Former world No 14 Younes El Aynaoui said it didn't take him long to realize that Rafael Nadal would be a very good player but admitted that he could never predict the Spaniard's French Open success. El Aynaoui, who is now 52 years old, met Nadal for the first time in 2003 Bastad.
At the time, Nadal was just 17 and starting his career. El Aynaoui, who won five titles during his career, ended up losing to Nadal in three sets as the Spaniard beat the Moroccan 6-3 4-6 6-3. A couple of weeks later, El Aynaoui and Nadal met again but this time the Moroccan ended on the winning side as he beat the Spaniard 7-6 (6) 6-3 7-6 (6).
"Well, they were just starting out, so every time I played against them I was a favorite, I was the one with the best ranking. At the 2003 US Open I was able to beat Rafa in a very tough match, at that moment I already knew that he would be a very tough opponent in the future.
He had already beaten me months before in Bastad, but in New York was when I felt that he would really be a very good player," El Aynaoui told Punto de Break.
El Aynaoui asked if he knew Nadal would be that good
Nadal, a record 14-time French Open, is now a 22-time Grand Slam champion and widely considered one of the greatest players of all time. "No no!
Who could imagine that someone could win as many Roland Garros as he did? It's unthinkable, crazy. Because of his work and because of everything we know about him, he deserves everything he has earned, he is a player who has earned a lot of respect," El Aynaoui said when asked if he thought Nadal would be this good.
El Aynaoui and Nadal finished on two meetings. They were scheduled to meet in 2006 Dubai but El Aynaoui gave a walkover to Nadal.