Colm McLoughlin, Salah Talak, Malek Jaziri, Lorenzo Musetti and other dignitaries during the draw at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on Saturday.
Amir Naqvi, Sports Editor
When Malek Jaziri takes on Filip Krajinovic in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships first round on Monday, he will not just be playing for himself, he will fly the flag for the Arab world.
Jaziri, who was defeated by Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the Doha Open’s first round last week, battling injuries, saw his ranking slip outside the top 300 and he is competing in Dubai this week via a wildcard.
“All of them in the draw are good players, and it is not easy to play them. Lorenzo (Musetti) was supposed to practice with Novak (Djokovic) and I was supposed to practice with Filip Krajinovic, so we (him and Musetti) will probably have to practice together, said Jaziri on the sidelines of the draw for the ATP tournament.
“I want to thank Salah Tahlak, Tournament Director, for giving me a wildcard and the opportunity. It is always a pleasure to play here in Dubai. The tournament attracts some of the best players in the world. It is always special to play here, and there are a lot of Tunisian fans, a lot of Arab fans supporting me here. So it is a great opportunity for me,” he added.
Jaziri, one of the flag-bearers of Arab tennis, famously took Roger Federer to three sets at the 2013 Dubai championship.
On Thursday, Ons Jabeur, the highest-ranked Arab player ever, exited the Dubai event after losing to Simona Halep in the quarter-finals.
It was her first tournament after pulling out of Sydney and the Australian Open due to a back injury last month.
The world No.10 Tunisian trailblazer became the first Arab woman to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals last year with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 victory over Iga Swiatek.
She also made history by winning her maiden WTA title by defeating Daria Kasatkina at the Birmingham Classic, making her the first Arab to win a WTA Tour event.
“She’s doing great. She’s already in the top 10 and people are proud that an Arabic player is in the top 10. So, it’s a great opportunity for Arab women to take inspiration, and she’s a great ambassador as well, said Jaziri, who peaked at No. 42 in the world rankings in 2019.
The Tunisian did well to qualify for Bengaluru two weeks ago, but fell in the first round to Evgeny Donskoy.