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I ’m sitting on a rock-hard chair, the temperature is twelve degrees Celsius, there are thousands of people screaming all around me, and yet I have a huge smile on my face. That’s because I’m at Centre Court in Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex, watching the final of the ATP Qatar Open 2018. Where the ever-popular French showman Gael Monfils (31) has finally won the championship, beating the 21 year-old Andrey Rublev in straight sets 6-2, 6-3. The crowd gets even more boisterous when we’re reminded that this is Monfils’ fourth final in Doha and that he’s been the runner-up thrice before; losing to Roger Federer in 2006, JoWilfried Tsonga in 2012, and most recently Rafael Nadal in 2014. This is Monfils’ seventh career title, and as his eyes well-up with tears and his voice cracks – the crowd explodes in a roar of applause as we realise just how much winning the Qatar Open means to this former top ten player.

The beginning of the year is always a treat for Doha tennis fans. We’ve already had the ATP tournament and this month the WTA Qatar Open will be taking place from 12 – 18 February. The injuries in the men’s tournament saw the biggest names withdraw from the tournament, which was a massive disappointment. Most notably the 2016 and 2017 champion, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic as well as the 2012 champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France. I’ve been figuratively holding my breath since December for Serena Williams to take part this year following her return to tennis after giving birth to her first child. I haven’t given up hope that both the Williams sisters will be in Doha this month. Despite the fact that Serena pulled out of the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open and Venus Williams was knocked out of the same tournament in the first round, I am still hopeful – let me have my hope.

The Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex is one of my favourite places in Doha. It was inaugurated by His Highness Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, The Emir of the State Of Qatar on 16 December 1992. The first ATP Qatar Open for men took place in January 1993. Then in 2001 the WTA Qatar Open was established for the women. it’s incredible watching the top players in the world play here, their skills and techniques are near flawless. It encourages me to hone and improve my own skills in my social game. In November 2017 I took part in the Qatar Ladies Sports & Social Club (QLSSC) winter tournament and won the championship trophy with my doubles partner Cristel. We went the entire tournament unbeaten right up until we qualified for the final. For us that was an achievement on its own – but to walk away with the trophy was a phenomenal feeling.

Besides my love for the game, I love the physical and mental benefits. Playing tennis is a brilliant way to workout your entire body. Your lower body gets a workout from the running, jumping and crouching that you do. And the action of hitting the ball, whether it’s single or double-handed, works your upper body as well, particularly your shoulders, upper back and arms. Tennis increases your oxygen intake during the game, by increasing your heart-rate and helping your blood deliver oxygen and nutrients to your muscles while burning calories. As far as clearing the mind, for me the act of concentrating on the ball and anticipating my opponent’s next move whilst formatting my own, helps to relieve whatever stresses I’ve experienced for the day and focus on my body, my breathing and my movements. Of course being competitive (even in a social tournament) comes with its own tension. But a little positive tension a couple of times a week doesn’t hurt.

If you’re interested in making use of these immaculate world class facilities at Khalifa International Tennis & Squash Complex, I’ve enclosed the schedule, rules and contacts below.

COURT SCHEDULE: • Sunday – Thursday • 08h00 17h00 and 19h00 – 23h00

• Fridays and Saturdays • 06h00 – 23h00

• The tennis court can only be booked a day in advance.

• Cancellations must be made a minimum of six hours before the booked time, otherwise you’ll still be charged.

You can contact the information desk on +974 44409666 to make a booking.


BEHIND THE WORDS Ntando Stemmet is a South African born entrepreneur and marketing specialist with a keen interest in fitness, health and sports.

She eagerly pursues a balanced life with particular focus on overall wellness in modern lifestyles. You can read her lifestyle blog  and follow her at @ntandostemmet.