Overcoming Obstacles: Aziz Dougaz’s Inspiring Journey to Tennis Success
Tunisian Tennis Player Rises in the Ranks
Aziz Dougaz, a 26-year-old Tunisian tennis player, has defied the odds and overcome numerous obstacles to become one of the top players in the sport. Currently ranked in the Top 250 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Dougaz is one of only two players from Africa to achieve this feat.
Having a career-best season on the ATP Challenger Tour, Dougaz has reached an impressive seven quarter-finals in 2023. He is now aiming for another deep run in the upcoming tournament in Calgary, Canada. To truly understand Dougaz’s journey, it is necessary to delve into his past.
A Unique Path to Success
“My path was like no one else’s path that’s playing the same tournaments I’m playing,” Dougaz shared in an interview with ATPTour.com at the Calgary National Bank Challenger. “I think I created my own path in tennis and I pushed through the obstacles I faced. However, I still have many more obstacles to overcome in order to reach my goals.”
Coming from a city in Tunisia where tennis was merely seen as a recreational activity, Dougaz faced numerous challenges. There was a lack of financial support, coaches, and tournaments. Despite these limitations, Dougaz persevered and relied on his own determination and adaptability.
“Nobody thought that we could make it. I had nobody to tell me, ‘This is the way, this is what we need to do.’ I was always going through the unknown and adapting to what comes to me. I think that’s a strength I have and I have to use it,” Dougaz explained.
Inspiring the Next Generation
Dougaz finds extra motivation in inspiring young Tunisian children to believe in their dreams of becoming professional tennis players. He cites Malek Jaziri and Ons Jabeur as key players who have opened doors for the next generation. Jaziri reached a career-high ranking of No. 42 in 2019 and spent five years in the Top 100, while Jabeur is currently ranked No. 6 in the WTA Rankings and has reached three major finals.
“The idea of having professional players in Tunisia when I was a kid didn’t really exist,” Dougaz reflected. “But I think now it’s growing a lot. Malek had an amazing career, and Ons now too, her impact is massive. I think a lot of people believe in tennis much more now that they can make it.”
A Memorable Journey
Dougaz’s passion for tennis was ignited when he served as a ballkid at the Tunis Challenger in 2005. Witnessing the incredible skills of players like Gael Monfils and Fabrice Santoro up close left a lasting impression on him.
As a left-handed player, Dougaz excelled in his junior career, reaching the Top 50 in the world rankings. He then spent three-and-a-half years at Florida State University, where he earned ITA All-American honors. Despite facing criticism and advice to pursue a different career path, Dougaz remained steadfast in his pursuit of his tennis dreams.
“As a kid, I always believed tennis was going to be my job even though nobody around me except my parents believed that,” Dougaz revealed. “I’m really grateful my parents allowed me to keep dreaming and didn’t listen to all the people who said there’s no future in tennis.”
Proud Achievements and Future Goals
A standout moment for Dougaz came this year at the US Open, where he competed in the qualifying rounds with his parents, Ahmed and Mona, in attendance. Their pride and support serve as a constant motivation for him to continue striving for greater success.
Currently ranked as the highest-ranked Tunisian player at World No. 242 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Dougaz is one of only five players from his country in the Top 1,000. Despite facing a non-traditional path to success, Dougaz takes immense pride in his journey.
“I will keep creating my own path. We all have different ways to reach a certain goal,” Dougaz affirmed. “I’m going to believe in that and not think about the opportunities I didn’t have compared to the players I’m facing. I consider it a strength that I’ve faced more challenges, and my path is completely different from the norm in the Top 250.”