There exists little doubt that Moroccan tennis players Younes El Aynaoui, Karim Alami and Hicham Arazi all circled April 10-16 on their calendars. The Moroccan trio are the top three seeded players at the King Hassan II Tournament in Casablanca, one of three tournaments inaugurating the 2000 clay court season. On Tuesday, all three Moroccan players capitalized on their home court advantage at the Complexe Al Amal by triumphing in their opening round matches.
Top-seed El Aynaoui led the way with a straight-set victory over Spain's Albert Portas, 7-5, 7-5, the ATP, the Tennis Association, told albawaba. El Aynaoui next faces Laurence Tieleman in the second round. The Italian southpaw possesses a lethal serve-and-volley game that should be neutralized by the slow clay surface of the Complexe.
Second seed Karim Alami swept aside German Tomas Behrend, 6-3, 6-4 ATP reported. Next in line for Alami is talented Swedish teenager Andreas Vinciguerra, who rallied to defeat France's Arnaud Clement, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. The crowd should be treated to an exciting and competitive match between Alami and Vinciguerra, who many experts feel in among the game's top young stars.
Third seed Arazi completed the first round sweep by eliminating Frenchman Anthony Dupuis, 6-3, 7-5. In the next round, Arazi will meet Christophe Rochus of Belgium, who eliminated Morocco's Mehdi Tahari, 6-1, 6-2.
All three stars have enjoyed past success at their hometown event. Arazi captured his sole career title in 1997, while Alami and El Aynaoui have each reached the semifinals twice, ESPN reported. Arazi and El Aynaoui are each having excellent 2000 seasons thus far. Both reached the quarterfinals of January's Australian Open, while last month Arazi upset world number one Andre Agassi at Indian Wells, California.
A darkhorse to watch in this year's tournament is two-time French Open champion Sergi Bruguera of Spain. In recent years, Bruguera has suffered from an assortment of injuries and his ranking has plummeted. By virtue of his past success on clay, however, he was granted a wild card entry into this year's draw. Bruguera advanced to the second round after his opponent, fifth seed Marc Rosset of Switzerland was forced to withdraw due to an injured lower back. Bruguera had won the first set 6-2 before Rosset defaulted.
Thus far, the local response to this tournament has been incredible. Al-Bawaba spoke with David Law, Communications Manager of the ATP Tour, who stated that he "can't believe how fantastic it is that the top three seeds are Moroccans." He added that the three are all "fantastic people and good players as well." Yesterday was Children's Day at the Complexe Al Amal, and El Aynaoui volunteered to hit around with some of the local youth. Apparently, screaming could be heard throughout the tournament grounds - albawaba.
Photos by ATP
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