Teenaged tennis star Zayn Siddiqi, who just won the Bahrain Tennis Club’s (BTC) Juniors Tennis Tournament under-18 title last Monday, has his sights set on playing at the highest international level some day.
The 14-year-old’s latest tournament win is yet another addition to the plethora of trophies he has won since he first started competing nationally at the age of eight.
“My aim is to play tennis at a higher level and I’m training for that,” Zayn, a St Christopher’s School student, told the GDN in an exclusive interview yesterday. “I hope to play college-level tennis when I eventually go to university abroad. Who knows – if I do well there, I might just be able to turn pro afterwards!”
Born in Bahrain to tennis-loving Pakistani parents, Sharmeen, a homemaker, and Farhan Siddiqi, a banker, Zayn was introduced to tennis at age five.
“I liked the sport,” he explained. “And I got very good at it pretty quickly because my elder brother, Zayaan – who is two years older – used to constantly win in the matches we played against each other. So I really practiced hard in the hope that I would get to beat him too. And, eventually, I did!”
Soon, however, his friendly matches with his brother were replaced by tougher games in national competitions.
“Just about a year after competing in my first national competition, I won my first tournament,” Zayn said. “It was the under-10 category in the EK Kanoo Tennis Tournament. Then, soon afterwards, I won the under-10 title in the BBK Tennis Tournament.”
As he grew older, Zayn’s winning streak continued as he triumphed in under-12 competitions and has led to a spectacular time in 2022 so far.
“This year, I’ve already bagged three singles titles,” he said. “I won the under-14 title at the EK Kanoo Juniors Open Tennis Championship. Then, I won the under-14 category in the BBK Juniors Open and, last Monday, I won the under-18 title in the BTC’s Juniors Tennis Tournament. I also won a couple of doubles titles.”
He’d been lucky in his tennis journey because of some ‘great’ coaches who had helped shape his progress through the years, Zayn added.
“My long-time coach, Ahmed Al Hawaj, played a major role in making me a better player,” he explained. “And my current coach, Marc Reyes, has been great. He’s a great inspiration for me because he’s worked with juniors on the pro circuit and he’s been working on my attitude and match-play.”
Zayn has also had some international exposure already, having travelled to the United Kingdom for two consecutive summers, starting when he was 10, to train at the National Tennis Centre at Roehampton, mother Sharmeen said.
“He was actually given an exemption to join the summer camp the first time,” she added. “That’s because he was younger than the minimum age they require. They allowed him to join after they arranged a special practice session for him and liked what they saw.”
Roehampton was an ‘excellent learning experience’, Zayn said. “Also, I got to meet Andy Murray and got his autograph!” he added.
Meanwhile, with all the training sessions he does and despite his apparent, single-minded focus on tennis, Zayn is also a very good student, Sharmeen revealed.
“I’m not just saying that because he’s my son,” she laughed. “He’s actually very good and consistently gets good grades.”
Tennis had helped him in his academic progress as well, Zayn added.
“Tennis has benefited me greatly in my studies,” he explained. “I don’t get stressed out about, or during exams, because, in tennis, I’m used to dealing with stressful situations at every point in a game. So, when it comes to my studies, I actually feel no pressure. It’s all due to tennis – the game is very therapeutic for me.”