Arab No.1 Malek Jaziri given wild card snub at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships
World No.104 Malek Jaziri won his first qualifying round on Saturday morning at the Dubai Duty Freen Tennis Championship after the Tunisian was informed he was not getting a wildcard into the main draw only 14 hours before his match.
Jaziri defeated Oman’s Mohammed Al Nabhani 6-1, 6-2 and faces former world No.33, Kazakhstan’s Andrey Golubev, Sunday morning for a spot in the main line-up.
However, the 28-year-old admits he was disappointed after originally being told he would be bypassing the qualifiers. Instead, tournament organisers handed the remaining wildcard to world No.1 Novak Djokovic’s brother Marko, who is ranked 763 places lower than Jaziri.
“I have no problem playing qualifying rounds, my tennis speaks for itself, but where is the respect for the player?” Jaziri told Sport360°. “Finding out the night before that I have to play the next morning, that is not right. Everyone understood I had got it, and even the newspapers in Tunisia printed this morning that I got the wild card, because they didn’t know about the last-minute change. In Europe, the countries’ federations help their own players, as the No1 Arab player, I expected a little bit more.”
While no formal announcement was made about the wild cards until Saturday afternoon’s draw ceremony at the Majlis at the Aviation Club, news of Jaziri getting a wild card - along with UAE No.1 Omar Behrouzian and Ukrainian world No158 Sergei Bubka Jr. - had been revealed earlier on Friday in the press room through a tournament PR official, while Jaziri had got the news via a phone call from his contact at Tennis Emirates.
Tennis Emirates is the federation in the UAE that handles wild card requests from other Arab federations and Jaziri’s contact says he had been informed from the tournament organisers the Tunisian would receive a wild card.
But when the order of play came out Friday night, Jaziri found he was no longer getting the wild card into the singles main draw, only the doubles, something he had not even requested.
Tournament director and Dubai Duty Free Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications Salah Tahlak explained there are certain things the tournament has to take into consideration, which is why the younger Djokovic took precedence over the top Arab player.
“We had four wild cards, one of them wasn’t used because it’s only for top-20 players, so we had three left. So we gave the wild cards to Sergei Bubka Jr. who took it last year and did great so we gave it to him again. And then we have of course the Emirati Omar,” said Tahlak.
“Marko Djokovic is important to us because he is the brother of the No.1 player in the world. So that helps us, automatically. As a tournament we have other things to take into consideration.”
Tahlak added: “Novak only recommended that we include his brother in our tournament. We studied that request and we ultimately made the decision that serves the tournament’s best interests and therefore the interests of the players participating in it. We will never accept for anyone to interfere in our work.”