RIYADH: For a quartet of young Saudis, the 2022 Diriyah Tennis Cup will live in the memory long after the crowds and winners have headed home.
The Al-Hogbani siblings — Yara, Ammar and Saud — took part in exhibition matches alongside fellow Saudi Lara Bokhari at the second edition of the tournemnt, which was won by the American Taylor Fritz on Saturday night.
The aim was for the rising players to encourage others to take up tennis in the same way they did.
Before moving back to the Kingdom, the Alhogbani children grew up playing the game in the US, and spoke of their passion for the sport and how they believe it will catch on with young Saudis, if the cheering crowds in Diriyah are to go by.
“I was born in Riyadh but grew up in the States, where tennis is popular, and we all started at a young age there,” Ammar told Arab News. “Yara and Saud were born in the States, so it started over there, and we would come back often. We are hoping to see tennis start growing and not being such a small sport in Saudi, and I think with events like these it’s going to happen.”
Yara concurred with Ammar and said that they returned to the Kingdom to play tennis competitively, while the 17-year-old continues her studies online.
“I do online schooling, so when I’m not playing tournaments, I’m doing assignments in the off time when I'm not at the court,” she said. “I came back to play tennis, and hopefully it becomes big too so everyone can enjoy it.”
The players also spoke about padel’s growing popularity among the younger generation.
“I think padel is a good way to connect with people, and you can play in your 50s and 60s as well,” Saud said.
Ammar hopes padel grows in the Middle East but will not overshadow tennis.
“I don’t think so because tennis has a long history that’s hard to change, but padel is a fun social sport,” he said.
The 19-year-old Saud, still a college student, said if you want to do something enough, there is always a way.
“Every day I get up at 4 a.m. to condition, then from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. I go to school, then from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. I play tennis, and after that, I go back home and study.”
Yara praised the work of the Ministry of Sport and its efforts to make sure that both men and women have the same opportunities in the sport.
“I think Prince Abdulaziz and Princess Reema are doing a great job promoting all kinds of sports. We are getting a lot more opportunites, and women have just as many opportunities as men in Saudi,” said Yara, who is big fan of former Women’s Tennis Association world No.1 Naomi Osaka.
The young Saudi players believe that watching international players at close quarters will teach them a lot about how to live and train on the court. Yara believes that more Saudi female players can compete internationally.