x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Scheme is hitting the right lines, says coach

Changes to the way tennis is organised in the UAE have been greeted with tentative approval from one of the country's longest-serving and best established coaches.

Zeeshan Ali wants the quality of coaching in the UAE to improve.
Zeeshan Ali wants the quality of coaching in the UAE to improve.

DUBAI // Changes to the way tennis is organised in the UAE have been greeted with tentative approval from one of the country's longest-serving and best established coaches, former India Davis Cup and Olympic player, Zeeshan Ali. The sport's governing body, Tennis Emirates, have contracted Mediapro Middle East to oversee the administrative revamp which will see every player, coach, academy and tournament registered with the national organisation. Registration was tried in 2007 but was not carried over in 2008.

Coaches are required to have a minimum level of qualification, tournaments must be ratified by Tennis Emirates and a ranking circuit has returned. Ali, the son of Akhtar Ali, is a former coach of the India, Belgium, Dutch and Malaysia national teams and has coached the UAE Davis Cup team. He said previous attempts to modernise tennis in the Emirates had started well, but stalled. "We had a meeting before the summer when Eric Gottschalk of Mediapro called the coaches together to announce new plans," he said.

"They have great ideas that will benefit tennis in this country but it's still too early to tell what the end result will be. "It's a great idea to register players and coaches and is long overdue. This is not the country it was a few years ago when there were just a few coaches and players here. Now there are lots of people setting up as coaches and the sport needs to be protec-ted." Ali, who holds the highest level of internationally recognised coaching qualification with the US Professional Tennis Association (among others), said unqualified coaches were charging similar rates to his Matchpoint Tennis Academy for sub-standard lessons.

"It is a problem here. There are a hell of a lot of unqualified coaches and, sadly, parents sometimes don't know enough to tell if their child is getting poor quality teaching," he said. "Anybody who has a fancy racket slung over the shoulder and can hit a ball twice over the net is coaching now." Ali also felt that an international coaching course should be implemented by Tennis Emirates. "Coaches should have an instantly recognisable qualification, from organisations like the International Tennis Federation or the United States Tennis Association, so that no matter where they are from, everyone knows what the certificate means," he said.

Ali added he hoped the old teething problems that have seen similar schemes fail to take off, were a thing of the past. "Kids at Matchpoint paid for registration cards during the trial and never received cards. It's a brilliant idea but it has to be done properly," said Ali. "There are people who are a little sceptical and the follow-up is crucial." Gottschalk was confident the new system would stand the test of time.

"From October 1, new members could log on to the website, register and pay online," he said. "Membership will be valid for one year and we will send automatic renewal reminders. "There will always be teething problems but I am convinced everyone is well prepared for the new season, namely because Mediapro already have a dedicated membership co-ordinator in place to answer questions and process applications."

Fees will be waived for the under 10s and cost Dh75 for juniors, Dh100 for adults and Dh300 for coaches. @Email:stregoning@thenational.ae