Stefanos Tsitsipas predicts bright future for Jordanian talent Abdullah Shelbayh

World No 7 impressed by 20-year-old who had opportunity to hit with Greek star in Madrid this week

Abdullah Shelbayh during his practice session with Stafanos Tsitsipas at the Madrid Open at Caja Magica on April 26, 2024. Getty Images
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World No 7 Stefanos Tsitsipas has heaped praise on Jordanian up-and-comer Abdullah Shelbayh, predicting a bright future for the young tennis talent.

The 20-year-old Shelbayh fell in the second round of qualifying at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Madrid earlier this week, but stuck around at the Caja Magica to train with his Spanish coach Fernando Verdasco and get a chance to hit with the best players in the world.

Shelbayh got to practise with Tsitsipas several times this week and the Greek star likes what he has seen so far from the Jordanian lefty.

“I really believe he's a top-100 player in the future, and I'm pretty convinced he can be top 50, as well,” said Tsitsipas on Saturday.

“Now, I think the barrier between a top-50 player and top 100, there is some work to be done there in order to get to the top 50. I would love to see him succeed and be good, because I really support small countries like this that make it big in tennis. I have come from one myself.”

Shelbayh, who played at the Next Gen ATP Finals in Jeddah last year and peaked at 181 in the world rankings earlier this season, is the first Jordanian player to compete in or win a match on the ATP Tour.

“He's a good kid. I really like him,” added Tsitsipas of the Rafa Nadal Academy graduate.

“I haven't absorbed too much of how he goes about his training regimen and his workouts, but if he's really dedicated, and if he really sets his mind to the goals that he wants to achieve and the hunger to become better, I'm pretty sure we're going to see him in the top 50 pretty soon.

“But so far we have had a few chats. He's eager to learn, which is a good sign. So I wish him the best. I hope we can practise a bit more in the future.”

There has been an Arab feel to the Madrid Open this week with both Tunisian Ons Jabeur and Egyptian Mayar Sherif in action on the WTA side, and Shelbayh joined by Moroccan teenager Reda Bennani and Lebanese-German player Benjamin Hassan in the men’s qualifying tournament.

Jabeur, a champion in Madrid in 2022, is thrilled to see more Arab players work their way up to the ATP and WTA circuits.

“Honestly it feels amazing. I speak to Mayar obviously a little bit, but this was the first time I saw Reda and I’m pleased with his level,” said Jabeur, referring to the 17-year-old Bennani, who took a set off ex-top-50 player Brandon Nakashima before losing in the first round of qualifying.

“I spoke to him a little bit and told him to continue, because it's nice to see a younger player from the Arab world is coming up.

“And for me, it is really important. I always want to do the first step and tell them if they want to talk or need anything, I'm always here for them.”

Shelbayh has been sharing his coach Verdasco with Jabeur this week and was sitting in her box to support her during her third-round win over Leylah Fernandez on Saturday.

“I've known Abdullah from a long time and he's such a funny boy. I like the way he is. We're actually sharing the coach right now. We are sharing Fernando a bit. It's nice to have him and always tease him sometimes about who has the better drop shot, I always say,” laughed Jabeur.

Jabeur, who is a three-time Grand Slam finalist, will next take on former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko for a place in the Madrid quarter-finals.

Meanwhile, Sherif picked up her first two wins of the season at the Caja Magica before falling to world No 4 Elena Rybakina 6-1, 6-4 in the third round on Sunday.

Updated: April 28, 2024, 2:18 PM