The Top Female Muslim Tennis Player

By Parvez Fatteh, TMO, Founder of,

Aravane Rezai of France during her match against Petra Martic of Croatia during the Miami WTA Open Tennis.
Picture Stuart Morton

The search for the top Muslima in the tennis world takes us to two countries: Iran and France. Arsalan and Nouchine Rezai emigrated from Iran to France. Arsalan, being an auto mechanic, was in search of a better life for his family. In 1987, Nouchine, a physical therapist, gave birth to daughter Aravane. And, a tennis star was born.

She began playing tennis at the age of eight. Now, in 2010, she is the top women’s tennis player in all of France, and the 18th-ranked women’s tennis player in the world. And to think, she started out in the game as her older brother’s ball girl. And if she hadn’t become a professional tennis player she had designs on becoming a physicist. Her brother, Anauch, has gone on to become a successful tennis coach. While Aravane has gone on to record victories over such tennis stars as Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin, and Venus Williams.

Aravane maintains close relations with her family. She is coached by her father, while her mother travels with her in the role of physical therapist. A baseline player and hardcourt specialist, Aravane first saw international success by winning gold medals while representing Iran in the Women’s Islamic Games in 2001 and 2005. She has since gone on to win four Women’s Tennis Association tournament titles thus far in her career. In grand slam play, her best finishes so far have been a fourth round finish at the 2006 U.S. Open and a fourth round finish at the 2009 French Open. Her highest WTA world ranking thus far was number 15, achieved just last month. So, clearly her star is on the rise.

On the personal side, Aravane is fluent in three languages: French, Persian, and English. Her cultural interests range from Bollywood films to Persian poetry and Persian music. And she remains down to earth enough to enjoy a good kebab. While she still intends to pursue the field of physics after she is done with tennis, her immediate goal remains to emulate her favorite players, Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi, by achieving the number one ranking in the world. She will be in action this week in Bali, as the number two seed in the $600,000 Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions.