Kira Nagy glows with joy when she talks about Dubai and its glorious evolution, which has the former Hungarian tennis player completely under its spell.

Nagy also has played her own part in this amazing Dubai story.

She won the first-ever professional tennis tournament for women in the Middle East, which was staged in Dubai.

The year was 1998 when she landed in Dubai, her first time in the Middle East, for the inaugural edition of the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge.

“Dubai was so different back then. But every year you come to Dubai, you see a lot of changes. So you can imagine how it was 25 years ago. It was very different. It was already a modern, growing and beautiful city,” she told the Khaleej Times.

“It was my first time in the Middle East. I came with my mother and as a surprise, I ended up winning the tournament. It was special because it was the first-ever professional tennis tournament for women in the Middle East.”

Nagy went on to play every edition of the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge until she retired in 2014.

The Budapest-born player is also now a Dubai resident.

“It’s been 15 years now that I am living in Dubai and I am the head coach of this beautiful resort (Habtoor Grand Resort, the venue of the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge),” she said.

Last year, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the region’s oldest tennis tournament for women, Nagy came out of retirement at the age of 44.

“I played again both in singles and doubles to celebrate the landmark. It’s a tournament that’s close to my heart,” she said.

Nagy then revealed why she keeps nudging her Hungarian friends to visit Dubai.

“Dubai is centrally located, so everybody can come here from any part of the world. It’s very easy. That’s why I always tell my friends to visit this beautiful city,” she said.

“The infrastructure is amazing. But the most important thing is the safety. Dubai is one of the safest places in the world.

“The weather is good, people are happy, I see smiling faces every day. There is a great positive vibe in the city. It’s an easy place to be in and an easy place to live in.”

Dubai is also the place where Nagy bumped into one of her greatest idols in tennis, Monica Seles — the nine-time Grand Slam champion who was threatening to break all records in the game until a knife attack by a disgruntled Steffi Graff fan cut short her peak.

“I will never forget that day. It was more than 10 years ago, I was playing here (Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge). I had a match, but I saw her walking by. I could not resist and ran up to her for a chat,” she said.

“She is the kindest and the sweetest person I have ever met in tennis. She has Hungarian roots and she speaks our language fluently.

“She is a great ambassador for our sport. Meeting her for the first time here (in Dubai) was one of the most beautiful moments in my life.”

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