Wild cards should be on merit'
By Alaric Gomes, Staff Reporter
Dubai: The Arab world's highest ranked player has called for a review of the allocation of wild cards at the annual Dubai Tennis Championships.
"When I was at the top, they (tournament organisers) treated me so well. And now when I needed it most, they did not even offer me a wild card into the main draw," Morocco's Younes Al Aynaoui said after losing in three sets to third seed and world number four Nikolay Davydenko on Tuesday.
Al Aynaoui, who started his career quite late at 22, had to go through the qualifiers last year too. "I've had my ups and downs and it is tough to see someone who is surely going to lose in the first round get a wild card," Al Aynaoui said.
"I think the competition committee needs to issue the wild card entirely on merit," he shrugged.
Dubai Duty Free, owners and organisers of the annual two-week event, gave wild card entries to Amelie Mauresmo (No 3) , Selima Sfar (No 174) and Monica Niculescu of Romania (No 205) in the women's event, while local lad Omar Behroozian, Kuwait's Mohammad Al Gareeb and Radek Stepanek received entries for the men's competition.
"It is the prerogative of the tournament organisers to allocate the wild card. But they have to give it to players who they think have the best chances of winning," Al Aynaoui stated.
Being overlooked by tournament organisers is nothing new to the gangly 35-year-old Moroccan. He was denied a wild card entry for his very own tournament in Casablanca - the Grand Prix Hassan II held at the end of April - last year reportedly on the grounds that he was too old. The Moroccan national team also left him out for the Davis Cup.
"Suddenly I am no longer wanted by the organisers. Imagine not giving a wild card to a player who once has played in the final here. I asked the organisers at the Australian Open for a wild card in the qualifiers and I did not get one. There are a few countries, and Dubai is one of these, that I get some sort of support," Al Aynaoui stated.
"It is tough you see. You had this upcoming Indian boy [Al Aynaoui's doubles partner Rohan Bopanna] who is talented and even he did not get a wild card," Al Aynaoui pointed out.