Muscat: In a historic achievement, Oman won the women’s team gold at the Arab Tennis Championships with a well-deserved victory over Tunisia in Rabat, Morocco on Sunday night.
In a thrilling final tie, the Omanis led by Fatma Al Nabhani overcame Tunisia 2-1 to take the top honours, adding to the women’s singles gold and doubles bronze medals they had won earlier, and in the process became the first GCC nation to win the Arab championship.
As in the previous matches, in the final too the Omanis had to overcome difficult weather conditions as well as strong opponents before sealing the victory.
Playing in extremely cold conditions, young Sara Al Balushi suffered a 1-6, 1-6 loss against experienced Mouna Bouzgarou in the first singles.
Then heavy showers held up the action for some time forcing the organisers to conduct the shortened matches on makeshift indoor basketball courts.
But the Omani star Fatma Al Nabhani made sure the Sultanate team stayed in the hunt for the gold with a 4-1, 4-3 victory Chiraz El Bechri.
Then in the deciding doubles rubber, Fatma and Sara combined superbly to subdue the challenge of Chiraz and Mouna for a 4-1, 4-2 win and a memorable triumph.
“I still can’t believe we won the team event. It hasn’t sunk in yet... we are the Arab champions,” Fatma said.
The Omani star, who had earlier won the singles gold and the doubles bronze in the company of Sara Al Balushi, said “It’s incredible. We beat African champions Morocco (in the semifinals) and then the Tunisians in the final.
“This is for the first time in the history that a GCC nation has won the team event in Arab championship,” she added.
“It has been a difficult championship. The final tie was even more tough. It was a real challenge to move from outdoor clay courts and to play on the indoor basketball court.... from relatively slow surface to super fast basketball court. But we stayed strong and fought for every point till we achieved the gold,” Fatma said.
OTA chief hails
Meanwhile, Oman Tennis Association chief Khalid Al Aadi said: “We are pleased and glad for the women’s team for winning the gold,”
In his comments to Times Sport, he said: “We are proud of Fatma Al Nabhani, who has been doing wonders, and we also congratulate the other team members for making this history-making triumph possible.”
“The delegation led by Salman Al Balushi and the accompanying coaches have done a great job and it is a major achievement for Oman tennis.”
“We dedicate this triumph to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said and it is a great gift for the nation which celebrated the 46th National Day recently.”
OTA vice-chairman Khalid Al Nabhani, who has won many laurels for the country during his prime, joined the chairman in applauding the team.
“Though the participating teams were less, but the competition was tough and so were the conditions. All credit to the team. The women’s team winning the title was simply superb” he said.
“This will motivate us further to develop the game.”
“Morocco and Tunisia are two strong teams of the Arab region and beating them is indeed a big achievement,” he said.
“I also take this opportunity to thank the previous board members of Oman tennis and we will continue to improve upon the good work done by them,” he said.