x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Abu Dhabi tennis is much more than just exhibition game

The organisation required to stage a world-class tournament is a lengthy and challenging process.

The organisers also have tried to ensure that it is a fun experience for the entire family as well as for the players' relations.
The organisers also have tried to ensure that it is a fun experience for the entire family as well as for the players' relations.

Greg Sproule is the managing director of IMG Middle East, the Mubadala Tennis Championship organisers. He speaks about this weekend's events and the planning process that makes it all possible.

 

"The Mubadala World Tennis Championship is an event that is nine months in planning. It involves people from all around the world. There is our Miami tennis team, our London team, our Australia team and our UAE team.

"So there are many people involved, both internally but also from the volunteer perspective. We are very fortunate to have over 100 volunteers from Abu Dhabi generously giving us their time, not only to make the tournament as successful as it can be, but also for their own interest in tennis and in being good citizens of the community, and also being able to spend some time near the greatest tennis players in the world.

"Some of those people involved will be drivers to the players, some of those people will be ushers in the stands or they will be other volunteers around the facility. It is a real team effort.

"It [the idea for the tournament] was a discussion that took place several years ago with the Executive Affairs Authority and they viewed tennis as being something that, from a legacy perspective, would help address issues of obesity, diabetes and good healthy living and eating.

"Tennis is viewed as something that hits over all those points and more. So when we designed the tournament the legacy was to address those issues and to be active in the community with community and schools tennis initiatives.

"Mubadala, as our title sponsor, has embraced all of those activities - whether it be over 350 participants in the Mubadala Community Cup, whether it be our successful tennis in schools programme at over 40 schools in Abu Dhabi, whether it be working with tennis coaches to further their tennis skills and so on.

"Those things begin as early as October. So this is really October, November, December and part of January of an effort. It's not just a three-day tennis event with the best players in the world; building activities into that three-day event, they go back quite a way.

"The Mubadala Community Cup involves people winning the opportunity to be in a tennis clinic with one of the star players. And that is in all the age groups. So many very relevant touch points for the community [make this tournament] and that's the reason why the tournaments exists at the grass-roots level.

"It certainly [is an initiative] to promote Abu Dhabi as a sporting hub, but the grass-roots initiatives are very important to Mubadala and to our other sponsors, which we take very seriously.

"We have a multitude of activities around the tournament. The clinics start taking place at 10 o'clock in the morning. These are the star players clinics. We've got many other things that go on.

"We've got autograph sessions in the village before the matches, we've got players going into the corporate hospitality areas, we've music, we have all sorts of interactive areas, we have great food, we have a merchandise area for Nike that is going to be very impressive, we have got automobile displays, we have so many other things that make it an activity for the whole family.

"Mubadala have an interactive zone that is going to be spectacular, with mini-tennis and many reflex fun games, and many, many other things that will be very interactive and really fun for everybody in the family.

"IMG is in a fortunate position to manage many of the top tennis players and so we are able to have these conversations early when their schedules are being shaped. That gives us an important early-mover advantage in the discussion with the players.

"Many of these players do play in our other tennis events around the world so they are aware of the quality of the tennis events that we run and we make sure that they are well taken care of.

"Just as importantly, their families have a lot of fun when they are here. And Abu Dhabi is a great place to come and visit this time of the year.

"Jo-Wilfried Tsonga arrived [yesterday] morning and he is going to be training in Abu Dhabi before the championship. And the same thing with Robin Soderling.

"So they recognise the assets that Abu Dhabi has: the weather, the hospitality, the hotels, the tennis facilities, and the enjoyable things for their families to do makes it a really great place to come.

"Set up in advance of the Australian Open, which takes place in the third week of January, we mirror those conditions here, both with the surface and the balls, and the high level of competition. So it's a real great start to the year, but it's also an important start to the road to the Australian Open as well."

* Interview by Ahmed Rizvi