Younes El Aynaoui, Karim Alami and Hicham Arazi all entered the Ericsson Open tennis tournament with lofty expectations.
By the end of the tournament's first weekend, each of Morocco's tennis stars had been eliminated, failing to win even a single match between them. Based on their early success in the 2000 tennis season, all three players were seeded in the United States' second most prestigious tournament after the U.S. Open. By virtue of their seeding, each received a first-round bye. The second round experience, however, proved unkind for all three players. On Friday, 16th seed El Aynaoui fell to Zimbabwe's Byron Black 6-3, 1-6, 6-1. Black's unorthodox and deceptive two-handed forehand kept his Moroccan opponent guessing throughout the match.
On Saturday, neither Hicham Arazi nor Karim Alami could fare any better than their compatriot. The 29th seeded Arazi lost in straight sets to South Africa's Wayne Ferreira 7-5, 6-3. Although Arazi is currently ranked higher than Ferreira, the match's outcome can hardly be considered an upset. Ferreira is a former top-ten player who only last week took Pete Sampras to a third set tiebreaker before succumbing in a tense and highly competitive match.
Karim Alami, the tournament's number 27 seed, completed the sweep by falling to young American Jan-Michael Gambill in three sets, 6-4, 5-7, 6-1. All three Moroccan players are extremely disappointed by their performance, since they had been hoping to capture valuable Champions Race points.
Meanwhile, most of the world's top stars easily advanced to the next stage of the competition. Pete Sampras looked particularly impressive in dispatching former world number one Carlos Moya 6-1, 6-4. Sampras' game was clicking on all cylinders and his serve registered as high as 135 miles per hour. Top seed Andre Agassi also easily advanced, defeating 17-year old countryman Andy Roddick 6-2, 6-3. Roddick idolized Agassi growing up and many experts believe he will emerge as the next American star. Count Agassi among Roddick's proponents. "I like his game," Agassi said. "I think it can really develop. He can generate a lot of pace on his serve, he has a big forehand, and he's only 17 years old."
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)