Moroccan teenager and world No946 Amine Ahouda pulled off an incredible upset in just the second-ever ATP match of his career by defeating Spain’s No8 seed Marcel Granollers in the first round of the Grand Prix Hassan II in Marrakech on Tuesday.
The 19-year-old Ahouda, who is ranked 901 spots below Granollers, owns one sole match win on the Challenger tour and was playing just his second ATP tournament, having also received a wildcard in Marrakech last season.
The North African teen took out Granollers 6-4, 6-4 in one hour, 37 minutes, and next takes on Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff in the second round.
The Casablanca-native turned pro in 2013 and peaked at No82 in the world junior rankings in 2015.
Biggest upset of a Top 50 since No. 837 Opelka d. No. 28 Anderson in Atlanta last year. https://t.co/AXe8lJUZDN— Josh Meiseles (@jmeistennis) April 11, 2017
He grew up shadowing his father, who was a tennis coach at ACSA Casablanca, and says clay is favourite surface.
Ahouda’s breakthrough victory came on the same day his compatriot world No667 Reda Al Amrani, another local wildcard, made it through to the second round when Federico Delbonis retired after dropping the first set 7-6 (3) and trailing 0-1 in the second.
Grigor Dimitrov is the top seed in Marrakech this week. He opens his campaign against Tommy Robredo on Thursday.
Tunisian Ons Jabeur is edging ever so close to becoming the first Arab woman to rank in the world’s top-100 in 15 years thanks to a strong showing at the Volvo Car Open in Charleston last week.
The 22-year-old made full use of her lucky loser spot in the main draw by reaching the third round with wins over Marina Erakovic and Magda Linette before a tight 7-5, 7-6 (6) loss to eighth-seeded Anastasija Sevastova.
Jabeur, the 2011 Roland Garros junior champion, has a 19-9 record so far in 2017 and is now up to No119 in the world rankings, just one spot short of her career-high.
She is looking to become the first Arab to rank in the WTA top-100 since her compatriot Selima Sfar last achieved that feat in 2002.
“It’s amazing to be back at my best ranking and hopefully I’ll continue like this and go even higher,” Jabeur told Sport360°.
“Charleston was a bit weird because I got off with an injury and I wasn’t sure if I was going to play the tournament or not. But then I got some treatment and I was feeling much better. And then I lost in the second round of qualifying a little bit because of the injury but I got a lucky loser spot.
“I felt like I wasn’t really out of the tournament anyway and I told my coach to ask if there’s a lucky loser spot or not and I felt I was going to make into the main draw and somehow I got the spot.
“It was a really good tournament because in the first and second rounds I played really well and in the third round (against Sevastova) I was not too far from the win. I felt I played better than her and I was kind of dominating the whole match. I felt I was really close to beating her but it was her day. I’m happy with my performance in Charleston because it could have ended in qualies but I ended up making it to the third round.
“Hopefully next time will be much better because I know I can do better.”
Jabeur is playing an $80k tournament in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida this week, where she is the No5 seed, in a stacked field headlined by Canadian Eugenie Bouchard.
The North African is aware her top-100 dream is close to becoming a reality but she is refusing to be consumed by her mission to reach that goal.
“I feel really close to the top-100 – I am actually really really close,” she said. “I am not even focusing anymore on the rankings though, I’m just focusing more on my game, how I play, and it’s been working out since the beginning of the year. So I’m not going to change anything.
“I’m just going to continue playing, no pressure. And I know that this season I am going to make it into the top-100 because I know I worked really hard.”
Jabeur is not the only one who has worked really hard and is currently reaping the rewards. Her good friend, Daria Kasatkina, claimed her maiden WTA title on Sunday in Charleston after a stellar week for the Russian teenager on clay.
“I am reallyyyy happy for her,” said Jabeur, who spent her offseason training with Kasatkina at altitude in Slovakia. “She played really good and she is on fire because she had dinner once with me there so…” joked the Tunisian.
“She really deserves to win.”
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Karim Mohamed Maamoun has hit a new career-high ranking of No272 after capturing his fifth Futures title of the season in Sharm El Sheikh.
“So happy I was able to win another title today in Sharm El Sheikh after a couple of tough matches,” Maamoun posted on his Instagram last week. “My fifth futures title this season and third in a row. Now it’s time to rest, recover and start preparing for the clay season.”
Maamoun is Egypt’s No2 behind Mohamed Safwat, who lost in qualifying in the Panama City Challenger last week and is playing in San Luis Potosi this week, where he opens against Mexican wildcard Manuel Sanchez.
Tunisian Malek Jaziri was in Davis Cup action over the weekend where he helped secure his nation’s place in the Europe/Africa zonal Group II with a whitewash over a Marcos Baghdatis-led Cyprus.
Jaziri, ranked No58 in the world, is playing the ATP event in Marrakech this week, where he faces Frenchman Jeremy Chardy in the opening round. The other two Arabs in the main draw in the Moroccan city are local wildcards Reda Al Amrani and Amine Ahouda.
A simmering feud between tennis stalwarts Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi has boiled over into an ugly public spat following India’s latest Davis Cup triumph in Bangalore.
No sooner had the hosts sealed a 4-1 win Sunday over Uzbekistan in the second round of the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group I tie, than Bhupathi lashed out at his former doubles partner, who was dropped from the squad last week.
“We gave him the option (of being a part of the squad and playing as a reserve) and he readily took it,” Bhupathi, the non-playing Davis Cup captain, said after the win helped India qualify for the World Group playoff.
“So after that, to sulk about not being in the (playing) four was a bit unprofessional,” Bhupathi said of his friend-turned-foe.
Adding fuel to the fire, Bhupathi put up a screenshot of his WhatsApp conversation with Paes on social media in a free-for-all slugfest aimed at countering Paes’ charge of being dropped in humiliating fashion at the last minute.
The conversation suggested that Paes had agreed to join the squad despite being told there was no guarantee he would be in the final four.
Paes, 43, hit back, accusing Bhupathi of using his position to deliberately keep him out of the squad.
“I was never categorically told that I would not be playing, but it was apparent that the decision was made before I arrived in Bangalore. This is what I found unnecessary and disrespectful,” Paes said in a statement.
“That a private (WhatsApp) exchange has been made public just points to the kind of conduct that I find unbecoming of a Davis Cup captain…
“Talk is cheap, history books, however, don’t lie.”
Paes, dropped for the first time in 27 years, is just one win away from becoming the most successful doubles player in Davis Cup history.
With 42 doubles wins, Paes is currently tied with Italian legend Nicola Pietrangeli. Paes, whose Atlanta bronze was India’s first individual medal at a Games since 1952, has 18 Grand Slam doubles trophies — eight in men’s doubles and 10 in mixed.
He shared three of his Grand Slam doubles titles with Bhupathi. The chest-bumps the duo exchanged after winning every point became an emblem of their partnership, which at its peak was hailed as the “Indian Express”.
They continued to team up occasionally on court, even as the friendship began to derail. But their verbal volleys gradually turned sharper, with frequent spats over team spots, most notably ahead of the 2012 Olympics.
On Sunday Bhupathi turned to Facebook to accuse Paes of turning up late for matches, taking his spot in the squad for granted, and not adhering to uniform and other team guidelines.
Bhupathi said that when he started out there was only one train on the tracks, referring to the clout that Paes enjoyed on the circuit. But all that was about to change, Bhupathi warned.
“There is a new train on the tracks, it’s to get India back to the World Group, it’s full of energy, youth, positivity, hard work, and dreams. Those who don’t like it should stay out of the way because we don’t plan to stop till we get there!!!”