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.


Chelsea moves into top 4 after draw with Burnley

Updated 23 April 2019
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Chelsea moves into top 4 after draw with Burnley

  • Chelsea moves into the final Champions League qualifying spot

LONDON: Chelsea moved into the Premier League’s top four on Monday with a frustrating 2-2 draw with Burnley.
Goals two minutes apart from N’Golo Kante and Gonzalo Higuain put Chelsea on top at Stamford Bridge after Jeff Hendrick had given Burnley an early lead.
But Ashley Barnes pulled the visitors even in the 24th minute and Chelsea was unable to get the winner despite dominating possession and finishing with 22 shots.
Chelsea moves into the final Champions League qualifying spot, one point above Arsenal and three ahead of Manchester United, but has played one game more.
Burnley, meanwhile, all but guaranteed its Premier League status for another season.
The Clarets are nine points above Cardiff in the final relegation place with three games left and have a far superior goal difference.