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Malek Jaziri addressing a press conference after his retirement from professional tennis on Monday. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: Malek Jaziri has been a torchbearer for every aspiring tennis player in the Arab world for the last couple of decades and the affable Tunisian says he has no regrets after hanging up his racquet at his favourite venue, Dubai, where he has several pleasant memories. Jaziri lost to Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2, 6-0 in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Monday.

“Every moment I played in Dubai was special for me. All the matches, no exception. I wanted to really do much better today, but that’s how was the end. I would like to thank the tournament organisers and Salah Tahlak for having the confidence in me,” said an emotional Jaziri. “Dubai has a special place for me with lots of good memories. That’s why I wanted to finish here. I have a lot of emotions for me now.”

Disappointing turn of fortunes

It was a strange fate of luck that the 39-year-old Tunisian always would find himself in the wrong side of the draw, mostly playing the world No 1 or the top seed in his first round, but in his final match he wished to play his good friend Novak Djokovic, but that didn’t come true.

“I’m surprised I didn’t play a top seed or world No 1 this year. The year I wanted to play Novak, it doesn’t come. All good. I’m very thankful for everything,” he said with a smile, picking his 2018 semi-final appearance as his best. In fact, the year turned out to be his best as he also made his first ATP tournament final in Istanbul.

Best so far

“For sure, the 2018 edition when I made the semifinal here. It will always be one of my best tournament I played here in Dubai. I had made the quarters before, but that year I beat [Grigor] Dimitrov and [Stefanos] Tsitsipas. I had a very good tournament,” added the 2011 Doha Pan Arab Games gold medallist.

“I remember the matches against Novak, which was a full house. I played Roger [Federer] in 2013 and I took a set off the Swiss. It is special as well. This tournament been very, very special for me.”

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Malek Jaziri hits a backhand return to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the first round. The popular Tunisian lost in straight sets in his last game of his professional career. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Entering the top-100

Jaziri made his Grand Slam debut in 2011 US Open and entered the top-100 in the following year, where he pushed Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to three sets before losing in Doha. He also took a set off Federer in Dubai in early 2013, but dropped out of top 200 later in the year after losing form. Jaziri reached the Australian Open third round in 2015, highest show in a Grand Slam.

Jaziri went down memory lane to talk about how difficult for him to be the first man from Tunisia and the Arab world to take up tennis as professional career, convincing his parents and finding his own way as the first Tunisian to reach the Top 50.

Pursuing the dream

“I want to thank my parents for giving me the opportunity to pursue my dream, to do the things that I really wanted to do it. It’s not easy in the Arab world, to take the decision stop studying, especially when nobody in Tunisia did it before me,” said Jaziri, who aims to become a coach and has already started gaining experience with Vasek Pospisil.

“My dream was to be in the top 100, but I made it to the top 50. I don’t have any regrets,” said Tunisian, who reached his career-high ranking of 42 in 2019. “Thank you Dubai, again,” he concluded.