The ATP Tour makes its only stop in North Africa in April, with the annual Grand Prix Hassan II, a 250 series event.
Morocco’s iconic city of Casablanca is the setting for the tournament, which attracts many clay court experts as well as those hoping to hit peak form in time for the French Open.
Morocco first held an ATP event in 1984, in the country’s fourth-largest city of Marrakech. Originally part of the Challenger circuit, the tournament changed both locations and status in 1989, moving to Casablanca and becoming part of the main tour.
The event has been credited with making tennis more popular in Morocco. Long considered a sport only for the elite, tennis is now played by an increasing number of young Moroccans thanks to the high profile of the Grand Prix Hassan II.
Some of the most entertaining players in the world have visited Casablanca over the years, including Sergi Bruguera, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Gael Monfils. Another major boon to the development of tennis in Morocco has been the success of home-grown players, namely the “three Musketeers” of Younes El Aynaoui, Karim Alami and Hicham Arazi.
The venue for the tournament is the Complexe Al Amal. It is one of the country’s premier sporting arenas, and seats up to 5,500 spectators.
Two past champions in Casablanca are also winners of the French Open. Thomas Muster won in Morocco in 1990, and Juan Carlos Ferrero was victorious in 2009. Mariano Puerta, runner-up to Rafael Nadal in Roland Garros in 2005, lifted the Casablanca trophy in 2005.
Only two men have triumphed more than once at the Complexe Al Amal. Former French Open quarter-finalist Guillermo Pérez-Roldán won in 1992 and defended his title the following year. Spain’s Pablo Andújar achieved the same back-to-back feat in 2011 and 2012.
Other notable winners in recent years include Stanislas Wawrinka, champion in 2010, and Gilles Simon, who beat compatriot Julien Benneteau in the 2008 final.
Fernando Vicente def. Sebastien Grosjean, 2000 final:
One of the closest ever title matches in Casablanca took place in 2000. Given that Younes El Aynaoui and Karim Alami were the top two seeds at that year’s event, the local fans were anticipating an all-Moroccan final. But Grosjean and Vicente, seeded fourth and sixth respectively, were the last men standing, and produced a superb display of clay court tennis.
Although both players had come through tough three-set semi-finals, Vicente looked to be less fatigued in the first set. He defended well and opened up the court with his powerful groundstrokes, breaking his opponent to take the opener 6-4. In the second set, the talented Frenchman hit back, securing a break of his own to win it by the same scoreline.
Having seized the momentum, Grosjean charged to a 3-0 lead in the decider, only for the Spaniard to mount a superb comeback. With both men refusing to buckle, the match went to a final set tie-break, which Vicente won by seven points to three.
It was the second title of Vicente’s career, and helped push him to a career-high ranking of 29. There was some consolation for Grosjean, however: despite losing the singles final by the narrowest of margins, he teamed up with compatriot Arnaud Clément to win the doubles title in Casablanca.
- The tournament is funded entirely by Morocco’s Kind Mohammed VI.
- There hasn’t been a three-set final since 2004.
- In the quarter-finals of the 2000 tournament, Sebastien Grosjean scored an ultra-rare double bagel victory over Sergi Bruguera.