Karim Alami's brilliant run of tennis came to a crashing halt yesterday, when he was overwhelmed by Frenchmen Cedric Pioline in the semifinals of the $2.95 million Masters Series Monte Carlo tournament.
According to the Associated Press, the No. 8 seed Pioline completed his surprisingly easy victory 6-3, 6-1 in merely 69 minutes. Playing in an eerie atmosphere as Mediterranean mist covered the Monte Carlo Tennis Club, Alami's play was filled with unforced errors on both his groundstrokes and volleys.
Alami's performance on Saturday was a stark contrast to the brilliant form he displayed in his previous two matches while defeating Magnus Norman and Albert Costa.
Richard Evans of the ATP Tour noted that the muscular Alami surprised Costa during their quarterfinal encounter with his aggressive net play, producing a spectacular achievement to prevail 6-4, 7-5.
By virtue of reaching the semifinals in Monte Carlo, Alami sent the tennis world a message that he is unwilling to take a back seat to his Moroccan compatriots Hicham Arazi and Younes El Aynaoui, who thus far had stolen the headlines in 2000.
Both Arazi and El Aynaoui reached the quarterfinals of the year's first grand slam, the Australian Open, while last month in California Arazi upset the world's top ranked player, Andre Agassi.
Yesterday's performance aside, Alami's game appears to be hitting its stride as he prepares for next week's Barcelona Open, where he reached the finals last year.
Sunday's championship match in Monte Carlo pits Pioline against unseeded Slovak Dominic Hrbaty, who rallied from a set down on Saturday to beat Argentine Gaston Gaudio.
According to Richard Evans, Hrbaty and Gaudio managed to entertain a capacity crowd that included Prince Rainier in a manner that more illustrious players could not have topped.
Although a Masters Series event, the tournament was missing many of the game's top stars including Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Patrick Rafter and teenage Phenom Lleyton Hewitt.
Nevertheless, the Monte Carlo crowd should be treated to a brilliant display of tennis between Pioline, a two-time runner up at Monte Carlo, and Hrbaty, who is in the biggest final of his young career – Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)