The Mubadala World Tennis Championship opened its door today for the ninth edition of the season-starter in Abu Dhabi, and showed what it’s really all about – the next generation and future of tennis! Before a single serve was hit on the opening day the world’s best tennis players took time ahead of their matches to coach and meet local children on ‘Kid’s Day’.
World No. 1 Andy Murray, fourteen-time Grand Slam Champion Rafael Nadal and World No. 10 Tomas Berdych all spent precious moments to inspire and encourage emerging young tennis stars of the future on court and in the Tennis Village.
Unlike no other championship in tennis the action at International Tennis Centre, The Zayed Sports City, goes way beyond the sublime play of six of the world’s top 12 players on centre court. The tournament creates unique memories by giving youngsters the once in a lifetime opportunity to practice with their heroes and offers fans unrivalled access to the world’s leading players.
For Murray a friendship that started online became a dream come true for local fan Hassan Al Nowais. Thirteen year old Al Nowais took to social media and invited his tennis idol to come back to the capital and his hometown of Abu Dhabi, with the World No.1 graciously replying to him and the world that he would accept the invite and return. Today not only did they meet for the first time but Al Nowais played on centre court and got some valuable tips from his new friend, the reigning Wimbledon and Olympic Champion. The pair even had time for a hilarious interview with Al Nowais quizzing the Scottish star in a video for social media.
On meeting his idol, Hassan said: “After Andy spoke to me on social media, I didn’t think it could get any better. But today I played tennis with him, the World No.1, and it is something I will never forget. It was awesome. I told him I had an amazing slice and after seeing it in action I think he agrees with me. I’d definitely say Andy and I are friends now so hopefully he can keep giving me tips.”
Current champion, Rafael Nadal, trained with the stars of the under 10s and under 12s Mubabala Community Cup, which took place across the UAE in the lead up to this weekend’s Championship. The Cup sees local tennis talent from age 8 and up compete to win a once in a lifetime coaching session with the stars of 2016. Czech Tomas Berdych also took time ahead of this match with the Spaniard to rally with winners of the under 14s and under 16s Cup champions.
Speaking after this training session, Nadal said: “I always enjoy taking time to encourage children with their game. I’ve been coming to this tournament for many years and just as the city is growing and emerging so rapidly, so is the passion for tennis. More kids seem to come each year. A huge part of it is about supporting and building the next generation of tennis talent in the United Arab Emirates and that can only be good for the game.”
Away from the courts, the Tennis Village came alive in true Kids Day style, as a hive of activity challenged the tennis knowledge and skills of the capital’s youngsters. Fans even had the chance to meet World No. 3, and finalist last year, Milos Raonic at the Kids’ Day Q+A session. The Canadian posed for photographs and signed autographs, before he answered questions among a host of eager fans.
If that wasn’t enough, UAE football legend Omar Abdulrahman dropped by to check out the event and spent time with Rafael Nadal. The Al Ain striker recently spoke about hoping for a kick-about with Nadal, who is a huge Real Madrid supporter, and did just that on centre court. The video which can be seen online shows fans young and old watched the pair sharing some football kicks and tricks, Nadal showing he’s an all-round talented sportsman.
Commenting on the day, Abdulrahman said: “It was great to see Rafa today and I hope our quick football session was the ideal warm-up for this first match and start to the new season. I know he’s been working hard to get first again and I was very impressed by his football skills. I’m sure his friend Ronaldo who was in the country yesterday will also enjoy seeing his first touch if he sees the video! I hope Rafa can play well across the three days and defend his title. Having world class sports stars here in the Emirates is really inspiring for me, and I urge all sports fans to come out and support them in Abu Dhabi.”
With the Grand Final taking place at 3pm on Day Three, tennis fans can experience the best of both worlds thanks to Flash Entertainment. Each day, one lucky tennis fan will be picked at random* to win a pair of golden circle tickets to see Coldplay on New Year’s Eve after the Mubadala World Tennis Championship Final. These winners will also be entered into a draw to meet and greet the band in Abu Dhabi too, for a New Year’s Eve in ‘Paradise’.