Saturday, November 1, 2014

Dubai Junior ITF: Third time's a charm for Allaf against Hogbani

Photo credit: Andre Almeida
When Kareem Allaf (pictured) let out a massive roar on court at Al Wasl Club on Saturday after finishing off his opponent Ammar Alhogbani to capture the junior ITF title in Dubai, it was clear this wasn’t just any victory for the young Syrian.

The Abu Dhabi-based Allaf, 16, was facing Alhogbani for a third final in three weeks. He lost the first two, in Bahrain and in Kuwait, and was in no mood to suffer a third defeat at the hands of the 16-year-old Saudi Arabian.

Searching for his first-ever ITF junior title and playing his sixth career final, Allaf finally broke his trophy hoodoo to beat Alhogbani 6-4, 6-4 in one hour and 35 minutes.

I’m glad I lost the first two finals against him because I was even more determined to win the next tournament here in Dubai,” said Allaf after he ended Alhogbani’s 14-match winning streak.

I came out more aggressive, I tried to hold my serve more. In Kuwait I lost my serve too much. I broke him a couple of times, I got really pumped and I tried to stop him in the second set and it came out well elhamdolillah.”

Both players were contesting their 25th match (singles and doubles) in three weeks. Allaf broke in the fifth game of the match and opened up a 4-2 lead and it was all he needed to grab the opening set.

The pair exchanged breaks early in the second before Allaf broke through in a marathon fifth game which saw a controversial call from a line judge that sent Alhogbani fuming. The Saudi teenager, who lives and trains in Virginia in the US, thought he had received a game point after hitting what he assumed was a winner, but later found out that the line judge and umpire had called it out and that he was actually facing a break point.

I didn’t even know he called it out, I thought the game was over. I didn’t even know he said ‘advantage Kareem’. I didn’t really like it that much. It could have been 3-2 me and I ended up winning the next two games, it could have been a different match,” said Alhogbani.

He did break back and went on to lead 4-3 but Allaf ran away with the next three games to complete his revenge and capture his first ITF junior trophy.

We were both tired. I came out very nervous today,” admitted Alhogbani, who had beaten Allaf a total of four times in both singles and doubles in the past three weeks.

He played a very different match. He played better than I expected him to play. It was well done for him. He deserved it.”

Still, the US-based Saudi was happy with his stint in the Gulf, where he managed to win two titles on his ITF debut.

Meanwhile, Allaf paid tribute to his new coach Walid Jallali, who only teamed up with him a mere four weeks ago.

He’s helped me a lot through these three weeks mentally, he’s given me a lot of tips and I’m really happy he’s been helping me so much,” said Allaf of Jallali, who previously worked with Tunisian ATP world No71, Malek Jaziri.

The girls’ singles final of the Dubai ITF Junior Championships by Zata was won by third-seeded Cypriot Eliza Omirou, who defeated Greek second seed Eleni Christofi 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 in a lengthy and gruelling affair.

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