At just 17 years old, the tennis star is the first Saudi to represent the Kingdom professionally at international tournaments. She has the mindset to win big and pave the way for her fellow athletes.
It’s not always easy growing up among many siblings. Yet, when they share the same passion and love for a sport — tennis — power in numbers can help achieve outstanding goals. This has been the case for Yara Alhogbani, a 17-year-old Saudi professional tennis player, one of seven brothers and a sister. While she was born in Ohio and raised in Virginia, USA, where her family was and remains her driving force, the timing couldn’t be better for her to now return to her beloved Saudi Arabia. Women are more empowered than ever before across all facets of life, and female participation in sports is taking a major leap with multiple disciplines on the rise. Tennis is no exception.
“I am so grateful that my parents allowed us to pursue different passions and career paths,” starts Alhogbani. “My siblings and I spent most of our childhood outdoors — we were always outside riding bikes, playing soccer, basketball, and eventually, we drifted towards the tennis court.” Today, for the Alhogbani household, tennis is their go-to sport. Her two older brothers, Saud and Ammar competed in the Davis Cup representing Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, their father played tennis as a hobby and occasionally coached her older brothers. Being part of a loving and sport passionate family has played a major role in her climbing the tennis ladder — after all tennis is a year-round sport with intense training schedules, packed tournaments, and commitments. “Every single person in my family plays an important role in supporting my tennis career. My mom and dad have sacrificed so much to get me to where I am today, and I carry that with me on the rare days when I find it hard to hop on the court,” she says. Her siblings have also played integral roles, whether it’s her brother Ammar coaching her, or her sister Haya taking time off work to take her to a tournament. “She is the smartest and the most empathetic person I know,” she says of her sister. “I am always learning from her,” Alhogbani affirms. Moreover, she continues to find support and encouragement from her fellow Saudi females who stand by her, cheering for her throughout the year.
Inspired by her father and older siblings, and aspiring to be like her tennis idol Rafael Nadal, Alhogbani aims to get on the scoring sheets of the WTA (Women Tennis Association — the governing body of professional female tennis and equivalent to the ATP, the Association of Tennis Professionals for men). Once the points start to rack up, her goal is to venture into the dizzying heights of the “Top-50” ranked females in the world. Alhogbani has an aggressive baseline style of play, and an equally powerful counterpunch. She participated in various tournaments with great success; some highlights of her very promising career include being the first Saudi female to play at pro tour level and achieve an international ranking, and only the second Saudi female athlete to receive a medal in international competition (silver in Bahrain ITF), and win over 110 USTA tournaments.
When asked to describe a regular day, the athlete considers hers to be like that of every other teenage girl — except with significant time on the court. “I go to school for four hours a day and then train for six hours.” Off the court, she does fitness at the gym, yoga, stretching, and recovery workouts. “I like to unwind by spending time with my family. We usually play board games, card games such as Euchre, or watch movies.” She also loves to read and journal — “A good book transports me to a different world and writing about it allows me to create my own”— if she has the free time, she adds.
When considering the difficulties and challenges facing her, Alhogbani says, “Training in Saudi has taught me a lot about discipline and resilience. Although we don’t have as many tennis courts, we make do with what we have for the time being and that has translated onto the court for me. This mindset tremendously helped with improving my own tennis game.” She is currently working with coaches Kevin Kerns and Pablo Mosquera in Riyadh and is in search of a full-time professional tennis coach that could take her on and help her achieve her aspirations. “It’s always been my goal to bring Saudi to the tennis world and I believe that I have done a good job of doing just that. I have brought Saudi female representation to ITF and WTA events, which has not been done before,” she says. Adding, “While I believe that my accomplishments on the court are important, I want to dedicate my time and knowledge to helping any Saudi girl with a racket and a dream.”
Originally published in the June 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia
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