The Royal Connection That Helped Jordan's Shelbayh Make It On Tour


Abdullah Shelbayh made tennis historical past in February. All through his skilled breakthrough, the 2021 Rafa Nadal Academy graduate, who performed on the College of Florida for one 12 months earlier than turning professional, has obtained encouragement and steering from some well-known names throughout the sport.

The 19-year-old adopted up a run to the ultimate on the Manama Challenger (l. Kokkinakis) by touring to the ATP 250 occasion in Doha, the place he turned the primary Jordanian to play a Tour-level match.

“Ben Shelton texted me earlier than the ultimate in Bahrain. He wished me luck,” Shelbayh stated. “He’s an excellent good friend, we have been at College for one 12 months collectively. One in every of my closest pals there really. He’s doing fairly effectively for himself.

“Rafa’s crew texted me. His coach Carlos Moya and Uncle Toni have been reaching out very often throughout these two weeks. They’re all the time in contact once I’m at tournaments.”

ATP Challenger Tour 

On the Challenger 125 in Manama, Bahrain, the Amman native secured his first Prime-100 win within the quarter-finals by taking out high seed Jason Kubler. He didn’t cease there. In simply his third Challenger look, Shelbayh turned the primary Jordanian and the youngest Arab to succeed in a Challenger closing.

“It was form of surprising,” Shelbayh stated. “I knew I used to be enjoying effectively, higher and higher all year long. However, [in my] third Challenger, I didn’t count on to go that far within the match. Then to play in opposition to [Thanasi] Kokkinakis within the closing, one of many gamers I used to look at on TV, it’s an excellent alternative. One thing you don’t actually count on. It was an enormous factor for me.

“I signify my nation in each match I play, so to have the ability to signify it effectively is an honour for me. Jordan is sadly not a rustic that’s identified for tennis. I hope it turns into a type of nations sometime. It’s an achievement for myself however we additionally didn’t have many gamers earlier than me to have that chance.”

In August, Shelbayh was ranked No. 654 within the Pepperstone ATP Rankings when he first got here onto the scene by securing his maiden Challenger main-draw victory in opposition to high seed Dominic Stricker on the Rafa Nadal Open. Shelbayh’s February surge helped elevate him to a career-high 276.

Though his first Challenger main-draw win got here removed from his Jordan residence, it was solely becoming that it got here on the Rafa Nadal Academy, the place Shelbayh has skilled since 14. How does a teen who lives distant from Mallorca find yourself coaching on the prestigious academy? By way of a connection between Toni Nadal and Shelbayh’s consultant, Princess Lara Faisal, who’s a part of the royal household of Jordan. Uncle Toni flew to Jordan when Shelbayh was 13-years-old to recruit him to the island.

“They constructed a relationship after they have been in Doha collectively in 2016,” Shelbayh. “Toni invited Princess Lara over to the academy. She additionally invited him to a competition she had in Jordan. Toni was capable of are available 2017. She advised him a bit bit about me and he needed to see me. When he noticed me there, he very a lot needed me to hitch the academy each time I used to be able to. He knew it wasn’t going to be simple as a result of I used to be nonetheless a child however he stated, ‘Everytime you’re prepared!’”

All Rafa Nadal Academy college students dream of at some point getting a possibility to hit with the 22-time main champion Nadal. Shelbayh, who’s left-handed in all the things in addition to tennis like Rafa, admitted he was a bit starstruck when he first received an opportunity to practise with the 92-time tour titlist, however now sees Nadal extra as a mentor and good friend.


“He all the time offers me ideas when it comes to tennis. He additionally all the time makes positive that I don’t have too many individuals round me,” Shelbayh stated when requested what recommendation Nadal has supplied to him. “[He tells me that] you must have a couple of folks that you just belief so that you don’t get too loopy in your head of who to take heed to. If in case you have too many individuals round you, they offer you totally different [advice] and also you don’t know who to take heed to. Encompass your self with the correct guys, it doesn’t must be many, however should you belief them, that’s excellent.”

After pushing World No. 68 Soonwoo Kwon to a few units on the ATP 250 in Doha, Shelbayh is hoping to construct upon his robust begin to the 12 months with hopes of competing on the three remaining Grand Slams, ending the 12 months within the Prime 200, and qualifying for the 2023 Subsequent Gen ATP Finals, which showcases the season’s finest 21-and-under gamers.

Off the court docket, Shelbayh is a family-oriented individual. Regardless of being removed from residence, the teenager said that he calls or FaceTimes his mother and father and three older sisters day by day. In 2022, his 15-year-old brother, Zaid, joined him by shifting to the Rafa Nadal Academy.

After only a few months as knowledgeable tennis participant, Shelbayh has already made historical past, competed in a Challenger closing, and has loved a speedy rise within the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. Tennis followers out to keep watch over {the teenager} this season and for the years to come back.