When Ammar Alhogbani stepped on courtroom to tackle Zhang Zhizhen on the Asian Games in September, it was extra than simply a chance for the Saudi Arabian to show himself towards a Top 100 participant.
Despite falling to a 7-5, 6-2 defeat in Hangzhou, the 25-year-old Alhogbani’s efficiency towards Chinese star Zhang made him realise he was able to make a full-time return to skilled tennis after time away working as National Teams Development Officer for the Saudi Tennis Federation.
“I performed Zhang, and I nearly took the primary set,” the No. 1 Saudi participant within the Pepperstone ATP Rankings informed ATPTour.com on Saturday in Jeddah. “I used to be like, ‘If I’m nearly taking the primary set towards a man like this, there’s a good risk I can do properly with [full-time] coaching. I nearly took the primary set once I’m coaching three or 4 instances per week and with no coach’.”
Born in Saudi Arabia, Alhogbani and his household moved to the United States when he was three years previous. After rising up in Ohio after which Virginia, he performed faculty tennis on the University of Virginia, the place he was a part of a NCAA Championship-winning workforce in his first 12 months. Due to quite a lot of causes, nonetheless, Alhogbani’s enjoying profession stalled after he graduated and returned to Saudi Arabia in 2021.
“After faculty I harm my wrist, at the start of once I wished to make a push [up the rankings],” stated Alhogbani. “Then I bought the position on the federation, in order that slowed it down. This 12 months, [I played] on the Asian Games and another ITF occasions, once I had restricted coaching.
“My brother (fellow Saudi Davis Cup participant Saud Alhogbani) is now enjoying U.S. faculty tennis at Wake Forest, so I don’t actually have anybody to coach with. So I am going to Futures occasions and prepare for the primary week. I’ve had some good outcomes, so I need to give it a full shot within the coming years, simply to see how far I can take it on the courtroom.”
Finding hitting companions has been much less of an issue for Alhogbani this week on the Next Gen ATP Finals introduced by NEOM, the place the Saudi has practised with a number of of the opponents on the season-ending 21-and-under occasion in Jeddah. On Saturday, he hit with prime seed Arthur Fils to assist heat up the Frenchman forward of the championship match towards Hamad Medjedovic.
“I’ve hit with the vast majority of the blokes [this week],” stated Alhogbani. “I hit with Arthur essentially the most. It’s a superb time. Obviously, they’ve completely different gamestyles. Some guys prefer to be on prime the baseline and bully me round, however I bought to play a few units towards a few of the guys, in order that was actually cool.”
Alhogbani (centre) tossed the coin for the group-stage match between Dominic Stricker and Arthur Fils. Photo: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
As an enormous advocate of Saudi tennis, Alhogbani is delighted to have been a part of the primary ATP-sanctioned occasion in his homeland. He sees it as a milestone second for tennis in a rustic making huge strides throughout quite a lot of sports activities.
“This is a big step. Obviously, we’ve got had [exhibitions] previously, however that is the primary ATP-sanctioned occasion, so that is one thing that’s actually huge for us,” stated Alhogbani. “The sports activities business is booming, and soccer has been king right here for therefore lengthy. Now tennis is a precedence sport, so having tennis on the forefront and having this occasion simply goes hand in hand.
“It’s actually cool. The children get to see all of the gamers, and seeing it’s believing it. I feel it’s going to encourage lots of the children to come back and play.”
Whatever the way forward for Saudi tennis, Alhogbani will not be prone to be the one member of his household enjoying an enormous position. He competes alongside his 20-year-old brother Saud within the nation’s Davis Cup workforce, and he additionally made historical past alongside his 19-year-old sister Yara Alhogbani at this 12 months’s Asian Games.
“This time round was actually cool, as a result of I went with my sister,” stated Alhogbani, who first performed the Asian Games as a 15-year-old in 2014. “We performed blended doubles, and that was the primary ever blended doubles workforce from Saudi Arabia.”
Yara Alhogbani and Ammar Alhogbani at September’s Asian Games in Hangzhou. Photo courtesy of Ammar Alhogbani.
With so many latest groundbreaking moments for Saudi tennis, Alhogbani hopes his household’s on-court achievements and internet hosting the Next Gen ATP Finals is usually a start line for continued growth.
“Obviously tennis tradition right here isn’t so huge, and it’s one thing that could be a dream, to make it greater,” he stated. “I might like to see extra folks usually selecting up racquets and see extra amenities… For me as a participant, I need to see Saudi tennis on the highest degree. I feel we’re all on the lookout for a participant to interrupt by means of, and simply extra of those occasions would assist with that.”