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Moroccan woman a first for Roland Garros


Monday, May 26, 2003

Moroccan woman a first for Roland Garros

PARIS: Bahia Mouhtassine will become the first Moroccan woman to play in the main draw of the French Open next week after beating China’s Jie Zheng in the final round of qualifying. 

“It has been very hard to get this far, I still haven’t realised what I’ve done,” she beamed as she left court following Saturday’s 7-6, 6-4 win. 

Her first round appearance on Parisian clay will not be the 23-year-old’s first Grand Slam showing, though, having won through to the Australian Open first round in 2002 before losing to Spaniard Anabel Medina Garrigues in three sets. 

“But playing in Paris is so much more exciting than competing in Australia,” she smiled, “I’m at home here, all my friends come to cheer me on. This is the best tournament in the world.” 

Mouhtassine said her victories in qualifying meant more than simply sporting triumphs. 

“It proves that it’s possible to be an Arab woman, a Muslim, and still compete at the very highest level in international sport,” she said. “One does not preclude the other. Which is why I’m disappointed that Selima Sfar (from Tunisia) was knocked out in the second qualifying round.” 

Ranked 159th in the world, Mouhtassine does not yet know the identity of her first round opponent but says: “I’ll be giving my all. I love this tournament and I’ve got so many supporters out there rooting for me.  

“I can’t let them down ... starting with (Moroccan men’s tennis players) Hicham Arazi and Younes El Aynaoui.” – Reuters 

   

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