Teenager Zainab’s demise shocks tennis community

In Sports
March 29, 2024



KARACHI:

The shocking, untimely death of teenage tennis star Zainab Ali Naqvi  has plunged the sports circles across the country into mourning and deprived Pakistan of a talented sportsperson.

The 17-year-old rising star from Karachi, ranked among the top eight junior players, passed away in Islamabad on the night of February 12 due to cardiac arrest. She was participating at the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Juniors Khawar Hayat Memorial Tournament in the capital.  
With hard work and discipline, Zainab had become Sindh number two junior player and was among the top eight junior girls in the country.  
Ali Imam, her father, mentioned everything about her in the present tense as a parent does, and his pain could be heard in his voice a few hours after Zainab’s body was transported to Karachi from Islamabad.  
The entire tennis community, including the newly elected Pakistan Tennis President Aisamul Haq Qureshi, former president Salim Saifullah and Karachi Tennis Association have been left shocked and heartbroken but nothing compares to the grief of Zainab’s father, mother, and brother, who is four years younger than her.  
In a difficult phone call, Imam shared Zainab’s memories when asked about who were her favourites and how she got into tennis.  
“Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are her favourite tennis players,” Imam told The Express Tribune. “Among women, she is fond of…. Aryna Sabalenka, more recently. But she also liked Maria Sharapova.”  
Imam said that Zainab started playing tennis at the age of six and later she forayed into competing in the local tournaments.  
“She began playing because I used to play tennis and she followed me.”   
The right-handed player’s preferred surface was hard court, according to her ITF profile.  
Imam spoke fondly about Zainab’s love for Western classical music as well and revealed that she has been a trained pianist.  
“She did her O Levels from Cedar College and her primary education is from Foundation Public School, but besides tennis, she is a musician too. She has trained to become a pianist for eight years, western classical is her forte,” said Imam.  
Ludovica Einaudi and Beethoven were among her favourites as well as a pianist.  
“Zainab was born on April 30, 2006,” Imam informed, she would have turned 18 next month.  
 “Zainab was always smiling, always polite to everyone, she was very friendly, and everyone who met her was delighted by her spirit, besides being an excellent player,” recalls Karachi Tennis Association President and PTF Vice President. “Zainab has been impressive in her game; she was so good that the Pakistan Air Force had signed a contract with her last year just before the National Games in Quetta.
“There are so many tournaments that she has won, it was great to see her rise to become Sindh number two player and she was among the top eight juniors in the country.”  
Rehmani added he saw her in Islamabad a few days ago and his last interaction with her had been pleasant as ever. “I was in Islamabad, and she came to greet me, we were all very shocked to learn of her passing.”  
He added that Zainab’s parents had been incredibly supportive of her and made sure she travelled to the tournaments regularly, encouraging her to excel at her craft.  
Rehmani said that on Tuesday, the Sindh and Karachi association paid respects to her at the Union Club.  
He explained that Zainab passed away suddenly at her maternal grandmother’s house in Islamabad, “She had come back after playing and went to take a shower directly, after some time when the family noticed that she had not come out they started to knock on the door and knocked it down only to find her unconscious. She was rushed to the hospital where she was declared not alive.  
“This is the second youngster that we have lost suddenly like this, earlier our former Pakistan Davis Cup player and Punjab Tennis official Rashid Malik’s son Shehryar also passed away suddenly like this a few years ago.”  
But Rehmani said that the youngsters have left their mark on Pakistan tennis.  
“The PTF decided to rename the second ITF Junior tournament that is to begin next week. The tournament will be named after Zainab, it is a way to keep her memory alive,” said Rehmani.  
Her funeral is scheduled for Wednesday, said Rehmani.  

PTF names court after Zainab

Just two hours later Aisam announced late in the night that the next tournament, and named the tennis court where she was scheduled to play on Tuesday after her.   
“Today has been an extremely difficult day for Pakistan tennis, as one of our upcoming junior players Zainab Ali Naqvi passed away last night from cardiac arrest. She was scheduled to play her first-round match at the ITF J30. To honour her, I, as President Pakistan Tennis Federation, have decided to name a court after her which she was supposed to play her match on today.  
“I have also decided to honour our tennis players Ejaz Mushtaq, Kashif Sikandar, and Shehzad Sikandar who tragically passed away in Wah Cantt in 1996 by naming a court after them as well. This division will be approved by the Council Members in the first PTF Annual General Meeting of my tenure.  
These bright young stars of Pakistan Tennis left us too soon, but they will be forever remembered and missed.  
Moving forward, one of our priorities is to ensure players receive the respect and honour they deserve.  
As a first step, we have decided that ITF j30 in Islamabad next week will be called Zainab Ali Naqvi Memorial ITF J30.   
Requesting everyone to pray for Zainab and her family.”  
A ritual of ‘dua’ was also offered for Zainab by the PTF along with a minute of silence in the presence of the foreign and local players, officials, coaches, and staff.  
Earlier, PTF had postponed the matches from Tuesday to Wednesday. The ITF Juniors Tournament features 45 boys and girls from countries including, Kazakhstan Uzbekistan, Turkey, the US, Hong Kong, China, Russia, South Korea, Romania, Switzerland, Sri Lanka, and Thailand besides hosts Pakistan who are fielding 27 players.  

 

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