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Tennis player captures world's attention competing for native Syria

While many students carry their heavy load of essays and exams, Florida Atlantic University tennis player Marc Abdelnour carried the weight of his native country, Syria, as he competed in this year's Davis Cup.

Abdelnour, the Owls' all-time leader in career singles victories, was selected to play in the Davis Cup, the premier international tennis tournament. This was not his first invitation to play on the big stage. He had been invited to play for the last four years, but could not because of scheduling conflicts with FAU's conference tournament.

With Syria moving up from its usual Group III to Group II, Abdelnour was able to participate because the matches for this group are held earlier in March instead of at the end of the month for his nation's former group assignment.

"I was really excited when I got the chance to play. I've participated in the Davis Cup as a junior, but never on this level," Abdelnour said.

Abdelnour also looked forward to being coached by Fadi Bidan, whom he has known since age 5. Bidan has coached Abdelnour every time he returns to Syria during the summer and winter breaks.

"Finding out that coach Bidan was the head coach of Syria's Davis Cup team made me feel even more comfortable" because he can always turn a tough situation into an easier one, Abdelnour said.

"It's more like a friendship between us than just a coach and player."

In his first match at the tournament against Korea's Suk-Young Jeong, Abdelnour struggled, losing in three sets, 6-3, 6-1 and 6-1.

"Playing in a huge stadium and being the underdog caused me to be tight and nervous. My balls were short and I wasn't as comfortable as my opponent," Abdelnour said.

"It was difficult to adapt to playing at such a high altitude and on a court with slopes," he added.

The loss in his first match fueled Abdelnour, though. He knew he had to win the second match for not only himself, but for Syria.

With the motivation gained from teammates and the coach, he was able to pull an upset in a three-hour match with a 7-3 tiebreaker in the third set.

"The whole team applauded for me after the match. I would consider this the best win in my life," Abdelnour said.

"He found a way to compete the best way he could, which is his trademark," FAU tennis coach Brandon Stokes said. "I'm thrilled for Syria and him. Marc is a gifted athlete and a tough competitor. Every time he gets on the court, I know he has a chance of winning."

Abdelnour's win was not only big for him, but also for Syria. It was the first time the country had ever won a match in Group II. Unfortunately, his win was the only one. Syria lost four of its five matches against Korea.

"We gained confidence from our participation in the Davis Cup, and hopefully will do better next year," Abdelnour said.

He plans to graduate in the spring and return home to play professional tennis.

"Hopefully, my ranking will get better as I continue to play so I can participate in the big tournaments," he said.

The FAU coach says he's sorry to see him go.

"He always brought fire and confidence to the team. It was contagious, and we needed that. I will miss him," Stokes said.



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