Younes El Aynaoui revealed he "did not think anything special" of Roger Federer or thought that the Swiss was "going to be that good" after they first met in 1999. El Aynaoui, a former five-time ATP champion, met Federer for the first time on the clay courts of Gstaad in 1999.
At the time, Federer was just 17. Former world No 14 El Aynaoui didn't have any problems handling Federer, beating the then-promising Swiss 6-2 6-3 in the Gstaad first round. During the match, El Aynaoui noticed that Federer wasn't really developed in the physical area.
"I beat him in 1999, they gave him a wildcard in Gstaad, Switzerland. The previous year he had finished No 1 in the junior world but physically it was evident that he was still struggling a little, nothing like what came after.
At that moment of beating him I didn't think anything special, I didn't have that feeling that I had with Rafa of knowing that he was going to be very good. With Roger I didn't think he was going to be that good, but he made a huge physical change, he became much stronger and faster," El Aynaoui told Punto de Break.
El Aynaoui lost his next three matches against Federer
In 2001, El Aynaoui and Federer met again. But this time, it was Federer who claimed a dominant win as the Swiss beat the Moroccan 6-2 6-2 in Miami. The following year, Federer also easily beat El Aynaoui in the Davis Cup 6-3 6-2 6-1.
Their last and final meeting came on the grass courts of Halle in 2003, when Federer beat El Aynaoui in two tight sets 7-5 7-6 (3). Shortly after their Halle match, Federer became a Grand Slam champion at 2003 Wimbledon. On the other side, El Aynaoui started playing in more Challenger tournaments in the next couple of years and he never met Federer again.