Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Moroccan player makes impact on team

Senior Houssam Yassine has been playing tennis since he was 5 years old, and started playing the sport at an advanced level at age 8 in Morocco, his native country. Earlier in his career, he combated a serious knee injury that left him out of the sport for a year.

The injury gave him not only constant pain but also recurring nightmares about tennis after his doctors told him he could no longer play.

But by his 2005-06 season, he was ranked in the top 55 in the world in tennis players under 18, was named the Moroccan national champion and won the African Juniors Championship, proving to all his old doctors that they were wrong.

“I was just happy to be back and to compete,” Yassine said. “Once you start playing tennis, it’s part of your life, and it’s hard to stop.”

So, how does a Rabat, Morocco, native end up in Tuscaloosa to play tennis for the Crimson Tide? A determined coach.

“He was a very good junior,” said head coach Billy Pate. “He won the junior championship for the whole continent. I think it’s especially important to international athletes to go down to their home and meet their family since that’s who will be taking care of them. He was a player we really wanted.”

After traveling 4,000 miles around the world to come visit his top recruit, Pate flew back to Alabama leaving an impression on the young tennis star — an impact that still exists today.

“Coach Pate is the reason why I came here,” Yassine said. “He came all the way to Morocco to recruit me. He’s a great coach. He helps out on the court and off the court. That’s my favorite part about coming here. He tries to make sure we are doing the right things off the court [and] that we are doing good in school. He wants us to be successful after we are done, not like some coaches that don’t really care about what you do after you play for them.”

Although Yassine has had to battle living in a different country and recovering from a severe injury, he has managed to fit into the Alabama team and stand out among his teammates as a respected athlete.

“He’s been a great leader for the last four years,” said senior Saketh Myneni. “He came in the spring after I came, so he really matured as a leader contributing to this team.”

Yassine is 6-3 so far in conference matches and has an 11-6 record in dual play for matches. Last season, he reached the quarterfinals at the Crimson Tide Fall Championships in doubles with his partner, Creighton Blanchard.

“He has basically worked his way into a consistent starting role, so he was fighting for a position,” Pate said. “This year, he’s been solid for us in his consistency and embraces competition. He’s improved certain elements of his game after moving from clay courts in Morocco to the hard ones here. Yassine leads by example, [but] he doesn’t mind correcting the guys if they are out of line.”

Yassine will play in his final match this season on Saturday‘s Senior Day at 5 p.m. during the men’s tennis match against Auburn.

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