Tunisia star Ons Jabeur ‘motivated’ by her history-making Wimbledon showing

Ons Jabeur came close to reaching the third round of Wimbledon. (Getty)
Updated 07 July 2018
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Tunisia star Ons Jabeur ‘motivated’ by her history-making Wimbledon showing

  • Jabeur has shown she can play on grass and clay
  • 'I’m motivated to continue and play more and more tournaments'

LONDON: Ons Jabeur’s career record would suggest she prefers the clay. After all, she reached the final of the Girls Singles at the French Open two years on the bounce, winning the title in 2011 while her best-ever Grand Slam performance came at Roland Garros last year when she reached the third round. But the Tunisian just loves playing on grass.
She was always told her slice-and-dice game was perfect for it, and she vividly remembers the first time she played on a grass court, as a 15-year-old in a junior tournament in Halle, Germany in 2010.
“The courts weren’t that good,” she said. “But you either click or not and it was a good beginning for me on grass. Everyone tells me that my game is good for grass. I like when I put on the shoes, since I like football. When I put on the grass shoes I feel like I’m a football player, which gives me more energy to run and get all the balls.”
Jabeur’s liking for grass is interesting as there are no grass tennis courts in Tunisia, “only football pitches,” which makes her achievement this week in becoming the first Arab woman to win a main draw match at Wimbledon in 13 years all the more impressive.
Her victory on Monday over Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic in the first round at the All England Club, marked the first time an Arab woman advanced to the Wimbledon second round since Jabeur’s compatriot Selima Sfar did so in 2005.
Jabeur practiced with Sfar — now retired and working as a tennis commentator — for a few days in Aorangi Park ahead of Wimbledon, and the duo have developed a friendship over the past couple of years. Sfar was delighted to see her protege match her achievement this week.
“I think it’s amazing,” said Sfar. “At the time I didn’t realize what I was doing when I was the first Arab woman to go to the second round of Wimbledon and today I see that it’s like I opened the way and she’s going through that way very smoothly. Usually when you open the way it’s for someone to do better and to use your experience to go higher and then she’ll do the same for the next one coming. I really believe in this, this gives a very good opportunity and hope for Arab women to come after us.”
Jabeur became just the second Arab woman behind Sfar to crack the top 100 last season, but she dropped dramatically in the rankings this year after a rocky first half of 2018.
She slipped nearly 100 spots between January and June, a period that saw her team up with a new coach, Frenchman Bertrand Perret. While the work with Perret did not immediately translate into results, Jabeur still felt like she was making progress. Having her husband, Tunisian-Russian fencer Karim Kamoun, as her fitness trainer and part of her team also helped. After losing in the second round of French Open qualifying in May, Jabeur immediately shifted her focus to the grass. A drop-shot queen with real weapons that are tailored for this surface, Jabeur won a $100k tournament on the lawns of Manchester, without dropping a set. Wimbledon came calling a few hours later and offered her a main draw wildcard.
She would be playing Wimbledon for a second straight season, but unlike last year, she would not have to go through the grind of the qualifying rounds, played at Roehampton, a short car ride away from the All England Club.
Jabeur, who lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova on her Wimbledon debut last year, approached the tournament differently this time around, and was determined to go as far as possible.
“I feel better this year, more confident actually, more fresh coming like this,” she said ahead of her first round at Wimbledon this week. “I feel like I’m more mature in my head compared to last year. Even though my results haven’t been as good as they were last year but I feel like I’m more comfortable on the court, I know what I’m doing, I know if I make a mistake what’s wrong with me.”
Jabeur showcased great fighting spirit in her comeback win in the first round against Golubic, who had lost to the Tunisian twice in the previous three weeks. She was far more dangerous in their third encounter, but the 23-year-old Jabeur came through in three sets to post her first-ever win at SW19.
There was heartbreak in the second round though, where she faced Czech world No. 42 Katerina Siniakova. Jabeur entered the match having lost all four previous matches against Siniakova, but the head-to-head record went out of the window when Jabeur took the first set, then went up 5-2 in the third. Despite holding a match point and serving for the match, Jabeur managed to lose 5-7, 6-4, 9-7.
Jabeur admitted it was a “painful” defeat but she is already thinking about what she needs to work on, to avoid letting victory slip away from her like that again. She has her eyes on the US Open, and will be playing a clay event in Budapest next week in an effort to raise her ranking and make the cut for the main draw in New York.
“Apparently my season just started for me, because I was just kind of a tourist at the beginning,” said Jabeur. “I feel more motivated to play more and more tournaments, which is the opposite of last year. Last year, by now I was tired and wanted to stop the season. So for me it’s good, I’m motivated to continue and play more and more tournaments.”
Jabeur turned heads at Wimbledon, including that of Serena Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou.
“I love her, she is so sweet, so fun, such a nice person to have around,” said the Frenchman, who has an academy where Jabeur briefly trained. “I think she has a fantastic game. She has a lot of touch, she can do anything on a tennis court with her game. But I don’t think she has used her full potential yet.”
Jabeur knows that more than anyone and looks like she’s finally ready to do something about it.


Riyad Mahrez comes of age at Manchester City in search for glory

Updated 16 November 2018
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Riyad Mahrez comes of age at Manchester City in search for glory

  • Riyad Mahrez signed for City in a $76.6 million move
  • All eyes were on how Pep Guardiola’s only summer signing would add an extra edge to a record-breaking side

MANCHESTER: It took eight games for Riyad Mahrez to show why Manchester City paid a club record £60 million ($76.6 million) for his services.
All eyes were on how Pep Guardiola’s only summer signing would add an extra edge to a side that broke records on the way to claiming the Premier League title last season.
The Algerian winger came off the bench just past the hour mark against Cardiff two months ago and slid home his first City goal from close range before curling in a second with a fine left-foot finish.
The brace provided lift-off for the 27-year-old and his confident displays since have quickly dispelled any doubts that he would struggle to adapt to a system under Guardiola that demands commitment as well as class.
For Mahrez, he has been working to fulfil this footballing dream ever since he was a youngster practicing his skills on the streets of Paris suburb Sarcelles, encouraged by his late father Ahmed.
“I’m proud,” he says of an inspiring journey that began professionally in the French Second Division with Quimper in 2009, then at Le Havre a year later, before joining Leicester City for just £400,000 in 2014.
“It’s not easy to arrive here (at City), to come to a club like this. You need to work very hard to get here and when you do it’s not the final thing.
“You still need to work even more, to perform, to be humble, and to try to go higher. Of course, I want to do even better.
“I didn’t feel any pressure when I came because of the price, I don’t think about this stuff.
“I’m feeling good now at City, playing good at the moment and we are winning games. But it’s not finished yet and we need to keep going. The season is very long and we all have to keep going like this.”
While Mahrez has already won the league title with Leicester during a fairytale 2015-16 season that also saw him crowned the PFA Player of the Year, he remains ambitious and convinced he can still improve.
A yardstick has perhaps been set by Liverpool’s Egyptian frontman Mohamed Salah, who took his game to another level with 44 goals last season, winning the PFA and Football Writers’ Player of the Year awards and named third in the 2018 Best FIFA Men’s Player.
“Salah had a very good season. And we have a good team, we can score a lot of goals and I hope to do more, like he has done,” Mahrez told Arab News exclusively.
“But the most important thing is that we keep on winning as a team, and I’m going to try to help the team to do this, to score goals, make assists.”
The performances of Mahrez, who has claimed four more goals since the Cardiff match, and eight-goal Salah on Merseyside could well be integral to how their clubs eventually fare in this campaign.
Both teams are unbeaten in the league after 12 games with City two points clear of Liverpool, a lead confirmed by the impressive 3-1 win over neighbors United in the recent Manchester derby.
But Mahrez knows the mesmerising manner in which they have roared to the top will mean nothing if they are not there next May.
“The derby was special, a good atmosphere, a good win, I’m very happy,” he said after his first experience of the rivalry.
“But it’s not that because we beat United we are going to win the league. You can’t think like that, there’s still a long way to go and we have to keep focus.
“We have a good team, we are playing well. We just need to keep working hard for each other and we know we are going to be there at the end of the season. That’s the target.
“I won the title with Leicester, but I came here to win more trophies.
“I’m not going to say I’m going to win this or that, but of course this is a club that wants to win trophies. Win the Premier League, I don’t know. Win the Champions League, I don’t know.
“But we are going to make everything we can to try to do that. That’s the challenge for us.”