Work in Sports
'Still working hard'
El Aynaoui finding success in Australia
Posted: Friday January 21, 2000 12:05 AM
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- When he was 17 years old, Younes El Aynaoui of Morocco told his disapproving parents he was going away to tennis camp in Florida for a week. He was gone for eight months.
El Aynaoui, now 28, stuck with his dream of being a professional tennis player despite toil, injuries, a scarcity of sponsors, and his family's doubts. And there is no talk of regret.
Advancing past the second round of a Grand Slam tournament for only the second time in his career, El Aynaoui overpowered No. 10 seeded Tommy Haas 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 on center court Thursday.
"I really put all the positive things in my mind to play a good match and didn't focus too much on the results," said the Moroccan, who reached a career-high ranking of 24 last year despite missing six weeks of the season because of a foot injury.
The veteran El Aynaoui was off the circuit for two years previously after surgery in France and New York on a broken foot, but he never considered quitting the tour.
"I left school pretty early to go for a professional career in tennis. It was like the point of no return once you were in that," said El Aynaoui, who is married with a 2-year-old son. "My only goal was to come back on the tour."
Against Haas, the 6-foot-4 El Aynaoui seemed serene, dominating play with big serves and a powerful forehand. Distracted by injuries, the 21-year-old German stayed back much of the match.
El Aynaoui's parents wanted him to study, rather than pursue his tennis ambitions. They grudgingly agreed to pay for him to spend a week at Nick Bolletieri's tennis camp in Florida, but he stayed on and on, earning money as a trainer.
"I couldn't tell them I want to be like McEnroe or Lendl, it was too far from them," said El Aynaoui. "Close to us in our country, the best player ever was maybe ranked 300 and never could earn money by playing tennis."
Although tennis doesn't have a big following in Morocco, two of El Aynaoui's countrymen -- Hicham Arazi and Karim Alami -- have reached the third round in Melbourne.
In the first round, El Aynaoui survived a five-setter against Arvind Parmar of Britain. He lost the first set after being up 6-1 in the tiebreaker.
El Aynaoui gets his rackets and other gear for free, but he doesn't get paid to use it as many other top players do. He believes what he has endured gives him an edge over younger competitors.
"I think I am still working hard and maybe sometimes they have an easy life and I went through the tough way," he said. "That gives me much more character and much more motivation."