Significance of Dubai wildcard not lost on Jordan’s Abdullah Shelbayh

Abdullah Shelbayh
Abdullah Shelbayh of Jordan in action during Qualifying for the 2024 Canberra International.

Jordanian wildcard Abdullah Shelbayh is thrilled to represent his country and the Arab world in the Dubai Tennis Championships.

Shelbayh said that he is relishing the “special” opportunity to compete on Arab soil and understands what it means for tennis in the region.

He has enjoyed a rapid ascent in the rankings, shooting up from No 470 at the beginning of 2023 to a career-high 181 in January 2024.

Shelbayh, a deft left-hander who practices at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca, is the first Jordanian player to win an ATP match, a Challenger tournament, and most recently, a match at a Grand Slam event.

In January, he made his major debut in Melbourne, where he advanced to the final qualifying round before losing in three sets against the local favourite, Omar Jasika.

“It’s very special to me to be able to represent my country in the Arab world at such a big event. It’s my first time here so I’m looking forward to being on court already,” Shelbayh told The National on Sunday.

“I’ve been playing great tournaments this year. Maybe not the result I was looking for last week (in Doha) but I think it’s going to be a great match, I’m going to give it my all and see what happens.”

This week in Dubai, Shelbayh is not the only Arab to receive a wildcard. Skander Mansouri of Tunisia, partnered with Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, will be playing in the doubles main draw. Meanwhile, Aziz Dougaz of Tunisia battled hard in the first qualifying round before falling to Luca van Assche of France.

“I’m always happy to see a few other guys also from the Arab world playing this tournament. Aziz and Skander are great friends of mine, I was very happy for them,” said Shelbayh.

“It’s important for us to get these wild cards in these tournaments to make that breakthrough. It’s not that easy to have these wild cards and it is very important for our motivation too because these tournaments are very big, internationally, so I think it’s good to have them.”

Shelbayh has arrived at the Dubai Tennis Championship coming off an opening round defeat to world No 46 Alexei Popyrin of Australia in Doha’s Qatar Open.

The 20-year-old Jordanian will now shift his focus to his Dubai clash with the Dutch star Tallon Griekspoor, which is scheduled to be the final match on Court 1 on Monday’s schedule.

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