Younes El Aynaoui recalls his meetings with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer


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Younes El Aynaoui recalls his meetings with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer

Former world No. 14 Younes El Aynaoui said he knew that Spain's Rafael Nadal would become a big time player. Nadal, 33, defeated former five-time ATP champion Aynaoui in their first meeting on the clay courts of Bastad in 2003.

But El Aynaoui got his revenge two months later at the US Open when he beat Nadal in the second round. Two years later, Nadal captured his maiden Grand Slam title at the age of 19 after beating Mariano Puerta in the French Open final.

"It could have been predicted (that Nadal would become such a great clay player). I played against him at the US Open in 2003 -- I won three tie breaks and the following year he triumphed at the French Open. Rafa is a great example for everyone, on and off the court," El Aynaoui told Sportface.

When El Aynaoui met Swiss Roger Federer, it was clear to him that he was looking at a special talent. Federer, 38, is now a record 20-time Grand Slam champion and he holds the record for the most weeks spent at the No. 1 position.

"I played against him when he was ranked around No. 35 in the world. When you looked into his box, you would understand that he would become a great player -- he was surrounded by sponsors. His attitude on the court was impressive, he handled himself like a real professional. He has always trained a lot and the result have been seen," El Aynaoui said of Federer.