The curtain came down on Malek Jaziri’s 20-year career on Monday when he lost to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
The 39-year-old Tunisian enjoyed a historic career, becoming one of five Arab men to reach the Top 50 in the history of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings (since 1973), rising to a career-high No. 42 in 2019.
“I hope I have been a good inspiration for a lot of generations in Tunisia,” said Jaziri of his homeland, which boasts current WTA World No. 4 Ons Jabeur, who has been as high as No. 2. “[Inspired] the next generation in Tunisia. Tennis has improved a lot in the past few years in Tunisia. A lot of clubs have opened and a lot of people follow tennis.”
Jaziri, who clinched his first tour-level win at the Davis Cup in 2005, reached his only tour-level final in Istanbul in 2018. He earned three Top 10 wins in his career, defeating Grigor Dimitrov, Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev, while he captured eight ATP Challenger Tour titles.
“Emotions were very high,” Jaziri said. “When you play your last tournament, it could be your last match and it was my last match. I tried to enjoy all the moments on court. I am happy to be here in Dubai, it means a lot to me. Dubai has a piece of my heart. I have been here for many years, so I am happy I had my last tournament in Dubai.
”I didn’t think a lot about the decision. Last year I had a lot of injuries, so it wasn’t easy at all. I was playing and then I was stopping. The decision was natural, but it is not easy to stop. I have played for more than 20 years. To take a decision to [stop] something that has been such a part of your life everyday. You wake up, practise. Do a lot of things to make you [achieve] your objectives. Top 100, Top 50 or whatever. Doing that routine everyday. Now I think my routine is going to change, so let’s see what is next.”
The World No. 444 was competing for the first time this season after receiving a wild card into the ATP 500 event in Dubai, where he reached the semi-finals in 2018. Jaziri’s best result at a Grand Slam came at the Australian Open in 2015 when he advanced to the third round.
“I have played on most of the big centre courts,” he said. “When it is a full house, it is very emotional and very nice. I played in the best era they say now. It has been good to be Top 50 at the same time as Federer, Djokovic, Rafa, Murray. It is a pleasure to be part of the circuit and share the court with them. Thanks to ATP for the past few years and everything tennis has given me.”