LONDON: Ons Jabeur admitted she was annoyed after a shoulder injury forced her to call it quits against Elina Svitolina in Dubai.
The Tunisian was down 7-6, 4-0 in the second round match with the two-time defending champion when she retired — she fell towards the end of the first set and required a lengthy medical break. But having looked more than a match for Svitolina until that point what hurt more than her shoulder was the realisation that her chance of going deep in her favorite tournament was over.
“I’m still a little angry about it as I felt I was playing really good and I was playing good shots during the game,” Jabeur said.
“I was playing my best tennis and I was handling the first set pretty good but then it is frustrating to have this kind of injury.”
The 24-year-old’s pain and frustration were easy to understand. For the first set she went toe-to-toe with the world No. 6 and looked every bit her equal. Jabeur went 4-1 up and had a 6-5 lead when she fell. Having been seen by a doctor she lost the tie-break and from then on it was downhill.
It was a sad end to a tournament in which she revealed she wanted to become the “Naomi Osaka of Africa,” a reference to the trailblazing Japanese world No. 1 who became the first Asian to reach the summit of the rankings.
For Svitolina the win was welcome as she admitted she was far from her best, having been pushed all the way before Jabeur’s injury. The Ukrainian is seeking to become the first woman to win three Dubai titles on the trot, and said: “(Achieving the hat-trick) is definitely a big motivation for me.
“When I was 0-2 down, I told myself, ‘C’mon, you are here to make history of the tournament.’
“I didn’t really feel like in a match mood. I don’t know why. Was a bit struggling. In the end, we could say I had a very slow start. Hopefully, yeah, (next round) will be better.”
The year-old now faces Garbine Muguruza, the Spaniard having beaten Saisai Zheng 7-5, 6-2. While she is only too aware that beating the world No. 19 will be no easy task Svitolina is confident she can improve on her showing against Jabeur and create some momentum heading into the business end of the week.
“For me, I just want to have the mentality of not thinking so much who is in the other side of the net,” the 24-year-old said.
“I’m here to win matches, try to improve my game each match.
“It’s not going to be easy. It’s not easy to defend the title, to step on court just in these conditions.
“With the wind, the ball is flying a little bit. I just want to focus on myself.”
Having set her sights on sharpening her game and on an historic third title, Svitolina took to Twitter to praise Jabeur and wish her well in he recovery, saying: “You are a great player and I wish you health and quick recovery!”
Earlier she said: “I played against her in juniors, so obviously I know she’s a good player. She can deliver a good match.”