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Gulf Times: El Aynaoui's Final Fling

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

written by Anil John/Doha


Black Tennis Pro's Younes El Aynaoui to announce retirement in BrisbaneMoroccan tennis legend Younes El Aynaoui will announce his retirement in Doha after taking one last shot at the ExxonMobilQatarOpen, which he had won in 2002.

El Aynaoui, the most successful player of Arab descent in history, has been given a wildcard by the Qatar Tennis Federation so that he can bow out of the game at one of his favourite venues.

“Younes asked for a wildcard because he wants to retire in Doha. The Khalifa Tennis Complex is one of his favourite venues, and he thought it would be apt for him to call it quits at a place which is very close to his heart,” tournament director Karim Alami told the Gulf Times yesterday.

El Aynaoui, who has won singles titles on the ATP Tour, has had a chequered career. He had to endure long spells of inaction because of several injuries and has not played top-level tennis since September 2008.

“He has been unlucky to suffer many injuries, but he is very fit now and you never know what he is capable of,” Alami, a fellow Moroccan, added.

In March 2008, after a seven-month lay-off due to injuries, he won a Futures event in Castelldefels, Spain on clay, and in April he won a challenger event in Chiasso, Switzerland. In May that year, he reached the semi-finals of the BMW Open in Munich to become the oldest player to reach the semi-finals of an ATP Tour level event since Jimmy Connors in 1993.

He also reached the quarter-finals of the Casablanca Open in Morocco, but retired due to an injury in his left calf. Those were the last two ATP tournaments he ever played.

El Aynaoui is an extremely popular figure in Morocco where he received the country’s highest sporting honour from King Mohammed VI. In a 2003 poll by leading Moroccan newspaper L’Economiste, readers named El Aynaoui their favorite role model for society, ahead of the prime minister and athletics star Hicham El Guerrouj. The centre court of the Royal Tennis Club in Marrakech is named after El Aynaoui.

El Ayanoui’s matches in Doha always drew packed houses, which even players such as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal cannot boast of.

Meanwhile, the draw for the QatarExxonMobilOpen beginning tomorrow was held yesterday with World No.1 Roger Federer and World No.2 playing Belgian Christophe Rochus and Italian Simone Bolelli respectively in the first round.

World No. 3 Nikolay Davydenko and El Aynaoui will take on qualifiers.

Nadal and Federer are scheduled to arrive in Doha today after playing an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi.


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