As the dust settles on the tennis courts at the Metropolitan Resort and Beach Club in Dubai, after the success of the Gulf’s first ever women’s professional tennis championship, the event’s patron and keen tennis enthusiast, Khalaf Al Habtoor, is already planning a bigger and better contest for 1999.
Fifty-eight competitors traveled from twenty countries to compete in the 1998 Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge but tournament director, Samer Ghazi, reckons the 1999 contest will see even more countries represented. Not least because of the planned increase in the amount of prize money.
“This year’s tournament cost more than US$200,000. The 1999 amount will be much more,” said Ghazi.
Organized in conjunction with the UAE Tennis Federation and the International Tennis Federation Women’s Circuit the players were able to pick up valuable world ranking points. This year’s singles champion, Kira Nagy, picked up 22 points, while runner-up in the singles, Wynne Parkusya, achieved 16 points. “Because we are planning a bigger contest for 99, player can expect to receive a higher level of world ranking points. Next year’s tournament will likely bring 54 points for the winner,” said Ghazi.
The Challenge saw an upset when top seed Nirupana Vaidyathan of India was knocked out early on by Li Ting of China in an exciting 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 match.
“I’m sorry I got knocked out so early but I had a great time,” said Vaidyathan after her defeat. Number two seed, Italian Germana Di’Natale, also lost early on when she was defeated by Kazakhstan’s Irina Selutyna, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. Di’Natale also spoke highly of the Challenge. “I’ll definitely return next year,” she said.
What the players think about the tournament is important as after each competition they file a report with the International Tennis Federation on what they thought of various aspects of the contest, including organisation and hospitality. All the players that were asked claimed they would be recommending the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge to the ITF.
“For next year’s Challenge we are planning to expand by adding a further three tennis courts and constructing a centre court, hopefully with a permanent stand. As the contest grows, we are planning to grow with it,” said Ghazi.