x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Tennis superstar Tomas Berdych coaches Abu Dhabi children

180 children in Abu Dhabi got a chance to train with the world's sixth-best tennis player, Czech superstar Tomas Berdych.

Czech tennis superstar Tomas Berdych with Amina Taher, Head of Community Engagement at Mabadala, and students from different schools in Abu Dhabi at the official launched this year's Mubadala Tennis in Schools and Mubadala Community Cup initiatives at the Zayed Sport City tennis stadium on Monday, Oct. 15, 2012.
Czech tennis superstar Tomas Berdych with Amina Taher, Head of Community Engagement at Mabadala, and students from different schools in Abu Dhabi at the official launched this year's Mubadala Tennis in Schools and Mubadala Community Cup initiatives at the Zayed Sport City tennis stadium on Monday, Oct. 15, 2012.

Khalifa Mohammad Hammadi is only 11, but he knows what he wants to be when he grows up.

The schoolboy's ambition is to be a tennis star, so was thrilled to meet the world's sixth-ranked player on Monday, Tomas Berdych.

Khalifa has been playing for four years and has a court at his home.

"I practise with my friends every day and eat healthy food to help make me a better player," he said.

Berdych, from the Czech Republic, was launching this year's Mubadala Tennis in Schools programme and the Mubadala Community Cup at Zayed Sports City.

He held coaching classes for 180 children and their PE teachers.

Berdych will join Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, David Ferrer, Janko Tipsarevic and, injury permitting, Rafael Nadal to compete for the Dh250,000 prize at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in December.

Al Yasat private school's principal, Lesley Isherwood, said it was inspiring for pupils to meet one of the world's best sportsmen.

"We can always improve and move forward, especially with opportunities to do something like this. The children can go and see him [Berdych] and they love it. It's an extra exercise," Ms Isherwood said.

Sultan Rashid Al Hamali, 10, had only played tennis a handful of times but said training with Berdych had prompted him to find more time for it alongside his swimming and football training.

Ali Nasser Edden, assistant PE teacher at Al Dhafra School in Al Ain, said his pupils had excellent facilities for sports, including new tennis courts.

Berdych said he would have loved the opportunity to get professional advice when he was a child.

"This is great motivation for them and a great start," the player said. "As long as there is a chance [to go professional] they will want to play tennis and they'll have to play three times a week for an hour. Then they'll have to keep the consistency for a certain amount of time."

Berdych said to go professional, compromises would have to be made, even at a young age. But he added that playing any sport would be a healthy foundation for life.

eharnan@thenational.ae