It may not be a name you have heard in sometime, but Younes El Aynaoui added to his twenty year professional tennis career on Tuesday with a 7-6(3), 7-6(4) victory over Ryler DeHeart at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha.
"I did not play for almost a year and I was playing against a fitter and in-form competitor. But, Qatar brings out the best in me," El Ayanouis said after the match. "I saw many familiar faces here and I was inspired to play well. I felt I had a chance."
At 38 years old, El Aynaoui becomes the oldest player to win on the ATP Tour since Jimmy Connors won a match in Halle, Germany at the age of 42 in 1995.
Many will remember El Aynaoui for the epic 2003 quarter-final match at the Australian Open against Andy Roddick where he lost 21-19 in the fifth set. He reached a career-high ranking of 14th in the world in November 2003.
The courageous Moroccan has enjoyed previous success in Qatar, with a tournament victory in 2002 (d. Felix Mantilla) and a loss in the finals in 1996 against Petr Korda.
Due to his previous twelve appearances at the venue and a history of sportsmanship and goodwill, tournament organizers allowed El Aynaoui a wildcard for his final visit. Retirement is the next step regardless of how many other victories he might amass in Doha.
"It is a competitive tour and there are many talented young guys. The tour is hard and I cannot do the amount of traveling to play different tournaments. It is time for me to spend quality time with the family, my children are growing up and I have to take care of them."
El Aynaoui is no longer ranked on tour and this is his first main-draw appearance since May 2008. He has only managed to play one Grand Slam tournament in the past four years due to injuries.
As for the future, El Anyaoui did not rule out further involvement in the Middle Eastern country.
"I have seen many talented players here and I would be glad to help them achieve their dream if I get any coaching opportunity in Qatar in the future."
As for the immediate future, El Anyaoui will next face qualifier Steve Darcis of Belgium.