Malek Jaziri walks away from a career-best run to the Dubai semi-finals with lots of positives and lessons learned, the Tunisian said on Friday following his straight-sets defeat to Roberto Bautista Agut.
The 117th-ranked wildcard drew in huge crowds all week and briefly had a chance when he led 4-1 in the second set last night but eventually folded in two sets to the third-seeded Bautista Agut.
His reward is not just a $139,510 cheque but a return to the top-100 with his projected ranking expected to be around 84 when the new standings are released on Monday.
Jaziri, who is the first Arab to reach the semis in Dubai since Morocco’s Younes El Aynaoui in 2002, upset top-seeded world No. 4 Grigor Dimitrov in the opening round and backed it up with two more wins over Robin Haase and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Hampered by back pain, he didn’t have enough to pull off another upset but he’s proud of his week nonetheless.
“I’m proud I won lot of matches. Tunisians, lot of people, I make them happy. I can see in the face. For me, as well, I took a lot of confidence from this week mentally and tennistically as well,” said the 34-year-old Jaziri.
“I gave energy to my team, as well, to work harder for the season, to put good objective to make great season, as well.”
They will certainly need that energy as Jaziri transitions quickly from the highs of playing a semi-final at an ATP 500 event to the reality check of competing on the Challenger tour, which is where he’ll be next week.
“It’s not easy. You have no choice. I didn’t expect to play here like this. I was playing every day, fighting every day. Was tough beginning of the year,” he explains.
“I decide to play some challengers, to play more matches, to create more confidence, to feel good in the court. I didn’t play a lot of matches, so I didn’t win a lot of matches the beginning of the year. I need more matches. I decide with my team to play more points.
“We’ll go to China. We’ll go fight.”
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