Clay Court Season Kicks-Off With GP Hassan II In Marrakech

Press conference ahead of the GP Hassan II in Marrakech

MARRAKECH, April 3, 2016

GP Hassan II in Marrakech

GP Hassan II in Marrakech

With the European spring time clay court swing just around the corner, the ATP World Tour will return in April to its lone stop on the African continent for the 32nd edition of the Grand Prix Hassan II, inaugurated in 1984 and entirely funded by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI. The annual tournament has been moved from Casablanca to Marrakech, taking place from 4 to 11 April at the city’s Royal Tennis Club with a total financial commitment of $520,070. It provides an important stop for the players as they seek to fine-tune their clay court skills ahead of the first ATP Masters 1000 of the season held on the surface in Monte Carlo the following week.

In 1984, Morocco organized its first ATP event in Marrakech with a prize money of $50,000 attracting some of the best players and young talents of that era. The success of the tournament encouraged the organizers to be optimistic about the future. In 1989, the tournament moved to the Complexe Al Amal in Casablanca to give the event a more international dimension and one year later it became part of the ATP Tour. With several increases in prize money and more ATP ranking points, the tournament attracted the big names of international tennis like those of former world number ones Thomas Muster, winner in 1990 and Juan-Carlos Ferrero, champion in 2009 as well as Stan Wawrinka lifting the trophy  in 2010. Two Moroccans have captured the title in their home country: Hicham Arazi in 1997 and Younes El Aynaoui in 2002.

Last champion in Casablanca was Slovak Martin Klizan before the tournament has been relocated to Marrakech in 2016. Between 2007 and 2012 the country’s fourth largest city was part of the ATP Challenger Morocco Tennis Tour. The champion of the series’ final edition was Klizan, too.

The venue of the GP Hassan II in Casablanca in 2014

The venue of the GP Hassan II in Casablanca in 2014

“The tournament had to be relocated due to the poor conditions at Complexe Al Amal, as the venue in Casablanca needs to be renovated. According to the reports from the ATP supervisors, security as well as hygiene standards have no longer been acceptable,” told Aziz Laarafi, vice president of the Moroccan Tennis Federation.

“It was not easy for us to change the location but the Complexe Al Amal was having negative effects on the reputation of Morocco. We are sure that the tournament in Marrakech will be well organized. The city invested six million Dirhams (about €550,000) in order to improve the qualitiy of the venue at the Royal Tennis Club. The capacity of the centre court has been extended to more than 3,500 seats.” 

Aziz Tifnouti, president of the Royal Tennis Club in Marrakech is happy that the tournament returns after an absence of 27 years.

“A dream has come true for us. With the support of the city and the region, we have been able to improve the installations on the venue as well as the infrastructure to meet the standards for international tournaments,” he stated.

The city of Marrakech is situated to the north of the foothills of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, which stretches across northwestern Africa extending about 2,500 km through Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. With about 1,000,000 inhabitants it is possibly the most important of Morocco’s four former imperial cities, which were built by Moroccan Berber empires.

Martin Klizan was the highest ranked player entering the 2016 Grand Prix Hassan II but the current world number 27 withdrew from the tournament on Friday. So also did 2013 winner Tommy Robredo from Spain due to injury.

Guillermo García López lifted the trophy in 2014

Guillermo García López lifted the trophy in 2014

With world number 37 Guillermo García-López, champion in 2014, another Spaniard is the currently best ranked player in the 28-man-draw. The top-seed will either face Radu Albot or Nicolas Almagro in his opening match. Second favourite Joao Sousa from Portugal awaits the winner of the encounter between Facundo Bagnis and Morocco’s top ranked player Lamine Ouahab, who received a wild card.

Croatia’s young gun Borna Coric will take on Simone Bolelli or Taro Daniel. Number four seed Federico Delbonis from Argentina will either face second Moroccan wild card Amine Ahouda or Thiemo de Bakker from the Netherlands.