Five Things To Know About Marrakech
First staged in Casablanca from 1990, the ATP 250 tournament moved to Marrakech in 2016
The Grand Prix Hassan II, which began at the inception of the ATP Tour in 1990, is the only ATP held in Africa.
ATPTour.com looks at five things to know about the ATP 250-level tournament, which has been held in Marrakech since 2016.
The Grand Prix Hassan II is named after the former King of Morocco, Hassan II (1929-1999), and the tournament has been supported by the royal palace for 30 years, since the ATP Tour’s inception. King Mohammed VI of Morocco entirely funds the event today.
The spring clay-court opener was first held in Casablanca, from 1990 to 2015, at the 6,000-square-metre Complex Al Amal, which was built in just three months and was the home of the Royal Moroccan Tennis Federation.
When the city didn’t wish to upgrade the stadium, the event moved to the Royal Tennis Club de Marrakech, located in the chic Hivernage neighbourhood.
The players’ lounge looks like an oriental living room and traditional Moroccan mint tea is served. Lunch is taken by the swimming pool and players can enjoy the city by visiting the Jamaa el Fna square and the Palmeraie.
More than 500 children each year take part in Kids' Day, with Alexander Zverev, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Jaume Munar and Jiri Vesely hitting on court in 2019.
The First Champion
Having held an ATP Challenger Tour event since 1984, the Grand Prix Hassan II became a part of the first ATP Tour calendar in 1990, with future World No. 1 Thomas Muster winning the first title. Only 12 months on from a freak road accident in Miami, which left the Austrian with severed knee ligaments, Muster beat Argentina’s Guillermo Perez-Roldan 6-1, 6-7, 6-2 in the final.
Midweek rain delayed the schedule by one day and forced matches to be switched from the Complex Federal to old courts nearby owned by Mohamed Mjid (1916-2014), the President of the Royal Moroccan Tennis Federation (1964-2009). When the rain finally stopped, layers of sodden clay were removed from the court and the surface was then set on fire to speed up the drying process. It enabled the final to be played on the Complexe Al Amal stadium court, watched by Prince Moulay Rachid and a capacity crowd of 3,500 fans.
Andujar & Spaniards Reign Supreme
A Spaniard has lifted the Grand Prix Hassan II trophy in six of the past 11 years, including three triumphs for Pablo Andujar (2011-12, 2018). Former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero (2009), Tommy Robredo (2013) and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (2014) also had singles title success.
Two years ago, Andujar arrived at the clay-court tournament at No. 355 in the FedEx ATP Rankings and used a protected ranking to enter the 2018 main draw. With a 6-2, 6-2 win over Kyle Edmund, he went on to become the lowest-ranked singles champion on the ATP Tour since then-No. 550 Lleyton Hewitt won at Adelaide in January 1998. He finished runner-up to Benoit Paire in 2019.
Tomas Carbonell (1996), Alberto Martin (1999), Fernando Vicente (2000) and Santiago Ventura (2004) are also former champions from Spain.
The Grand Prix Hassan II has witnessed two Moroccans lift the singles trophy. Firstly, current Tournament Director Hicham Arazi, with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Franco Squillari, in 1997, and Younes El Aynaoui, who overcame Guillermo Canas 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the 2002 final.
El Aynaoui also advanced to finals in 1993 (l. to defending champion Guillermo Perez Roldan) and 2003 (l. to Julien Boutter). Karim Alami also finished as runner-up in 1994 (l. to Renzo Furlan) and partnered Arazi to the 1997 doubles final (l. to Cunha-Silva/Marques).
Community At Its Heart
The Grand Prix Hassan II is renowned for inviting orphans each year to sample the ATP 250-level tournament, which opens the spring clay-court swing.
In 2013, when the tournament was held in Casablanca, home of an ITF performance centre, a number of the country’s best junior tennis players also met and hit with 2010 champion Stan Wawrinka and 2013 runner-up Kevin Anderson.