Professional tennis player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga held a coaching session for young Emiratis with disabilities and special needs as part of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship.
A group of Emiratis with disabilities proved that there are no barriers to playing sports as they traded rallies with professional tennis player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC).
The young Emiratis, some of them wheelchair bound, took part in an hour-long coaching clinic with the big-serving Frenchman, who was one of the six tennis stars competing for the MWTC trophy.
Two of the UAE’s most talented wheelchair athletes then teamed up with two world-ranked Paralympic tennis players in a doubles match on Centre Court at Zayed Sports City to warm up the crowd ahead of the MWTC final.
The initiative was all part of the build up to the 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi. Local organisers are urging young people all over the country to get into a variety of sports ahead of the prestigious event, which will be the region’s first sporting event for athletes with special needs and disabilities.
“We are sending a message to the young people of the UAE that people with disabilities and special needs can realise their ambitions to be sporting stars,” said Theban Salem Al Mhairi, Secretary General of the UAE Paralympic Committee.
“In 2019, Abu Dhabi will celebrate diversity and ability when it hosts one of the most prestigious world sporting events of its kind. Today was about inspiring a young generation of Emiratis to pick up a tennis racket and play against one of the world’s best players. We would like to thank Jo-Wilfried and the Mubadala World Tennis Championship for giving these young people an experience they will never forget.”
The youngsters taking part in the Tsonga coaching session learned some basic tennis techniques, such as ground strokes and volleys. The group then headed to Centre Court where they watched two of the region’s most famous sporting role models, Morocco’s El Haj Boukartacha and Egyptian Shamma Samy, team up with UAE athletes Seham Al Rasheedi and Mohammed Al Zarouni for an exhibition wheelchair tennis match.
None other than former Wimbledon winner and MWTC Ambassador Pat Cash was in the umpire’s chair to officiate the match and provide commentary as the teams battled out a hard-fought match cheered on by the MWTC crowd.
“It’s been a fantastic day for everyone involved,” said Mohammed, a talented basketball player who first tried out tennis only two days before MWTC. “It’s fun playing tennis, especially to anticipate your opponents’ shot and read the bounce, which is important when you’re in a wheelchair. I’m confident that today will inspire more young disabled Emiratis to give tennis a go.”
For more information about the UAE Paralympic Committee, head to their website at www.uaenpc.ae.