Ons Jabeur explains how her mental toughness made her tennis’s leading Arab superstar at Wimbledon

Ons Jabeur explains how her mental toughness made her tennis’s leading Arab superstar at Wimbledon
Tunisian,Ons Jabeur, now faces Belarusian No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka on Centre Court with the prize of a first ever personal Grand Slam semi-final up for grabs. (AFP)
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Updated 06 July 2021

Ons Jabeur explains how her mental toughness made her tennis’s leading Arab superstar at Wimbledon

Ons Jabeur explains how her mental toughness made her tennis’s leading Arab superstar at Wimbledon
  • The Tunisian now faces Belarusian No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka on Centre Court with the prize of a first ever personal Grand Slam semi-final up for grabs

LONDON: If Ons Jabeur had closed her eyes for a few moments after her victory over No.7 seed Iga Swiatek that earned her a maiden ticket to the Wimbledon quarter-finals, the Tunisian would have probably thought she was on the pitch at Esperance’s Olympique de Radès stadium and not on the No.2 Court at the All England Club where her fans were chanting Arabic football songs from back home to celebrate her historic achievement on Monday.

After taking out a Grand Slam champion for a third consecutive round, Jabeur became the first Arab player to reach the last-eight stage at Wimbledon since Egypt’s Ismail El Shafei in 1974, and the first Arab woman to ever achieve that feat.

As chants from the Tunisian fans echoed around the stands, Jabeur urged them to sing louder and was even tempted to join them.

“They were actually singing a football song. I felt the need to sing with them also. I felt so happy that I wanted to hear more. I was doing like this [waving her arms] to hear them,” she said with a smile.

“It gives me a lot of confidence. I appreciate it a lot. I hope they come even more for the next match.”

The next match will take place on Centre Court on Tuesday against Belarusian No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka and is expected to be a titanic battle and a contrast of game styles.

Should she win, Jabeur would become the first Arab player in Open Era history (since 1968) to reach a Grand Slam semi-final.

The stakes could not be higher for the 26-year-old trailblazer but lucky for her, she got a surprise boost ahead of her quarter-final when she was stopped by Roger Federer in the Wimbledon hallways for a quick congratulatory greeting from the Swiss legend.

“I think now I’m good in my tennis career,” she told the press laughing, implying she was set for life now that her efforts were acknowledged by the 20-time major champion.

“He was very nice. He took the time to say congrats. That inspires me a lot and gives me the hunger to win more.”

Jabeur’s development from a 16-year-old junior winning the Roland Garros girls’ singles title back in 2011, to now standing as the match-wins leader on tour in 2021 and perched at No.8 in the year’s WTA Race to Shenzhen has been a long and winding process.

Growing up, she practiced with boys because there weren’t any girls at her level in Tunisia to train with.

She picked up a unique playing style that mixes finesse with power and aggression, and her creativity on the court was limitless.

But with so much talent on display from a young age, and with the ability to hit every shot in the book, Jabeur struggled during her transition from the juniors to the women’s tour, as she searched for the right formula to combine her strengths and utilize her versatility in an intelligent way.

“Early in my career, after the juniors, when I didn’t see the results that I wanted, when I was seeing the juniors that I played with breaking the top 50, top 40, it was very difficult for me,” reflected Jabeur on Monday as she sat at Wimbledon’s main interview room as the No.21 seed.

“I stayed patient. I finally found what I have to do and be able to stay with a clear head, which helped me a lot to be one of the good athletes right now.”

Finding the right team was key for her development and she mostly travels with her Tunisian coach Issam Jellali and her husband and fitness trainer Karim Kamoun.

Jellali is a tennis geek at heart and is loving every second of his time on tour.

He has immense knowledge of everyone’s game on the circuit and he emanates positivity, which has proven pivotal in Jabeur’s rise.

Kamoun helped his wife with her fitness and is constantly looking for new ways to motivate her.

When rain wreaked havoc with the schedule in Birmingham ahead of Wimbledon, Jabeur won three matches in one day (two singles and one doubles) en route to the title.

It’s fair to say the efforts of the popular couple are paying dividends.

Mentally, Jabeur has come on in leaps and bounds.

Aided by her psychologist Melanie Maillard, she has become one of the grittiest players on tour.

Her performances at Wimbledon are testament to that.

She’s been clutch at key moments, saving 26/33 break points she has faced through four matches (saved 12/15 against Swiatek).

After squandering 24 out of 29 break point opportunities against Muguruza in the third round, Jabeur was a perfect 7/7 on break points on the Swiatek serve on Monday.

One of the many things Jabeur has improved over the course of the past couple of years is her serve, which has become a key component of her arsenal on court.




Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur beat Poland's Iga Swiatek in the women’s singles fourth round match on the 7th day of the 2021 Wimbledon Championships. (AFP)

She is in fourth place on the aces leaderboard on the women’s tour in 2021 and she has used her serve to great effect during her run at Wimbledon.

Jabeur has won 76 percent of her first-serve points so far this fortnight, which sees her tied with world No.1 Ashleigh Barty in fourth place for that stats category among the entire women’s field.

The Tunisian has held serve in 84 percent of her service games – the second highest success rate among the eight remaining quarter-finalists.

“I always believed that I could have a good serve. It wasn’t consistent at some time. You have some coaches that could doubt you and tell you that I’m short and I would never serve good. I guess I proved them wrong,” she says with a grin.

Renowned for her vicious drop shots that infuriate her opponents, Jabeur is equally deadly when she rips her forehand, and against Swiatek, she opted for fewer drop shots and instead mixed up the pace with slices from the back of the court while unleashing forehand missiles when possible.

Of the 118 winners she has struck, 48 have come courtesy of her forehand. Jabeur is very comfortable at the net and has won 44/62 (71%) of her net points through her first four matches at SW19.

“I try to have the whole package of having the drop shot, the slices, being aggressive at the same time,” she proudly stated on Monday.

The way Jabeur rebounded from dropping the opening set against Swiatek after blowing a 5-3 lead was remarkable.

The No.21 seed walked off court with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 victory and drew high praise from Swiatek after the contest.

“She’s just playing really intelligent tennis. When she’s in and when she gets the ball right, she can play anything. So it was pretty tough,” conceded Swiatek.

“She just has all the skills to play on grass, and that’s great. She can close the net and she’s pretty confident at it. I think she just has a flow, as well. She’s using all the skills that she has. It’s working out well for her.”

Jabeur’s next rival, Sabalenka, is a huge-hitter, who can overwhelm the very best of opposition with her raw power.

They are 1-1 head-to-head in previous meetings against one another.

The Tunisian will be playing her second major quarter-final while Sabalenka will be contesting her first.

“My goal is to break this quarter-final barrier and be able to go to the semi, and why not the final? I’m enjoying my time here in Wimbledon, enjoying the grass a lot,” said Jabeur. She certainly is having a ball. Hopefully the football chants make their way to Centre Court on Tuesday.


Wait for Premier League win goes on for Newcastle after Crystal Palace draw

Crystal Palace's Conor Gallagher, left, and Newcastle's Isaac Hayden battles for the ball during the English Premier League match at Selhurst Park. (AP)
Crystal Palace's Conor Gallagher, left, and Newcastle's Isaac Hayden battles for the ball during the English Premier League match at Selhurst Park. (AP)
Updated 58 min 25 sec ago

Wait for Premier League win goes on for Newcastle after Crystal Palace draw

Crystal Palace's Conor Gallagher, left, and Newcastle's Isaac Hayden battles for the ball during the English Premier League match at Selhurst Park. (AP)
  • A new Steve Bruce-less era was heralded on Tyneside, after the head coach was this week shown the St. James’ Park exit door

LONDON: Nine and counting. Newcastle United remain winless from their opening nine Premier League games of the season — however, their Crystal Palace draw definitely feels like a point gained, rather than two dropped.

Christian Benteke opened the scoring for the Eagles, before some Callum Wilson acrobatics ensured the Magpies traveled back north from the capital with a point to show for their efforts.

A new Steve Bruce-less era was heralded on Tyneside, after the head coach was this week shown the St. James’ Park exit door — but again, like last week against Spurs, there was little difference from what had gone before.

Graeme Jones stepped into the dugout for this one, and will do so for the next seven days until United decide on their new manager. United were clearly more organized, yet a whole lot more tentative.

Where gaps at the back were cavernous under Bruce, things appeared a whole lot more solid without him.

United, however, did have to ride their luck.

In a half of football devoid of real opportunities, only two of merit were created. One was wasted by the usually clinical Wilson and another saw Benteke strike Karl Darlow’s post.

United were bright early doors, with a little more defensive shape, which so easily escaped them in the opening game of the Magpies’ Saudi-financed era.

And Wilson went within an inch of setting Newcastle on their way, but could only find the side netting when presented with a chance on a tight angle from just three yards.

Benteke, a threat in the air all day for United’s beefed-up backline, fired a shot across the bows as he beat both Javier Manquillo and Emil Krafth to a floated cross to hit the foot of the post.

Bizarrely, the highlight of the opening half came from an off the field action as United released a statement making a U-turn on their previous decision to encourage fans not to wear Saudi-inspired dress.

It seems the new owners are now in favor of it. The statement read: “Those who wish to support the club by wearing appropriate culturally inspired clothing should feel free to do so as they see fit. We are inclusive to all.

“To reiterate what we said previously, neither the club nor its new owners were offended by attire worn, and appreciate the overt statements of support and acceptance by our great fans.”

Saudi flags and traditional dress were clearly visible across the 2,800-strong away support in south London.

After the break it was one-way traffic — and for United, a backs to the wall job.

Benteke made sure the Eagles’ dominance was rewarded when he nodded home a Tyrick Mitchell cross for 1-0. It was no less than the hosts deserved.

The Belgium international almost put Palace out of sight moments later as United’s resolve began to falter. Another header, this time off the top of the bar.

Against the run of play, however, the Magpies unexpectedly leveled as Wilson redeemed his earlier miss by producing a second-half moment of magic. His overhead kick from a United corner lit up the traveling support as the present Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi, PCP directors, punched the air in the directors’ box.

Jones’ United continued to ride their luck. Goalscorer Benteke continued his profligacy in front of goal.

A Palace through ball broke the United defensive line and Benteke, with the whole goal to aim at, skewed wide.

Benteke did have the ball in the net again with three minutes left to play and looked to have won it for the Eagles. However, the VAR gods shone down on United as referee Darren England ruled the goal out for an obvious pull of the shirt by Marc Guehi on Clark.

Cue chants of “how much are they paying you?” — Clearly aimed at the man in the middle, England, and United’s new cash-rich owners.

Jealousy and hypocrisy reign supreme in English football when it comes to Newcastle United, of that there is no doubt, now.

But while the green-eyed monster dominates fan perception when it comes to the club’s owners, it does not ring true when it comes to their “on-pitch” product. That will likely have to wait until January and the transfer window.


Bayern wins again without coach Julian Nagelsmann

Bayern wins again without coach Julian Nagelsmann
Updated 23 October 2021

Bayern wins again without coach Julian Nagelsmann

Bayern wins again without coach Julian Nagelsmann
  • Serge Gnabry and Robert Lewandowski were among the scorers as Bayern stayed a point clear of Dortmund at the top of the table
  • The coach has been directing Bayern remotely since he tested positive ahead of a Champions League game at Benfica on Wednesday

MUNICH: Coach Julian Nagelsmann again sent instructions remotely after testing positive for the coronavirus as Bayern Munich beat Hoffenheim 4-0 in the Bundesliga on Saturday.
Borussia Dortmund made do without injured striker Erling Haaland to overcome Arminia Bielefeld 3-1.
Serge Gnabry and Robert Lewandowski were among the scorers as Bayern stayed a point clear of Dortmund at the top of the table in what would have been a routine win if not for Nagelsmann’s absence.
The coach has been directing Bayern remotely since he tested positive ahead of a Champions League game at Benfica on Wednesday which Bayern won 4-0. Assistant Dino Toppmöller deputizes on the touchline and said Nagelsmann is closely involved with the tactics.
Bayern started with intent against Hoffenheim, Lewandowski scuffing a shot wide in the second minute when one-on-one with the goalkeeper, before Gnabry had a goal disallowed over a prior foul by Jamal Musiala.
Gnabry was first to score for Bayern, taking advantage of Hoffenheim’s narrow defensive formation to overlap on the right side of the penalty area in the 16th. Lewandowski added the second on the half-hour on a counterattack. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Kingsley Coman scored late on.
NO HAALAND, NO PROBLEM
A hip muscle injury for Haaland could rule out the Norwegian for weeks and make Dortmund’s bid to dethrone Bayern even harder. Haaland’s teammates appeared not to be affected as they showed off their skills in a 3-1 win over Bielefeld.
Emre Can put Dortmund ahead from the penalty spot after a clumsy tackle, before center back Mats Hummels made a statement with a volley from the edge of the area to make it 2-0. England midfielder Jude Bellingham had his moment in the spotlight in the 72nd, beating three Bielefeld players on his way to scoring a fine solo goal.
LEIPZIG HITS 4
Leipzig took some of the pressure off its American coach, Jesse Marsch, with a 4-1 win over promoted Greuther Fürth. But it wasn’t as simple as the score might indicate.
Fürth had the lead at halftime thanks to Branimir Hrgota scoring from a penalty given for Leipzig’s Nordi Mukiele jumping onto an opponent in an aerial duel. Yussuf Poulsen scored for Leipzig immediately after the break, before goals from Emil Forsberg, Dominik Szoboszlai and Hugo Novoa.
It was a welcome win for Leipzig, whose Champions League campaign is already all but over after a 3-2 loss to Paris Saint-Germain meant Marsch’s team started the group stage with three defeats.
Freiburg stays in a surprise third place after keeping its record as the league’s only unbeaten team in a 2-0 win over Wolfsburg.
Wolfsburg, which started the season brightly under new coach Mark van Bommel, is now on an eight-game winless run in all competitions.


Chelsea hit Norwich for seven

Chelsea hit Norwich for seven
Updated 23 October 2021

Chelsea hit Norwich for seven

Chelsea hit Norwich for seven
  • Mason Mount scored a hat-trick for the Blues at Stamford Bridge
  • Mount had not scored since May and Tuchel welcomed his return to scoring form with Lukaku and Werner expected to be out for some time

LONDON: Chelsea opened up a four-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a 7-0 demolition of Norwich on Saturday.
Mason Mount scored a hat-trick for the Blues at Stamford Bridge as the European champions coped easily without first-choice strikers Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner.
Mount started the rout after just eight minutes and finished it with two more in the closing stages after Ben Gibson had been sent-off for the visitors.
Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James and Ben Chilwell were also on target for Thomas Tuchel’s men, while Max Aarons’ own goal summed up a sorry day for the Canaries.
He had not scored since May and Tuchel welcomed his return to scoring form with Lukaku and Werner expected to be out for some time.
“No matter how satisfied the coach is, the offensive guys need goals to be fully happy,” said Tuchel.
“He waited too long, so it was good that he got some goals. I agree he looked fresh again today.”
Manchester City can close the gap at the top to two points and leapfrog Liverpool into second when they face Brighton later on Saturday.
Claudio Ranieri got his first win as Watford manager as the Hornets twice came from behind to stun Everton 5-2 at Goodison Park.
Josh King failed to score as an Everton player last season, but hit a hat-trick to help move Watford six points clear of the relegation zone.
Juraj Kucka and Emmanuel Dennis were also on target for the visitors, who scored four times in the final 12 minutes.
Leeds needed a stoppage-time penalty to earn a 1-1 draw at home to Wolves.
South Korean international Hwang Hee-chan opened the scoring at Elland Road.
Wolves were set to move up to fifth until Joe Gelhardt was fouled inside the area in the 94th minute and Rodrigo slotted home the penalty.
Burnley remain in the bottom three, but Maxwel Cornet is proving himself a shrewd signing for Sean Dyche’s men as the Ivorian scored twice in a 2-2 draw at Southampton.
Saints turned the game around after Cornet opened the scoring to take the lead with goals from Tino Livramento and Armando Broja.
The former Lyon winger then salvaged a point for the Clarets with a thumping finish on the volley from outside the area.


Former athletics world medalist Quinonez shot dead

Former athletics world medalist Quinonez shot dead
Updated 23 October 2021

Former athletics world medalist Quinonez shot dead

Former athletics world medalist Quinonez shot dead
  • Quinonez, 32, and another person were found dead close to midnight local time, according to local police

QUITO: Ecuador’s 2019 200 meters world bronze medallist Alex Quinonez who allowed his countrymen to “dream” has been shot dead in the port city of Guayaquil according to the Sports Ministry.
Quinonez, 32, and another person were found dead close to midnight local time, according to local police.
“With great sadness, we confirm the murder of our sportsman Alex Quinonez,” the Sports Ministry announced on Twitter.
“We have lost a great sportsman, someone who allowed us to dream, who moved us....he was the greatest sprinter this country produced.”
Quinonez — who was suspended prior to the Tokyo Olympics due to “breach of his whereabouts obligations” — was also hailed by Ecuador’s president Guillermo Lasso.
“We offer our sincerest condolences to his family,” he tweeted.
“May he rest in peace. Those who take the lives of Ecuadoreans will not remain unpunished.
“We will act with force.”


Full-capacity crowd announced for Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Full-capacity crowd announced for Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Updated 23 October 2021

Full-capacity crowd announced for Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Full-capacity crowd announced for Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

The final season’s race of the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will see a return to full capacity at Yas Marina Circuit, organisers announced on Saturday. 

Capacity at Yas Marina Circuit has increased allowing for a full-capacity crowd from December 9 to 12. Children under the age of 12 will now also be permitted to attend events during the race week. 

The race action at this year’s event will showcase motorsport’s biggest stars, including Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Valterri Bottas, and Lando Norris. 

Modifications have been made to set up more dramatic racing and increased opportunities for overtaking, a press statement said.   

With the potential championship decider between Mercedes’ Hamilton and Red Bull’s Verstappen at this season’s final race, racing enthusiasts are sure to see history in the making at this year’s milestone event.

Grammy nominated artists, Khalid and Lewis Capaldi are the first to be announced in a star-studded line-up of artists performing at Etihad Park on Thursday and Saturday.