chance to compete against others of a similar standard … And then obviously carry on from there until they reach the highest point of their careers."

The Mubadala Community Cup continues this weekend with the Under 10s and Under 14s competing at Al Raha International School and Abu Dhabi Country Cup respectively.

apassela@thenational.ae

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