Manar with Russian Tennis Star Maria Sharapova

Manar Al-Jazzaf is a young Kuwaiti tennis prodigy. Born February 19th 1988, Manar began playing at the age of 10 on the KOC (Kuwait Oil Company) tennis grounds in Ahmadi.  While currently studying Dietetics and Nutrition at Colorado State, Manar gives it her best shot to match between hitting the books and striking those forehands down the line.

Khaleejesque caught up with the tennis sensation to ask her a few questions about her active lifestyle.

Khaleejesque Team: When did you start playing tennis?
Manar Al-Jazzaf: In 1998, aged 10, I started at the Unity Club in Ahmadi with Rey (Coach), since my dad worked for Kuwait Oil Company. Then I played my first local tournament in 1999 (KNPC– Kuwait National Petroleum Company tournament) in the under 12’s division and finished second place.

Coach Nadia Al Zarzour who was the coach of the Fatat Club asked me to join the Fatat Club team after watching me play that tournament; and after a year I made it onto the Kuwait National Tennis Team and played for Kuwait in several tournaments such as the Arab games and the West Asian tournaments in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Syria, and Lebanon. I played for Fatat Club from (1999-2005), and then in 2005 I became a member of Kuwait Club. From the year of 2005 to 2006, I started playing ITF (International Tennis Federation) tournaments. I got ranked 1300 internationally. I was the first and only Kuwaiti female player so far to get internationally ranked.

I graduated from high school in 2006 and came to the States for college; I currently play for the Colorado State University Women’s Varsity Tennis Team, which is a Division 1 team. I am also the first Khaleeji female player to play for a college tennis team in the United States.

Colorado State University Tennis Team

KT: How often do you train?

MJ: I currently train with Colorado State University’s team 3 hours a day, 5 days week. We also lift weights 2 days a week. I have never done weight lifting before coming to the United States, after doing it for 3 years I realized how important it is for tennis especially for injury prevention. Within the 3 hours of practice we do 1 hour of conditioning (fitness) everyday, on court and off court training.

KT: What would you say is your strongest weapon on court?
MJ: Positive attitude. I believe having a positive attitude has a great impact on your game as a whole, and it is very important to stay positive and confident on the court at all times and to believe in yourself.

KT: What would you say motivates you on court?
MJ: The challenge and enjoyment are the two things that motivate me most. I really enjoy playing tennis and that always keeps me motivated and makes me continue to strive to achieve my goals. Not necessarily the challenge of the game, but challenging myself to achieve my goals always motivates me.

KT: Where do you find yourself on the tour?
MJ: I played a couple of WTA's (Women Tennis Association) in the last couple of months before going to college (2006), but being in college right now it is very hard to take off time from school to play tournaments because I am already playing for Colorado State University which is a Division 1 team. Playing a college sport takes up a lot of time, especially with school. It is a huge responsibility and a commitment.

KT: What was your most memorable match?
MJ: Playing in the Dubai Open in 2006. For my 12th birthday my parent’s birthday gift were tickets to the Dubai Open Women’s Final. As I watched Martina Hingis (my favorite player at that time), I wished that I could play that tournament someday. It took me 6 years for my dream to come true! Another important tournament that I played was the Asian Olympic Games in 2006; it was a great opportunity for me to represent my country in the Olympic games.

Manar with former World No. 1 Swiss Martina Hingis

KT: Would you like to pursue the game full-time after College?
MJ: I will be playing more WTA’s to get ranked internationally after I graduate from college. I am not sure yet of going full-time, but I will definitely keep playing competitively. I would also like to get a coaching certification to coach young girls.

KT: What would you say to Khaleeji girls aspiring to join the tour?
MJ: I would encourage all the girls in the Gulf countries to pursue tennis or any other sport, even though there is not much support for females. Tennis being an individualized sport, you can do so much on your own and do not need much support from the country. Since we have four knowledgeable women in the parliament in Kuwait now, I am sure that things are going to change positively. Female sports will be much more appreciated, supported, and encouraged.  Playing a sport is not only good for your health but also on your behavior. All the tournaments that I played abroad had different flavors, each experience was unique, and I must say that they made me become more independent and shaped my personality.

KT: Would you like to add anything else?
MJ: I would like to thank Khaleejesque for this interview, I would also like to thank my family for their continual support, if it was not for them I would not have reached where I am today.  I would also like to thank Nawal Al Bader who has supported me through my tennis career and congratulate her for her new position as chairman of Fatat Club. I would also like to encourage all the young girls out there to pursue a sport and let it become not just a hobby, but a passion and a part of their life!

Manar with former World No. 1 Belgian Justine Henin

– Khaleejesque

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