Few people are lucky enough to make a career out of a childhood obsession, but that is exactly what 32 year-old Samer Ghazi has done at the Metropolitan Resort and Beach Club. Since picking up a tennis racket for the first time at the age of six in his native Syria, Samer developed into a national champion and became a key member of his country's national side, competing in tournaments across the Middle East and Europe by his late teens. But with the need to develop a career, and despite being good, he realised he didn't have the required talent to cut it at the top tier of the tennis world and turned his attention to university. After a brief flirtation with a course in Electrical Engineering in Damascus ("I was more interested in playing tennis than studying") Samer found his way to the UAE in 1989, and became resident tennis coach at the Metropolitan Resort and Beach Club three years later.
Hugely ambitious and with the help of correspondence college courses in England and the USA, Samer climbed the promotion ladder to his current position as the exclusive resort's Recreation and Membership Sales Manager.
He has established himself as a key figure within the Metropolitan chain of hotels in Dubai, looking after both families and superstars alike. "We have had plenty of superstars coming to the resort and generally they are very good," he said. "But I remember some members of the British pop group Duran Duran wanting to play tennis in black-soled shoes which is not permitted, so I had to ask them to leave the courts. They were not happy at the time but were very pleasant the next day."
Samer is the organizational driving force behind the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge, the Middle East's first professional ladies tournament, which is the brainchild of the Al Habtoor Group chairman, Khalaf Al Habtoor. "Khalaf is an excellent tennis player and we have a doubles match almost every afternoon of the week. He wanted to put something back into a game that he has gained so much out of, and came up with the idea of the Challenge which has been held successfully for the past two years," said Samer.
Despite tennis being his greatest love, guests from four to 75 years of age can enjoy Samer's expert tuition in a variety of sports, and he says his main quality is the ability to "understand the needs of a cross section of people". And his advice to anyone looking to tone up or get in shape... "Walking or jogging is the best way to start, and then pursue a sport you enjoy. Practice not only makes you better but gets you fitter."
When he's not coaching or organizing sporting events at the Metropolitan Resort and Beach Club, Samer can be found at home with his wife and son, who celebrates his first birthday this summer.