A head looking to brighter horizons

Muscat, mar 5 – Fatma al Nabhani has been the shining jewel of Oman tennis for a decade now and the glow of positivity that she exudes is certainly infectious. Carrying the weight of the Omani flag on her shoulders for years now, Fatma has been a source of inspiration for Omanis aspiring for a career in sport in general and tennis in particular. On the sidelines of the Sports Ministry’s Annual Awards Gala, Fatma opened up to Oman Daily Observer about her thoughts of being at the awards, her career and much more.
“First of all, I’m really happy to be here. I’m really proud that Omani sportspersons are improving. Yeah, I hope this keeps going forward. Hope this keeps improving with the determination of our athletes, with patience and hardwork,’’ she added.
The Omani tennis star reminisced her journey with the Ministry’s annual awards.
“I have been coming here since the age of nine. My first award was for the West Asian championship. And now this is my tenth year. I have done very well. There are always ups and downs. Whenever we are down, we learn from our mistakes. This is part of our journey, when we get injured we have to pick ourselves and keep going,’’ Fatma added.
Fatma feels that her achievements down the years helped her reinforce belief in her potential more than anything else and she is happy about it.
“I have done so much for Oman sport. The most important thing is that I have done this for myself and my country. I have proved to myself that I can do it and I have the ability to compete and win,’’ she explained.
Talking about the successes and challenges during her career thus far, Fatma was candid and forthright. “The challenges have been non-stop. There have always been ups and downs. The year 2013 was good for me. In 2009 in juniors, I was in the top-30 in the world and played four Grand Slams. In 2011, I won gold in the Arab Championship, won ITF titles in 2012 and a gold medal in the Islamic Solidarity Games in Indonesia,’’ the 27-year-old Fatma revealed.
Fatma also delved on her efforts last year and particularly the performance at the Arab Championship which she felt was a high point for Omani women’s tennis.
“In November 2016, I became the first ever Omani woman to win a team gold and the singles gold in the Arab championship in Morocco. I’m actually really, really proud of this achievement. No one ever expected it since we were playing teams like Tunisia, Morocco and to beat those countries, it was a dream come true. It was a great team effort. We were playing on clay court and then we had to shift to hard court and it was raining. Lot of challenges but in the end it was very fulfilling,’’ she added.
Fatma also heaped praise on the Oman national football team for their recent performances at the Asian Cup. “We are with them with all our heart. We are proud of them and proud of everything they have done for the country,’’ he added.
The winner of 13 ITF titles also hoped the new ‘Red Warriors’ coach Erwin Koeman would continue the good work put in by his predecessor Pim Verbeek.
“As a football fan and as a supporter of the national team, I think the old coach did a great job and we thank him for that. Hopefully, the new coach will do more good for the team,’’ she said.
Fatma stated her target for this year is to break the record of her best WTA ranking of 362.
“All I want to do is to break my best ranking of 362. I always reach 380, 370 and I miss out on breaking the record. This year hopefully I can change that,’’ she added.
It’s the dream of every professional tennis player to compete at a Grand Slam and Fatma felt it was within her reach in the future.
“This is a dream. I have done it in juniors. I participated in four Grand Slams at the junior level, reached the doubles quarterfinals in Wimbledon. I need a 250 ranking and that is not too far. I have beaten players who have played in Grand Slam tournaments, so we have the potential. We don’t have enough support financially. I am doing my best with what I have,’’ the tennis star added.
Fatma also expressed her desire to give back to tennis and sport once she has finished her career.
“Whenever I go to practice, I see a lot of youngsters at mini tennis schools. Hopefully, they get support and get to do well. There are a lot of young girls coming through. They are inspired by me and it is nice. Once I finish my career, I will support tennis and sports in general even with a little brick if I can,’’ Fatma stated. Fatma is headed to Japan later this week for a tournament.