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  • Jassim Akakah reveals pride at becoming Saudi Arabia’s first-ever Olympic tennis umpire at Tokyo 2020

Jassim Akakah reveals pride at becoming Saudi Arabia’s first-ever Olympic tennis umpire at Tokyo 2020

Saudi umpire Jassim Akakah officiated 14 matches at Tokyo 2020's tennis competition. (Supplied)
Saudi umpire Jassim Akakah officiated 14 matches at Tokyo 2020's tennis competition. (Supplied)
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06 Aug 2021 10:08:11 GMT9
06 Aug 2021 10:08:11 GMT9
  • The 39-year-old said the call-up, received in 2019, was a dream come true

Saleh Fareed

JEDDAH: Chair umpire Jassim Akakah made history this month as he became the first Saudi to officiate 15 tennis matches in different categories at the Tokyo Olympics.

“It is a privilege to be the first Saudi referee for tennis at the Olympics since the start of the games in 1896 in Athens,” Akakah told Arab News.

Among Akakah’s highlights were taking the chair for the men’s semifinal, which saw fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev defeat world No.1 and top seed Novak Djokovic, as well as the men’s doubles final in which Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic clinched gold.

Being selected for the 2020 games was a dream come true, Akakah said.

Jassim Akakah became the first ever Saudi tennis umpire to take part in the Olympic Games.

Speaking to Arab News from his hometown Qatif after returning from Tokyo, he said his selection to the umpiring team was done under specific criteria, which included experience in other events and performance over the years.

“In 2019, I received the call to be an official umpire in the Tokyo Olympics, which really made me happy, but due to the pandemic last year, the event was postponed when I was all set to travel to Japan and represent Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Akakah’s wife was one of the first people to know about his selection when he received the call and, according to him, was overjoyed and proud with his achievement.

“I feel honored by this appointment as this is a rare opportunity to participate in the Olympics as a Saudi official,” he said.

Arij Mutabagani, chairwoman of the Saudi Tennis Federation (STF), praised Akakah’s achievements and highlighted her federation’s long-term development program for players and referees under the guidance of Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al Faisal, minister of sports, and with the full support of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“This assignment is a direct reflection of Akakah’s dedication and commitment to being with the best in the world and of his performance at previous international competitions. We are extremely proud of him, and it is such an honor to have a Saudi referee at this most prestigious event,” Mutabagani told Arab News.

The 39-year-old Akakah said being at Tokyo 2020 was a dream come true.

Even when the pandemic cast a doubt on whether Tokyo 2020 would go ahead, the 39-year-old was still preparing himself mentally and physically for the pinnacle of his career.

Akakah’s journey began when he started out as a tennis player at the age of 7. He continued playing until the age of 21, then venturing into coaching and management. In 2005, at the age of 23, he started his refereeing career.

He is no stranger to high-profile international matches, officiating at the Australian Open and having become the first Saudi to umpire at Wimbledon four years in a row.

“I have participated in many local and regional tournaments in Bahrain, Dubai, Qatar, Kuwait and Japan, but the Wimbledon and Australian Open tournaments were my biggest achievements,” he said.

Akakah says he is grateful for the support and praise from his family, the STF, the Ministry of Sports and the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, as well as the general public.

“I would like to thank everyone who supported me during my professional career, and I thank Arab News for its interest in sports achievements at all levels.”

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