With 20 years of international experience, International Tennis Federation (ITF) referee Wael Abbas (L) feels Oman is ready for any ITF-level tournament provided the availability of a good sponsor. The agile official was impressed by the Sultanate in his first visit to the country. “Oman was the only country in Middle East which I didn’t travel. Now, after being here for a week, I know it is a great place to visit,” the ITF referee said. “Oman Tennis Association has arranged all the facilities intact for the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group VI tournament now underway in Muscat. The centre court is an excellent one and along with other courts and practice courts the venue is perfect to host an ITF-level tournament,” Abbas, who is the head referee for the ongoing Davis Cup Group VI tournament, said.

“Only they (OTA) need to find good sponsors for such tournaments,” he added. The 53-year-old Egyptian official has some memorable moments in his career. He fondly remembers Atlanta Olympics 1996 where he was a line umpire. The officiated at the Wimbledon in 1995 and 96. In 2016, Abbas officiated in the Russia-Denmark Davis Cup tie in Russia. Another interesting moment was when Anna Kournikova and Aranta Sanchez exhibition match was held near the pyramids in Egypt. It was a sell-out event with the glamour names of tennis attracting a big crowd of fans in Egypt, Abbas said with a smile.

Top Omani player Mohammed al Nabhani (R) has given the task to start the rubber for Oman and later to turn up in the doubles to wrap up the tie in favour of Oman. The experienced campaigner is doing that in style has given a racing start in the first three matches that Oman have managed to win 3-0. “The expectations are high always when you are playing for Oman. For me, I focus on my game and tries to give my best for the country,” Mohammed, brother of top Omani women’s player Fatma al Nabhani, said. On a query on the preparation Oman players had in a tennis academy in Nice, France, Mohammed said, “The camp has shaped up the players very well. It was good move from the OTA to hold the training camp with EURL Noren Coaching Academy in Nice, France.”

Oman women’s players Sarah al Balushi (R) and her sister Maryam al Balushi were seen cheering their male compatriots during the tournament at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex. “It was nice to cheer up the men’s team in the Davis Cup. It was a great learning experience for me too to watch such intense games,” Sarah al Balushi said. Sarah and Maryam along with Fatma al Nabhani will take part in the Fed Cup Asia/Oceania Group II tournament in Bahrain from February 6 to 10. Sarah says it will be a tough challenge to compete against 13 other countries in the Asia/Oceania group. “Anyway I’m focused very much to give my best in Bahrain and watching our men’s players we hope to emulate them as well in the Fed Cup,” she said.

Thirteen-year-old Muneer al Rawahi (R) made a dream Davis Cup debut for Oman when he partnered senior player Mohammed al Nabhani in the doubles against Kyrgzstan. Muneer combined well with Mohammed to beat the Kyrgz pair of Evgeniy Babak and Georgy Kotlyarevsky 6-4, 6-0. “It was great moment for me. I’m happy that I could compliment well with Mohammed,” Muneer, younger brother of teammate Younis al Rawahi, said. Muneer, who loves Roger Federer for his classic style of tennis, said he was thrilled to see the Swiss conquer Marin Cilic of Croatia in the final. The teenager earlier said he could learn many a tricks by watching his teammates play in the tournament.

Text & Pictures by Anuroop Athiparambath