PARIS - OCTOBER 28: Younes El Aynaoui of Morocco (right) explains to Hicham Arazi of Morocco why he is retiring from his second round match against him during the BNP Paribas Masters Series on October 28, 2003 at Paris, France.
Karim Alami’s stunning defeat of Pete Sampras at Doha in 1994 announced to the world Morocco's rise into the tennis elite. The next decade saw the popular trio of Alami, Younes El Aynaoui and Hicham Arazi all make their mark on the world stage.
Between them they made eight Grand Slam quarterfinals, won seven ATP titles and all made the world’s top 30 with El Aynoui [sic] going as high as 14.
They made a formidable Davis Cup team competing in the World Group in 2001, 2002 and 2004 and even pushed host Spain to a deciding fifth rubber on clay as El Aynaoui knocked off both Alex Corretja and Juan Carlos Ferrero on Spanish soil — four months before Ferrero would win the French Open.
The Morocco Tennis Federation website no longer exists, there is no ITF Development Officer for North Africa — despite there being a presence in Southern, East and West/Central Africa. Interestingly the West/Central African Development Officer is Moroccan (although there’s been no publicized news from him since April 2008).
You can’t deny that the ITF and ATP have put some work into tennis growth in Morocco — it has an ATP and WTA tournament, four challenger events and many future titles up for grabs. However has it been the right development
I, for one, miss the fluid game of Arazi and the explosive game of El Aynaoui. I know of the latter's injuries, but it seems Arazi disappeared from tennis without a trace. El Aynaoui's ebullient personality made him an endearing poster boy for Moroccan tennis, and I thought his successes would have inspired a generation of hungry Moroccan players. I'm sure there are many factors for the stunted growth of tennis in Morocco, but it would be nice to see more players from the region in main draw events on both tours.