Duplicating the accomplishments of countrymen Yones El Aynaoui and Karim Alami, seventh seeded Moroccan Hicham Arazi routed German Rainer Schutter 6-2, 6-3 to reach the second round of the Duty Free Dubai Tennis Open.
Arazi was one of five seeds in action on Wednesday to post opening round victories. Third seed Nicolas Lapennti of Ecuador swept aside Germany's Oliver Gross 6-3, 6-2. Lapennti hopes to rebound from his disappointing second round loss at the Australian Open two weeks ago. Fourth seeded Spaniard Alberta Costa dispatched of friend and countryman Alberto Berasategui 6-4, 7-5. Costa now holds a 5-2 lead in their head-to-head series. With 11 career ATP titles, Costa must be regarded as a threat to win here in Dubai, although all of his previous victories have come on clay. Still, Costa has trained feverishly to improve his hard court game and now has the chance to display his newfound talents on the hard courts of Dubai's Aviation Club Tennis Centre.
Spain's Felix Mantilla, the tournament's sixth seed who reached the finals in 1998, survived a tight first set before dispatching of Zimbabwe's Byron Black 7-6 (8-6), 6-2. Mantilla's victory prevented a second round encounter between the Black siblings. Byron's brother Wayne easily eliminated Daniel Vacek of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-3.
Defending champion and eight seed Jerome Golmard of France begun his title defense by defeating Spain's Francisco Clavet in three sets, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1. Last spring Golmard injured his right knee and was forced to miss over six months of action. Still, he has begun the current year in impressive form, already winning a tournament in Chennai, India.
Thursday's second round matches pit top seed Nicolas Kiefer against Alberto Martin and include a pair of clashes between Moroccan and Spanish players. Younes El Aynaoui faces Galo Blanco, while Karim Alami meets Fernando Vicente. The third Moroccan in the draw, Hicham Arazi, faces a dangerous opponent in Czech Jiri Novak. Although unseeded, Novak is playing with an abundance of confidence after spearheading his country's Davis Cup victory over Great Britain last weekend.
First prize in the tournament is $137,000.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)