• Abdullah Shelbayh relishes Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM opportunity
• Highest ranked Arab ATP player in the world urges fans to come and support him in Jeddah during November 28 – December 2 tournament
• Shelbayh is one of eight of the world’s best 21-and-under players competing – and the only one from the Arab world
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (25, November, 2023): For Abdullah Shelbayh, the Jordanian international tennis player, competing against the elite from his worldwide peer group in Saudi Arabia will be “a special moment”.
Shelbayh, who turned 20 on November 16, is one of eight of the world’s best 21-and-under players starring in Jeddah at the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM from November 28 – December 2.
As well as the Jordanian, stars of the future Arthur Fils, Dominic Stricker, Luca Van Assche, Flavio Cobolli, Alex Michelsen, Hamad Medjedovic, and Luca Nardi are battling it out for global glory and the top prize of $514,000.
But for the region’s sole representative at the Next Gen ATP Finals – bar American Michelsen, the rest hail from Europe – there’s huge added incentive to perform well.
“In most countries in the Arab world, tennis is not as developed a sport,” says Shelbayh. “But for me as a Jordanian, as an Arab as well, to be playing in such a special event is an honour. It’s a great way for me to show to the world – the Arab world and the whole world – that we can have talent and special players from our region.”
Amman-born Shelbayh is ranked the 187th best player in the world by ATP, making him by far the highest ranked male player in the region – as well as the first Jordanian tennis player to achieve an ATP world ranking.
The success of Tunisian star Ons Jabeur – the former world No.2 and three-time Grand Slam finalist is the highest ranked Arab tennis player in both WTA and ATP rankings history – has sparked interest in tennis in the region.
And Shelbayh – who describes Jabeur as having done “wonders” for tennis in the Arab world – hopes he can prove just as, or even more, inspirational as he embarks on his professional career.
“I hope I will be inspiring many young kids from the Arab world to play this sport and of course to motivate them to do well and be the best that they can,” says Shelbayh, who after moving from his homeland aged 14 trained at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Spain and then spent a year playing at the University of Florida before turning professional.
“I know that we have brought through many talents over the years and hopefully in the upcoming years we’ll have many more players from the Arab world competing at such a high level.”
The next step on that quest is the Next Gen ATP Finals. Established in 2017, previous tournaments took place in Milan before an agreement was sealed for Jeddah to host them from at least 2023 to 2027.
Home support says Shelbayh, who is urging as many spectators as possible to attend this year’s event at King Abdullah Sports City, will mean the world to him.
“In the tournament, I think I'll need the support from the Arab world during the week,” says Shelbayh, who reached the Wimbledon Junior doubles final in 2021. “I'll be depending on them, honestly. It’ll be very special for me to see Arab fans watch me play there.
“I think it will be very interesting for Arabian tennis fans and fans in Saudi Arabia to come and watch me play because I'll be the only player from the Middle East playing at the event. I think it will be very interesting to see what's going to happen, and how far I'll go.”