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The ATP Casablanca Open, known also as the Grand Prix Hassan II, is Morocco’s only ATP event, and one of only two Tour level events played in Africa. The event is classified as an ATP World Tour 250 Series competition, and carries an overall prize pot of almost 400,000 Euros. Alongside the ATP Houston Open, the ATP Casablanca Open is the first event to take part in April on the ATP World Tour schedule. Like the tournament in Houston, the Grand Prix Hassan II is played on clay.
Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco and is synonymous with the classic 1942 film of the same name starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Visitors to the port city are likely to be attracted to the Hassan II Mosque, a fascinating building that dominates part of the sea front. The medina is also fairly popular, though many Western tourists may struggle with the haggling culture.
The ATP Casablanca Open was first played in 1986. It was a Challenger Series event until 1989. In the tournament’s inaugural year as a top tier event, former world No. 1 Thomas Muster won the title by defeating Guillermo Perez-Roldan in a three set final. Perez-Roldan went on to win the singles title in Casablanca in 1992 and 1993, whereas Muster remains the most distinguished name to grace the winners list.
Besides Muster, some other big names have won titles here. Juan Carlos-Ferrero, Stanislas Wawrinka and Gilles Simon are all former ATP Casablanca Open singles title winners. The home nation has also bred some champions, namely Younes El Aynaoui and Hicham Arazi. El Aynaoui also has two runner-up finishes to his name. Morocco would have had three former champs if Karim Alami hadn’t suffered a one-sided defeat in the 1994 final against Renzo Furlan.
As the French Open draws nearer, the ATP Casablanca Open takes on a little extra meaning. Many clay court specialists test their game here and try to work out how to gain an edge at Roland Garros. Whilst not one of the premier events on the ATP World Tour calendar, the ATP Casablanca Open provides an enjoyable week of clay court tennis in a fascinating setting.
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