CASABLANCA, April 6, 2015
By the time the Moroccan Grand Prix Hassan II ATP World Tour 250 event rolls out, the spring time European clay court season is just around the corner. This tournament provides an important stop for the players as they seek to fine-tune their clay court skills ahead of the first Masters 1000 event of the season held on the surface in Monte Carlo the following week. Funded entirely by Morocco’s king Mohammed VI and dating back to 1986, the event is the only stop for the tour on the African continent.
For the 31st edition defending champion Guillermo Garcia-López returns to Casablanca as the top-seed after he won an all-Spanish final with Marcel Granollers last year. The 31-year-old Spaniard from Albacete has since added a fourth ATP World Tour title to his collection with a victory at the Zagreb Indoors in February.
Second seed will be Slovakian Martin Klizan, who claimed his best result this season on the South American dirt reaching the quarterfinal in Quito.
Jiri Vesely will look to return to his winning ways since claiming his maiden ATP World Tour title in Auckland this year. The 21-year-old Czech will be seeded third and receives a bye in the first round like all of the tournament’s top four.
Nicolas Almagro was granted a wild card to make his first trip to Casablanca in 10 years. He is contesting his seventh event of the season after returning to action following a foot injury hiatus. The former world number nine will take on qualifier Taro Daniel in the opening round.
The other two wild cards went to local players. Morocco’s top ranked player Lamine Ouahab, who has already claimed three titles on home soil this season winning two ITF Futures in Casablanca and in Safi last Saturday as well as the ATP Challenger event in Casablanca in January, will meet Robin Haase in the first round.
World number 766 Yassine Idmbarek faces Mikhail Youzhny for his season debut on ATP World Tour level.
The first three main draw matches took place on Monday when Carlos Berlocq saved two match points to beat fifth seed Pablo Carreῆo-Busta winning 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 in three hours and six minutes.
Seventh seed Mikhail Kukushkin defeated Albert Ramos winning 6-1, 2-6, 6-3. The 27-year-old Kazakh saved 12 out of 14 break points to seal victory in two hours and four minutes.
Dustin Brown also won his second meeting with Andrey Kuznetsov after the German knocked out the Russian in the second round in Halle in 2014. Brown sealed victory in 61 minutes winning 6-2, 6-4.
The top-seeded qualifiers made it into the main draw. First time “British-flagged” Aljaz Bedene prevailed winning 6-2, 6-2 against Pedro Cachin in 67 minutes and stated on twitter: “Boom!! Qualified and playing Maximo Gonzalez (ARG) tomorrow!”
The world number 99 Slovenian-born got his first victory under his belt since becoming a British citizen on Saturday when he defeated Maxime Chazal in straight sets and seemed to feel relieved afterwards: “Happy to get the first match out of the way. Was solid to be fair and more to come which is always good. Looking forward to the next one.” The 25-year-old has lived in the United Kingdom for seven years and became a citizen last Tuesday.
Paul-Henri Mathieu beat fellow Frenchman Stephane Robert 7-6, 5-7, 6-4 in two hours and ten minutes