The first major upset at the Duty Free Dubai Open tennis tournament was recorded by Morocco's Karim Alami, who defeated second seed Magnus Norman of Sweden.
Ranked third in the ATP Champions Race standings, Norman was eliminated in straight sets, 7-6 (8-6), 7-5. Alami, who won two ATP titles in 1996, reached the third round in last month's Australian Open.
Alami's win was the second of the day for Morocco's triumvirate. Earlier, Younes El Aynaoui scored his first victory in seven visits to Dubai when he swept aside Australia's Andrew Ilie 6-3, 6-3. El Aynaoui had expected to be the crowd favorite, and was surprised when the majority of spectators rooted for Ilie. In last year's tournament, Ilie reached the semifinals and gained many fans along the way with his charismatic personality and fierce groundstrokes, reminding some of Andre Agassi in his early years.
"I'm very disappointed," said Ilie. "But you win some, you lose some." El Aynaoui admitted that his confidence had been bolstered by his recent run to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, but added that the Australian had given him plenty of free points during the match.
The third Moroccan entered in the tournament's main draw, Hicham Arazi, is scheduled to play Germany's Rainer Schuttler in his opening match. Arazi warmed up for this encounter by teaming with countryman Alami to defeat the tandem of Nicolas Kiefer and Magnus Norman, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, in opening round doubles action.
In other first round matches, top seed Nicolas Kiefer of Germany required three sets to dispatch of countryman Lars Burgsmuller 6-1, 2-6, 6-4. Three Spaniards also advanced to the second round. Alberto Martin triumphed over American Jeff Tarango 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, 6-2, 19-year old Joan Carlos Ferrero defeated Germany's Martin Damm 6-3, 7-6 (7-1), while Fernando Vicente outlasted India's Leander Paes 6-0, 4-6, 6-3.
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