It was a case of what they can do rather than what they can’t, as local children with special needs shone on court this morning at the Lacoste Special Needs Clinic at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship.
Proving that tennis is a truly inclusive sport, eighty participants with special needs displayed all the skills of tennis as they were put them through their paces by Clark Francis and his coaches. The Lacoste Special Needs Clinic motto of “Just for Fun” was the order of the day as the players hit balls, played games and received some tips from thirty local coaches.
Commenting on the clinic, Francis said, “Today is all about getting on court and having fun. Seeing the smiles on their faces make this the best two hours of the fortnight for us. This year was our best turn out in the 20 years, with 80 players and 30 coaches involved. It’s just a super day”. Ali, 11 of the UAE took part in the special two-hour session. “I loved doing the volleys at the net and enjoyed playing with the coaches,” he went on to say.
Fresh from their first round doubles victory yesterday, Nuria Llagostera Vives and Anastasia Rodionova also joined in the fun, offering some tips and hitting balls with the participants.
Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organizers, was impressed with the clinic and the obvious enjoyment of the participants, commenting “To see these people take to the courts is inspirational. Some of them have had to endure some hardship in their life yet you wouldn’t know it judging by the smiles on their faces here today,” he added.
Today’s Lacoste Special Needs clinic follows the Tennis Emirates Clinic held yesterday and the Dubai Duty Free Kid’s Day, which took place on Monday.
Tournament Director, Salah Tahlak highlighted the fact that the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is not just for the elite players. “Tennis is a sport that everyone can play and we are delighted that we can offer opportunities like today’s clinic to such wonderful people. They had so much fun and some of them have a lot of ability,” he said.
The WTA Tour event continues until February 25th and features US Open winner Samantha Stosur, Dubai defending champion Caroline Wozniacki and recent Doha semi-finalist Agnieszka Radwanska, as well as former number ones Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic.
Play then continues on February 27th with the ATP tournament featuring eight of the world’s top 10, including reigning Dubai, Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic, four-time winner Roger Federer, sensational Scot Andy Murray, charismatic Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and recent Montpellier winner Tomas Berdych.
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Tickets for the event are available from the Box Office at the Dubai Tennis Stadium, Garhoud which opens from 9am to 9pm daily.