Serena Williams played in what could be her final major tournament last month, as she revealed her intention to “evolve away” from the sport.
Williams, 41, will leave with 23 Grand Slam singles trophies, 73 solo titles, 14 Grand Slam doubles titles, and four Olympic gold medals.
Yara Faleh Alhogbani, Saudi Arabia’s first female professional tennis player, was among the grateful global audience witnessing Williams’ goodbye statement at the US Open.
“Serena is a role model for many girls,” she remarked, “not just tennis players.” “Her impact has gone beyond sports, and I look up to her in many ways.” Serena not only opened doors for other females, but she also pledged to be loyal to herself and her own ambitions along the journey.
“That’s something I’d like to do.” I don’t want to break any records; I just want to be better than I was the day before, on and off the court.”
Alhogbani, who was born in Ohio and currently lives in Riyadh, became a professional tennis player at the age of 14 after picking up her first racquet when she was four years old.
“I grew up in a large family with six brothers and one older sister.” “We were an active family that enjoyed riding, swimming, tennis, and soccer,” she explained.
Alhogbani wanted to follow in the footsteps of her brothers Ammar and Saud, who also began competing in tennis.
However, becoming a professional has been difficult for a teenager who is still in school. Alhogbani must balance her education with four to six hours of training every day and frequent tournament travel.
“I attend an online school with a flexible learning schedule, and I try to squeeze in academics whenever possible.” “Whether it’s at the airport on my way to a tournament or in the lobby of a tennis center between training and matches,” she explained.
Alhogbani trains primarily at the Core Social Wellness Club in Riyadh, but she plans to travel to Spain later this year to practice at the Rafa Nadal Academy.
“Because there isn’t much female competition here, I’m practicing with the men’s national team to keep developing and getting stronger.” I’ll be in Spain soon for the sole aim of improving as a player and facing tougher competition.
“I’m not really playing any local tournaments because there isn’t a lot of competition for me,” she explained. “They only recently (began) female tournaments, so the sport is still relatively new to everyone, which means they’re primarily amateurs.”
Due to a dearth of female competition in the region, Alhogbani travels to play in ITF, or International Tennis Federation, tournaments in order to accrue ranking points toward her eventual aim of becoming a Women’s Tennis Association player.
“My immediate goal is to gain my first WTA points and then see where it takes me,” she explained. “I graduated from high school this year, so once I’m done with school, I’ll be able to travel and compete on tour more competitively.”
Although tennis is a relatively new activity in the Kingdom for female athletes, and competing in local competitions has been difficult for Alhogbani, she will compete in the inaugural Saudi Games 2022 this month.
Over 6,000 athletes from more than 200 national clubs will compete in 45 individual and team disciplines, including five para-sports activities, at the games.
“I am most pleased of my achievements in Saudi Arabia,” Alhogbani stated. “I want to help open as many doors as possible for other girls like me.” My goal is to assist as many people as possible in gaining better access to the sport.”
“I don’t think I’m aiming to make my own stamp,” she added. “I believe it’s great if it comes easily, but I really love the sport and want to help spread it throughout my own nation.” If I can make significant progress on the international scene, it will be a dream come true.”
Source: Arab news