Round-1. Kukushkin def Jaziri

Match Recap from Announcer Andy Taylor, Voice of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open

Andy Taylor Announcer. Qatar ExxonMobil Open 2020. Round-1. Mikhail Kukushkin Victory

Mikhail Kukushkin advances to the Round of 16

A perfect set. Not a bad way to start the season for Mikhail Kukushkin, especially considering the opponent. 11-months-ago, Malek Jaziri was a top-50 player. But last season, Tunisia’s top talent couldn’t string together Tour-level victories. In fact, Malek hasn’t won an ATP Tour match since Estoril in April. He has some demons to exorcise in the new year.

Meanwhile, Mikhail – who cracked the top-40 for the first time last February – earned his first main-draw Doha victory. In his first Qatar ExxonMobil Open since 2011, the World #66 will face 2018 Finalist Andrey Rublev in the Round of 16.

Mikhail Kukushkin is now 5-1 versus Malek Jaziri

► 2020. Kukushkin – Score: 60 63 – Doha (R1)
► 2015. Jaziri – Score: 62 63 26 76(3) – Australian Open (R1)
► 2014. Kukushkin – Score: 62 61 – Beijing (QR2)
► 2013. Kukushkin – Score: 57 76(6) 64 – Izmir Challenger (QF)
► 2011. Kukushkin – Score: 63 64 – Astana Challenger (SF)
► 2011. Kukushkin – Score: 64 57 61 – Penza Challenger (R16)

Mikhail Kukushkin -66- (KAZ) | Round-1 Announcer Introduction

Back in Doha for the first time since 2011, he owns 1 ATP Tour Singles title, 14 Challenger titles and has been ranked as high as World #39. Last season, he reached his 4th ATP Tour level Final in Marseille, his 24th Challenger Final in Phoenix, won a career-high 22-matches, and cracked the ATP’s top-40 for the first time. At Wimbledon, he upset World #12 John Isner, made his second 4th-Round run at a Major – and at the US Open, defeated World #10 Roberto Bautista Agut in the Opening Round. He now owns four career victories over top-10 opponents, including a win over World #4 Stan Wawrinka in Basel, Switzerland. Competing in his 3rd Qatar ExxonMobil Open, from Kazakhstan – welcome back Mikhail Kukushkin.

▲ R1 — def [WC] Malek Jaziri -229- (TUN) | Score: 60 63

Announcer Corner | Mikhail Kukushkin’s 2019

Last year, Mikhail Kukushkin carried a shoulder injury into the start of the season. In fact, he withdrew from Doha before the start of the event, instead opting to begin 2019 at the Australian Open. While he fell to Lucas Pouille in Round-1, Mikhail went-on to lift Kazakhstan into the Davis Cup Final in Madrid, reached his 4th career ATP Tour Final in Marseille, and cracked the ATP’s top-40 for the first time.

After an early exit at Indian Wells, he reached his 24th Challenger Final at the Arizona Tennis Classic in Phoenix, but managed only one Singles victory during the clay season. Although at Roland Garros, he did reach his first career Grand Slam Doubles Quarterfinal. The rest of the year wasn’t exactly brilliant, aside from his Round-2 upset of World #12 John Isner at Wimbledon. He then took-out Jan-Lennard Struff to reach the Round of 16 at a Major for the first time since the 2012 Australian Open.

While Mikhail won a career-high 22 matches last season, overall he fell from World #53 to World #67.

[WC] Malek Jaziri -229- (TUN) | Round-1 Announcer Introduction

Back in Doha for his 8th Qatar ExxonMobil Open, he is the most successful Tunisian player in the history of the game. Ranked as high as World #42 – in 2018 he was on-fire, earning his first three top-10 victories – including a win over World #4 Marin Cilic en-route to his debut ATP Tour Final in Istanbul. He also reached the 2018 US Open Doubles Semifinals, becoming the first Grand Slam Semifinalist in his country’s history. Overall, he owns 8 ATP Challenger Tour Singles titles, is a 2-time Olympian – and in 2011, earned Singles Gold and Doubles Silver right here on center court at the Arab Games Doha. From Tunisia – He is Malek Jaziri.

▼ R1 — loss Mikhail Kukushkin -66- (KAZ) | Score: 06 36

Announcer Corner | Malek Jaziri

2011’s Arab Spring in Tunisia changed everything, including the career trajectory of Malek Jaziri. As Al Jazeera put it in their 2017 profile of North Africa’s top talent: “Caught in the middle of the bloodshed and fearing for his life, the Tunis resident says that he was lifted by the strong camaraderie among his countrymen. [Today] he sees Tunisia in a much better state – and Jaziri’s tennis career has also improved…After almost a decade of struggle on the professional tour circuit, he finally cracked the game’s top 100 for the first time in March 2012.”

As a kid, Malek didn’t have Tunisian heroes at the top of the sport. Instead, he looked up to Moroccan talents like Younes El Aynaoui and Karim Alami – both tied to Doha. Younes has been coaching the Qatar National Team since retirement, while Karim continues his role as Tournament Director of the Qatar ExxonMobil Open.

Thanks to his own success, Malek has fueled a tennis boom back home.