As the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships get underway this month, bringing some of the biggest names on the professional tour to the UAE, Kelly Ann Crane explains why it’s a good choice for families.
Let’s face it, when it comes to sports for young children, it’s difficult for tennis to compete with crowd-pulling team games like football, basketball and baseball. But if it’s a game with century-old etiquette both on and off the court you’re after – the umpire will keep them in line, even if you’re struggling – tennis is the sport for you.
Often referred to as ‘The Family Sport’, tennis is a great cross-gender, age, ability game, and one the entire family can enjoy. Dreams of one day being just as cool as moody Spaniard Nadal or having as much money as politely-spoken Swiss ace Roger Federer, children look up to the players who make headlines throughout the year.
The annual event runs from February 17-22 with the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tour, followed straight after, from Feb 24-March 1, with the high-octane Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), or men’s week. It’s a fortnight packed full of adrenalin, excitement and fun things to do, especially for the little ones.
Getting children to sit still and keep it down can feel like an impossibility at times, but high-profile events are a great way to educate the little ones who feel a sense of importance when watching celebrities they look up to.
Surrounded by hundreds of other people, including their peers, kids often raise their game in the behavior department when influenced by surroundings. High-profile sporting events wouldn’t be the same without a good crowd of spectators. But with big bucks up for grabs for the players, it is important to mind your manners.
• Remind older children to switch mobile phones to silent and not to take calls during play.
• Noise is good. Cheers, shouts and chants will only make the players and atmosphere more pumped. Just be careful to keep it in check — don’t get too excited during a rally; wait until the ball is dead. Do not shout during serve.
• Remind them to be conscious of movement. Only move around (for drinks, food, toilet breaks) when necessary and respect the ushers who will stop you walking when play starts until the next ‘down’ time. Be warned — you only have 90 seconds before play resumes between games and sets.
Have fun with it
Whether it’s face or body painting, colour-coded outfits or hair spray, tennis fans are slowly going to more and more effort to support their favourites. Encourage the kids to wear colour to represent the country you’re from or try some face painting before the event. While colour and noise are good, try and be respectful of the players as they serve and play rallies, as the pressure is on.
Watch the weather
While rain rarely stops play in Dubai (apart from the odd year) we have the other extreme to think about — the harsh rays of the sun. Remember sunscreen and most importantly your sunglasses — this event is unbearable without them. Lots of water is also required, unless you want someone scraping you from your chair and into an ambulance. The need for a light jumper is hard to imagine when you’re sitting in the afternoon rays but beware, it soon goes down and can get a little chilly.
Tickets and seats
As the Dubai Tennis Champs is a seated-only event, tickets, priced from Dh75-500, are required for everyone above three. All seating is non-ticketed so it’s a matter of getting there early. A great tip for those with kids would be to arrive early and make the most of the afternoon play once the little tykes have finished school and before the big kids finish work. Tickets for the final are always snapped up first however, there are some amazing matches early in the week and you can get good seats as the stadium isn’t as full, particularly for the 2pm game. The seeds (best players) all play on day one or two (depending on the draw) so you can still see the best on the early days but without the crowds.
All the excitement of the tournament is televised daily on the gogglebox and as a ‘Hello Mum’ sign is guaranteed to get you on television, why not get the kids to get creative and make their own banners of support prior to proceedings. If nothing else, it’ll buy you an afternoon in the run up to the event.
This place is a kiddie haven with giant inflatable tennis games, mini tennis courts, face painting, stilt walkers and much more. Regular autograph sessions also take place here most afternoons, depending on the player schedules, giving youngsters the chance to meet their idols.
The big names (and the ones the kids will want autographs from) include Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray from the boys and Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Jelena Jankovic and Agnieszka Radwanska from the girls. After each game on Centre Court, players sign whatever your kids are willing to thrust in front of their face from giant tennis balls (which can be brought in the village) or programmes.
Why play tennis?
While it is true that team sports are great for young children, they are often rife with power struggles, controversies and hurt feelings - especially when they reach the stage where team selections and other selective honors become controlled by volunteer committees, as well as the more overbearing trainers/coaches and other parents. Popular team sports usually begin to lose kids to individual sports when children reach 11-12 years old.
For more information visit www.dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com