Winning three back to back titles in September, including a gold medal at the prestigious Islamic Solidarity Games in Indonesia, has boosted Omani tennis sensation Fatma Al Nabhani's confidence, and the 22-year-old star tells T A Ameerudheen that the victories encourage her clinch more championships in the coming months
It was a reassuring performance from Fatma Al Nabhani. The Omani tennis ace showed the world that she has enough ammunition to be a force to reckon with in the women's tennis world when she won gold in the women's singles in the 3rd Islamic Solidarity Games in Indonesia last week. Fatma will always cherish the hard-fought 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 victory over Indonesia's Tananta Lavinia in the final for more than one reason.
She gave Oman its first gold medal in the 10-day Games where athletes from 56 countries vied for honours. Besides, it was a sweet revenge to overpower Lavinia, who had defeated her in two of their previous meetings. Lavinia had emerged the winner in a WTA event in Indonesia in 2011 and in the team event at Solidarity Games.
The final presented Fatma an opportunity to prove her supremacy and live up to her top billing. The conditions were very tough. The match, played at the center court, began at 11 am.
"It was too hot and humid. The 11 am fixture was not an ideal for a crucial final. My opponent enjoyed huge home support. But I stayed focused. I got some extra energy when I told myself that I was fighting for my country. It helped me overcome Lavinia's challenge," Fatma told Hi Weekly on her return.
In fact, Fatma was on a high before boarding the flight to Indonesia, as she emerged triumphant in two $50,000 ITF events in Egypt on September 1 and September 8. However, she kept a modest target for the Games where tough opponents awaited her.
"Reaching the final in a top tier event like Islamic Solidarity Games itself was a big achievement. But it didn't make me complacent. I went for the gold and I am happy to win it for my country. I felt so proud to stand on top of the podium, and watch the Omani flag fluttering high as our national anthem reverberated the stadium," she disclosed.
Winning three tournaments in a row in September gives Fatma the confidence to concentrate more on singles. "I will focus more on singles from now on. That doesn't mean that I will not play doubles matches. In fact, I enjoy the game more when I play doubles," she said.
It was a sort of comeback for Fatma, who abstained from tennis for one-and-a-half months during the Holy Month of Ramadan. At that time, she didn't bother much about training and rankings. And she picked up her racquet just a week before the ITF event in Egypt when she trained with her brothers Khalid and Mohammed at the Oman Tennis Association courts.
"A break of two to three days would have a huge effect on the performance any player. I took a break of 45 days. I went to Egypt with an open mind. My aim was to get the much-needed match practice before the Islamic Solidarity Games. I was not under pressure. It helped me play my natural game. And results started coming in," she said.
The youngster will fly to Lagos (Nigeria) next week for a $25,000 ITF event. Later, she will feature in the $75,000 ITF event in Dubai. "Now I am focused to win more titles. My aim is to become the best player in Asia and the world."
Age no barrier
But will it be a tough task for a 22-year-old player to realise the dream? "No. Not at all," Fatma said confidently. "I am still young. I think the best quality for a player is to have focus and commitment. Results will follow naturally," she sounded philosophical.
With an aim to realise her dream, Fatma keeps herself in shape for the rigorous tournaments ahead. She wakes up at 5.30 am everyday and goes out to the beach for jogging. She reaches Oman Tennis Association courts in Bausher in the evening for training.
"I do not compromise on the training