Abdullah Shelbayh will experience a very special week in a few days when he plays the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It will be the culmination of a breakout season in which the Jordanian has broken down barrier after barrier, and which now puts him in the showcase to present himself to the entire world.

“It will be a great experience for me and a great opportunity to show my level and enjoy the great matches that I am going to play against the best players in the world,” Shelbayh assured ATPTour.com. “It’s a great opportunity,” she added. “And it will be very fun knowing that I am in an Arab country. Especially for my country, for Jordan it will be very special. Also for the tournament: having a player from the Arab region will be very exciting and fun. “I think I’m going to really enjoy this opportunity.”

Shelbayh will be the first player from Jordan to compete in the tournament after receiving an invitation. At 20 years old, he has achieved ATP Tour victories this season at the Banja Luka and Metz tournaments, in addition to becoming the first player from his country to win an ATP Challenger Tour title, when he won in Charleston in October.

“This year has been my first season on the circuit, but so far it has been the best of my career overall,” Shelbayh said. “I was able to win my first Challenger title. It was very special, knowing that I have had a very hard few months this summer, and many changes around me. I haven’t had the best time off the track, so it was fantastic to win that title at such an important time of the year. Honestly, I’m very pleased with the way I played that week.”

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That victory in Charleston, which he achieved at the beginning of October by defeating Oliver Crawford in the final, allowed him to gain momentum, also gaining 75 points (he is currently No. 187 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings) and allowing him to have an important conversation with Rafael Nadal, champion of 22 Grand Slam titles.

“He told me that it was a big step in my career, and that I had to enjoy it and not be happy,” confessed the Jordanian. “He told me that he couldn’t be happy with just one result because everyone is trying to improve at the same time, so you have to continue with what you have built. That doesn’t mean you’re going to win every tournament, but you have to keep up the good work and not miss these important moments that help you move towards your goal. It was very special to hear those words from someone like him, who has been my idol since I started playing tennis,” he remarked.

“To describe Abdullah, you have to analyze his talent,” explained Nadal. “I think he is a player with a very special innate talent, capable of doing things that the vast majority cannot. With his playing style, he makes opponents feel very uncomfortable. I know this because I have trained with him quite a few times. And to all this, one decisive thing has been added: this last year and a half he has taken a decisive step forward in his way of living tennis,” added the Spanish star. “He has really realized that what he wants is to be a professional tennis player and he is working very hard to achieve it. The only thing left to do is congratulate him for his dedication and effort and encourage him to continue on that path,” he added. “He has had a very positive season, reaping very good results and with a good climb in the ranking. Now comes a very nice moment, playing the Next Gen ATP Finals. I want to wish you all the luck in the world. It is sure to be a very special tournament for him.”

Shelbayh arrived at the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar in 2018, when she was 14 years old, and since then she has not stopped growing. How did the Jordanian end up in the Spanish academy in Manacor? Through a connection between Toni Nadal and Shelbayh’s representative, Princess Lara Faisal, who is part of the Jordanian royal family. In these five years, Shelbayh has not stopped growing as a player and as a person.

“When he arrived he was a boy who did things well, we already saw that he had a certain ability, but no more than that,” said Toni Nadal, who has seen the evolution of the tennis player during all this time. “Over the years I think he has improved almost every aspect of the game. In the last year his improvement has been palpable and definitive. “I think he has gained maturity and commitment,” he said. “He has many options to reach the ATP Tour circuit soon and he has shown signs of this in different tournaments playing against players among the best in the world. He has given them battle, he even already has victories with renowned players,” he recalled.

“If he continues with the same will that he has lately, with the same predisposition and the same commitment, I am sure that we will soon see him in the big tournaments, being one of the players who will be able to battle the best in the world,” he said. . “For us, for the academy, he has been a source of great satisfaction because he is a player made entirely on our courts.”

Indeed, Shelbayh has trained at the Rafa Nadal Academy, climbing from the bottom to the achievements he has achieved in 2023. And much of the Jordanian’s success, of course, is due to the work structure he has in Mallorca, in the academy of the 14-time Roland Garros champion.

“I have been at the academy for many years and it is like my home,” the 20-year-old said. “I represent the academy in all the games I play. It’s a great name to carry on your back. “I appreciate everything the academy has done for me, everything Rafa and all the players at the academy have done,” he continued. “I remember arriving many years ago and I didn’t expect it to be so special, I didn’t expect to spend so many years here. “Once you have a good environment around you, everything is easier.”

“I think Abdullah is a different, great, unpredictable player and that is what makes him fun to watch and makes him a difficult opponent to read for the opponent,” explained Carlos Moyà, Nadal’s coach and former Pepperstone ATP No. 1. Rankings. “The disorder he has is very good, but if he manages to organize it a little… he can be a player that no one wants to play with. He hits incredible shots, and when you least expect it. Being unpredictable creates tremendous discomfort for rivals. He doesn’t have to lose that and improve his consistency a little more.”

What is the dream of any young person trying to become a professional? Of course, training with Nadal and his team, and being able to listen to his advice would be on most people’s wish list.

“For me, personally, being able to train with Rafa, having Carlos Moyà and Toni Nadal there… is something I never imagined,” Shelbayh revealed. “I always dreamed of it, honestly, but now it’s a reality. I hope things continue like this. “I am very grateful for everything they have done for me.”

Shelbayh will debut at the Next Gen ATP Finals next Tuesday against Luca Van Assche. The Jordanian and the Frenchman are in the Red Group along with Alex Michelsen and Hamad Medjedovic.

Source: https://www.atptour.com/es/news/jeddah-2023-abdullah-feature-lunes

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