professional tennis event took place in Oman for the first time last week, showcasing the game’s
up-and-coming talent. Under an ink-blue sky on a floodlit court, the singles winner, Anna Zaja of Germany, said in her post-match speech, “Thanks for such a great atmosphere. I’m looking forward to playing in Oman again.”
Minutes earlier, she had vanquished her foe, France’s Laetitia Sarrazin, 6-2, 6-2. And the Sultan Qaboos Complex was a fine venue, with the beautiful mountains and under-construction Mosque constituting an evocative silhouette in the distance while spectators were offered coffee and halwa.
For Anna, it was a personal triumph after suffering a shoulder injury last year. “I was getting very frustrated. It was like being in an office every day when nothing is working right,” she said. Happily, she is now pain-free, and her victory in Muscat has taught her ‘about fighting back and concentrating, no matter what’s the score’.
Anna’s story of courage is inspiring, and maybe one day Oman will host a top-level tennis tournament with her competing in it. Such a scenario would surely help to further promote the sultanate as a tourist destination. Indeed, there was a cosmopolitan mix of players here last week. Barbara Haas, a 16 year old from Austria, smiled graciously when a group of local footballers cheered her winning shots. And the rain which punctuated the event added a dash of Wimbledon to the proceedings.
As for the doubles, the champions were Russia’s Yana Sizikova and India’s Kyra Shroff. They bamboozled Barbara Haas and Laetitia Sarrazin 6-2, 6-4. The final was a eclectic mix of aces from the 17 year old Russian, some awesome shot-making by all four combatants, plus punches of the air after
crucial points. The winners kept on encouraging each other until the title was theirs thanks to some great volleying by Yana.
So why is the Russian number 814 in the world doubles rankings, and the Indian number 778??They dream of playing in the main draw at Wimbledon and each day they work relentlessly towards that goal.?“I can win against anyone in practice,” laughed Yana.?
Kyra added, “The difference between us and the top players is in the head.” Yana concurred that a stronger psychology would give them the intensity needed to reach the highest echelons of the sport.?
The pair said they made each other smile when the going got tough. “It's no fun playing without fun,” quipped 19 year old Kyra.??Yana packed her bags shortly after the match and flew the same night to Germany where she trains regularly.
Meanwhile, Kyra headed back to India and will continue honing her game in Bangalore.?
Hopefully, their triumph in Oman will herald further glory for the likeable duo.
Contributed by James Harbridge