Under the Patronage of H.h. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai

February 19- March 4, 2023
Dubai Duty Free tennis stadium
February 19- March 4, 2023
Dubai Duty Free tennis stadium
February 28, 2023

Kareem Al Allaf and Abdulrahman Al Janahi – Press Conference

2023 Men's Doubles Main Draw Round 2: BRKIC-ESCOBAR/Al Allaf-Al Janahi 6-1, 6-3

Fans pack the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on Day 1 of the 2022 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. How was your day today? As a wild card, talk to us about how this wild card happened.

KAREEM AL ALLAF: I lived here my whole life. Used to play for Syria. I grew up in Abu Dhabi. I played all the junior tournaments here. I went to the U.S., played at the University of Iowa.

I’m 700 in the world. I tried to ask and see if I could ever get into this tournament. I felt like this was my chance.

Thanks to Mr. Salah Tahlak and the UAE Tennis Federation, especially this guy (Abdulrahman Al Janahi), for helping me get a wild card into singles, qualifying. Today we got to play doubles at home in front of friends, family.

It was a great experience.

Q. You said you grew up here, it was a dream come true.

KAREEM AL ALLAF: Absolutely.

Q. What do you think of UAE tennis?

KAREEM AL ALLAF: I’ve been absent for, I don’t know, six, eight plus years. I haven’t been here since ’18. I come to visit, practice two weeks, go back to the U.S. This is the first time I actually played a tournament in the UAE since the ITF juniors.

He has more information. It would be nice to see some juniors grow up here, have a nice little base to come back to.

Q. How is your family in Syria? Everybody is fine?

KAREEM AL ALLAF: Yeah, they’re doing well. They’re safe. Tough situation. I don’t play for Syria any more. I wish everybody there the best. It’s heartbreaking to see what’s going on there.

It’s another discussion to be talked about with Syria, yeah, no, what’s going on today.

Q. You are from the UAE. How excited were you to play in this tournament? What are the future prospects of UAE tennis?

ABDULRAHMAN AL JANAHI: This is now the fourth consecutive year I get the chance to play Dubai Open. First year was doubles main draw as well. The second year I had the opportunity to play singles quallie. Last year as well was doubles.

This year the opportunity came up, but I didn’t really feel I was ready for it because the information came, let’s say, a month and a half before the tournament. I just have a very busy work life that doesn’t allow me to play as much tennis as I would like.

When the news came, it’s like Kareem said, it just happens around that time Kareem got in touch with me. There’s no person more deserving of a wild card than Kareem. The first thing we did was try to fight for him to get the wild card.

Fortunately they said there’s a doubles main draw as well. The past month has been a lot of dedication and working hard to do the best I can on court. That’s about it.

Q. Where do you work?

ABDULRAHMAN AL JANAHI: I work in Abu Dhabi. I’m an engineer in Abu Dhabi. Most of my work, I spend three months a year in South Korea. In Abu Dhabi it’s difficult to find people to practice with. I have a few people I play with there, but it’s similar to what Kareem does: he comes to Abu Dhabi two weeks in a year, practices a bit. Some juniors there do a similar thing. Otherwise I practice on the weekends in Dubai.

Q. I was told there were good youngsters coming up. What is the way forward? Anything that UAE needs to do to see somebody playing singles again in the Dubai Open?

ABDULRAHMAN AL JANAHI: Searching for talent is the key priority right now. We did have a lot of talent from Kareem’s generation. He used to play against my cousin and my younger brother. Let’s say they were the prodigies of UAE tennis. They were expected to do great things.

Both of them, or that generation, have moved on to different pursuits. They’re doing very well in those. So for the future, I think searching for talent from a young age is the priority right now.

Like you said, we did have our golden player, it was Omar Behrouzian, No. 1 in the UAE, the highest achieving UAE tennis player, let’s say. Following that we had Hamad. After that is just me left playing tennis.

For the juniors at the moment, we don’t have any prospects, but they are searching for the talent. Hopefully we will have something in the next few years.

Q. From a player’s perspective, what do you think is the way forward? We need more Emiratis coming and playing so the pool is bigger.

ABDULRAHMAN AL JANAHI: What they’re already starting and trying to do is they’re setting up a lot of local tournaments. This is something missing over the last few years. Over last year and this year they’ve been building that back up again where every two weeks there’s a tournament, a local tournament happening. Practice would really help.

It’s just about getting the youngsters to enjoy the game. A lot of them, the youngsters, don’t enjoy because of the pressure that’s put on them, a lot of expectations. Getting them to understand and focusing on how they can enjoy it more can help with that.

Q. What is your thought on today’s game? Did you enjoy it?

ABDULRAHMAN AL JANAHI: I’m more of a singles player. I’m used to playing singles throughout the year. I definitely did enjoy it. I think once we got onto the court, we had an expectation they would be very fast. The game is very fast-paced in doubles. Luckily in the second set it got a bit close. We were toe to toe with them. It was one point here, one point there.

At the end it just showed a bit more that their experience on a doubles court just helped them get the last push.

Q. Do you foresee any future partnerships?

ABDULRAHMAN AL JANAHI: I’d be more than happy. I was very honored to get to play with Kareem. I think he really helped me out on the court today.

Q. What was the best takeaway from today’s game? What did you learn?

KAREEM AL ALLAF: I’ll attest to my singles, as well, kind of the same thing. These guys, all these doubles guys, play year-round. They spend every day eating together. I haven’t seen this guy in six years. I forgot how he played. I didn’t know if he played tennis until I talked to him five, six months ago.

It’s a different level. Top 50 doubles in the world, these guys play a different game. I’m out playing futures every week with a different partner. It’s a different game. It’s fast-paced. They know their spots. They serve at a high percentage.

Coming into our first match almost getting close in the second set, having a slow start in the first, it was a good experience. To play in a 500 at home, in front of your family, your friends, all coming to watch you, it’s a beautiful experience.

ABDULRAHMAN AL JANAHI: One of the nice things when Dubai Open comes around every year is that we’re in the environment of the tournament. Whether we’re hitting partners or getting wild cards into the tournaments, we get to interact with the players a lot.

I think we were discussing this the other day, as well. Like, just being in that environment, then getting to practice with them, you see how different the level is, the level of focus it takes, the commitment.

Like he said with the doubles today, you just see how focused their game is on the doubles game. We’re more oriented towards singles, so you see very different habits, let’s say, then pick up on those things.

Q. You’re happy with the chemistry?

ABDULRAHMAN AL JANAHI: For our first match together, I think it was pretty good, yeah.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
129353-1-1004 2023-02-28 11:44:00 GMT

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