Saudi Arabia’s first female professional tennis player won the J5 Isa Town tournament held in Bahrain yesterday. Yara Al-Haqbani beat her Russian opponent Tamara Ermakova in the final after beating Israel’s Isabell Bilaus in the semi-final.
The 18-year-old rising star beat 14-year-old Ermakova 6-1, 6-0. It was the second time that the pair had faced one another. Haqbani also came out on top against Ermakova in the second round of the same tournament last year.
The Saudi player is currently ranked 946 by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) with a record of 22 wins and 22 losses. She is the first female pro tennis player to represent Saudi Arabia and the youngest professional player in the kingdom.
Her match against Bilaus on Saturday was one of the few, but increasing, number of cases of Saudi athletes competing against Israeli. The two countries have no formal diplomatic relations. Bahrain normalised ties with Israel as part of the Abraham Accords in 2020.
During last year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, a Saudi judoka, Tahani Alqahtani, defied decades of anti-normalisation policies and pressure to boycott the match and opted to compete against Israel’s Raz Hershko. Alqahtani lost to the Israeli.
Also on Saturday, while Haqbani was playing against her Israeli opponent in neighbouring Bahrain, Israeli triathlete Shachar Sagiv made history by becoming the first Israeli athlete to compete in Saudi Arabia by taking part in the Saudi NEOM leg of the Super League Triathlon. The 28-year-old was eliminated from the race after falling in the cycling section of the race.