Saturday, October 1, 2011

Catching up with Malek Jaziri...

As I checked the draws of the Challenger tournaments taking place next week, one proud reality quickly crept through my mind - Malek Jaziri has officially joined the big leagues!

The No1 Arab tennis player will be playing this Monday in the main draw of his 10th Challenger this season in the €106,500 tournament in Mons, Belgium, where ATP regulars like Xavier Malisse, Andreas Seppi, Nicolas Mahut, Sergiy Stakhovsky, and Julien Benneteau are amongst the big names he could face.

A couple of weeks ago, he lost to German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber - currently ranked 48 in the world - in the Istanbul semi-finals and it looks like the Tunisian's experience at the US Open has only given him a greater desire to climb new peaks.

144th-ranked Jaziri made an entire Arab region proud when he battled through qualies in New York to capture an elusive main draw spot in a Grand Slam for the first time in his career.

It was the first time in six years an Arab/North African player featured in the main draw of the US Open but the 27-year-old's accomplishment did not stop there.

He played big-serving Dutchman Thiemo De Bakker (was world No40 last year) in the first round and beat him 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 to set up a match-up with US Open Series champion and America's man of the hour, Mardy Fish.

"I never played a top-10 player before and on a big court like Louis Armstrong," Jaziri told G,S,M of his second rounder with world No8, Fish.

"It was not easy, pretty stressful but as the match progressed I was playing better and better.

"It's a good opportunity to see where I am. I am definitely improving and I got to see how players in the high level play.

"I believe more now that I have a big chance to be a top player."

Jaziri turned pro seven years ago but in our parts of the world, it's not easy to breakthrough quickly.

It's a region where sponsorship for individual sports takes a backseat to the endless stream of money poured into football and being lucky is almost more important than the effort you put in to excel.

Jaziri, originally from Bizerte, has trained in Tunis all his life in the National Centre with Tunisian coach Walid Jallali. While he admitted he gets some help from the government, Jaziri needs a sponsor to help him prosper in a sport he clearly has proven he could shine in.

With his ranking going up every week now, he hopes the tournament organizers in the Middle East will finally give him the chance he deserves.

"I'm playing better, feeling better. I hope Qatar and Dubai give me a wildcard next year," said Jaziri.

On Friday, he played an exhibition with fellow Tunisian and reigning Roland Garros Junior champion, Ons Jabeur with tennis legends Yannick Noah (the last Frenchman to win Roland Garros back in 1983) and resident Champions Tour entertainer, Mansour Bahrami.

While many could say that 27 is too old for a player to make a breakthrough in tennis, Jaziri is opting to defy expectation and his self-belief is already starting to pay off.

He faces a qualifier in the opening round in Mons on Monday and is drawn to face second seed Andreas Seppi in the second round.

1 comment:

Jean-marc said...

Mabrook malek for winning challenger in Geneva. Lots more to come