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.


In-form Haller keeps Ajax unbeaten after Besiktas win

In-form Haller keeps Ajax unbeaten after Besiktas win
Updated 6 sec ago

In-form Haller keeps Ajax unbeaten after Besiktas win

In-form Haller keeps Ajax unbeaten after Besiktas win
PARIS: Ivory Coast striker Sebastien Haller took his tally to 10 goals in as many games this season as Ajax beat Besiktas 2-0 to move top of group C in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Haller, who joined the Dutch league holders from West Ham in January, kneed home his effort just before the break after midfielder Steven Berghuis had opened the scoring at the Johan Cruyff ArenA.
The 27-year-old’s efforts this term have helped Erik ten Hag’s side to the summit of the Eredivisie.
They are also three points clear of Borussia Dortmund in Europe, with the Germans hosting Sporting Lisbon later.
“We should have scored that third goal, it would have been much easier. Unfortunately that didn’t happen,” Ajax captain Dusan Tadic told broadcaster RTL7.
“The good thing was we kept a clean sheet,” he added.
Netherlands playmaker Berghuis opened the scoring, and claimed his second goal of the season, after 17 minutes as he made the most of some questionable Turkish marking in the box before firing home.
Haller’s contribution came two minutes before half-time as with an unorthodox finish from a swinging Berghuis cross.
Elsewhere, Serie A champions Inter Milan remain winless in Europe this season following the 0-0 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk was a spectator in Kiev days after beating Anthony Joshua on points to become just the third boxer after Evander Holyfield of the United States and Britain’s David Haye to win both the cruiserweight and heavyweight world titles
The home team’s attacker Lassina Traore was stretchered off after 11 minutes following a collision with Netherlands winger Dumfries.
Burkina Faso international’s right leg and ankle were caught under Dumfries’ body before the 20-year-old was helped off the pitch with his hands covering his face. He was replaced by Tete.
The best of the first half chances fell to Nicolo Barella as the Inter midfielder hit the crossbar with a shot after a quarter of an hour.
Inter were inches away from the winner with three minutes left as Shakhtar goalkeeper and captain Andriy Pyatov tipped Joaquin Correa’s curling shot past the post.
“We wanted the three points, we went close to winning, we’re a bit disappointed by the result,” Inter defender Milan Skriniar told Sky Sport.
“It wasn’t easy, I am happy with how my team-mates defended.”
Inter are third, with Shakhtar bottom before leaders Sheriff Tiraspol, making their maiden appearance in the tournament, play at 13-time winners Real Madrid.
The pick of the late ties pits May’s runners up Manchester City against Paris Saint-Germain with Parisians starting at home with an attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in a re-match of last season’s semifinal.

LeBron confirms vaccinated but ‘not my job’ to persuade others

LeBron confirms vaccinated but ‘not my job’ to persuade others
Updated 28 September 2021

LeBron confirms vaccinated but ‘not my job’ to persuade others

LeBron confirms vaccinated but ‘not my job’ to persuade others
  • Los Angeles Lakers superstar had declined previously to say whether he had been vaccinated, saying it was a "private" matter for him and his family
  • He told reporters on Tuesday he had now been vaccinated, part of a Lakers drive to ensure that 100 percent of the squad and staff had taken the vaccine

LOS ANGELES: LeBron James confirmed he had been vaccinated against Covid-19 on Tuesday but said it was “not my job” to convince other NBA players to follow suit.
The Los Angeles Lakers superstar had declined previously to say whether he had been vaccinated, saying it was a “private” matter for him and his family.
However he told reporters on Tuesday he had now been vaccinated, part of a Lakers drive to ensure that 100 percent of the squad and staff had taken the vaccine.
“At the end of the day you’re always trying to figure out ways that you can be available and protect one another and put yourself in the best possible chance where you are available to your team-mates, available to do what we need to do on the floor,” James said.
“The ultimate goal is to win a championship and it starts with being healthy which is the number one thing.
“We’re excited to know that we’ve given ourselves another opportunity to be available to each other, and that’s what it came down to.”
James said he had opted to be vaccinated after deciding it was in the best interests of himself and his family.
“When it comes to me I can speak for myself,” James said.
“I think everyone has their own choice to do what they feel is right for themselves and their family and things of that nature.
“I know that I was very skeptical about it all but after doing my own research I felt like it was best suited for me and my family and my friends. That’s why I decided to do it.”
Around 90 percent of players in the NBA are believed to have been vaccinated as the new season approaches.
However there remains a significant number who have either said they will not take the vaccine or have refused to confirm their status.
Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving on Monday said he was keeping his decision private while Washington Wizards ace Bradley Beal has said he is declining the vaccine for “personal reasons.”
When pressed Tuesday over whether he could play a greater role in persuading individuals over the vaccine, James said it was not his place to do so.
“You’re talking about individual’s bodies,” James said. “You’re not talking about something that’s political, or racism, or police brutality. You’re talking about people’s bodies and well-being.
“I don’t feel like for me personally I should get involved in what people do for their bodies and their livelihoods. It would be like me talking about whether somebody should take this job or not. You have to do what’s best for you and your family.
“I know what I did for me and my family. But as far as speaking for everybody and their individualities and what they want to do... that’s not my job.”

*


Prince Saud bin Mishal in UAE to watch Indian Premier League action

SACF President Prince Saud bin Mishal (center) with board member Dalal Al-Mutlaq and Chairman of Dubai Sports City Khalid Al-Zarooni. (SACF)
SACF President Prince Saud bin Mishal (center) with board member Dalal Al-Mutlaq and Chairman of Dubai Sports City Khalid Al-Zarooni. (SACF)
Updated 28 September 2021

Prince Saud bin Mishal in UAE to watch Indian Premier League action

SACF President Prince Saud bin Mishal (center) with board member Dalal Al-Mutlaq and Chairman of Dubai Sports City Khalid Al-Zarooni. (SACF)
  • President of Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation was accompanied to game by board member Dalal Al-Mutlaq, Dubai Sports City Chairman Khalid Al-Zarooni

DUBAI: President of the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation Prince Saud bin Mishal and board member Dalal Al-Mutlaq are in the UAE to watch the latest action from the ongoing Indian Premier League.

The representatives of the Saudi federation, which over the last year has transformed the cricket landscape in the Kingdom with a series of game-changing initiatives and competitions, were pictured with the chairman of Dubai Sports City, Khalid Al-Zarooni, at one of the matches currently taking place in the UAE.

The IPL, the world’s richest cricket tournament, resumed in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah on Sept. 19, more than four months after it was suspended due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Chennai Super Kings currently lead the table on 16 points from 10 matches, followed by the Delhi Capitals with 16 points from 11, and the Royal Challengers Bangalore with 12 from 10.


Women’s Cycling Challenge to take place at Dubai’s Al-Qudra track in October

The second edition of the Women’s Cycling Challenge is set to take place at Dubai’s Al-Qudra Cycle Track in Al-Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve. (Facebook/The Women's Cycling Challenge)
The second edition of the Women’s Cycling Challenge is set to take place at Dubai’s Al-Qudra Cycle Track in Al-Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve. (Facebook/The Women's Cycling Challenge)
Updated 28 September 2021

Women’s Cycling Challenge to take place at Dubai’s Al-Qudra track in October

The second edition of the Women’s Cycling Challenge is set to take place at Dubai’s Al-Qudra Cycle Track in Al-Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve. (Facebook/The Women's Cycling Challenge)
  • 2nd edition of Dubai Sports Council-organized race will be contested over 40-km, 70-km distances

DUBAI: The second edition of the Women’s Cycling Challenge is set to take place at Dubai’s Al-Qudra Cycle Track in Al-Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve on Oct. 8, Emirates News Agency WAM has reported.

The event is being presented by logistics firm DP World and held under the umbrella of Dubai Sports Council and Dubai Women’s Sports Committee, in association with the UAE Cycling Federation.

The challenge, over 40-kilometer and 70-kilometer distances, is open to cyclists of all skill levels who can take part as individuals or in teams.

A DSC spokesperson said: “The Women’s Cycling Challenge supports a healthy and active lifestyle for women, providing them with an opportunity to practice sports and physical activity that enables them to compete in an environment that conforms to the customs and traditions of the UAE. It is one of our strategic objectives, and the Women’s Cycling Challenge is an initiative that seeks to further those aims.

“We are pleased that DP World is a partner and supporter of this important sports event for women in the UAE, championing the opportunities and initiatives that women have to participate in sports at every level in the country.”

Nabil Qayed, director of people and general administration for the UAE in DP World’s people department, said: “As a global logistics leader, we not only enable smart trade, but work to create a better future for everyone.

“In alignment with this goal and our sustainability strategy that impacts people, communities, and the environment, we take pride in our association with the Women’s Cycling Challenge that is dedicated to promoting female health and wellness.

“At an organizational level, we have constantly supported women and are committed to increasing female representation in every sphere, thus promoting women’s aspirations in the UAE,” Qayed added.

Riders will race through the Al-Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve, which is home to 204 species of native birds, 158 species of migratory birds, many endangered animals, as well as Arabian oryx, Arabian sand gazelles, foxes, and wild cats.

The 3,000-year-old Saruq Al-Hadid archaeological site — one of the oldest in the country dating back to the Iron Age — is also located within the reserve.

Ruth Dickinson, the event’s director, said: “Women cycling for recreation and as a way to keep fit is popular in Dubai and across the UAE. Around the region, it is a fast-growing sport and pastime for women of all levels of fitness and riding capability.

“In Dubai, we have excellent facilities and easy access to cycle tracks around the city and this has encouraged more women to take up cycling competitively and socially.

“We are encouraging women at every level of ability to join the challenge. We would like to see women come and ride to compete, or cycle just for fun and enjoy a great experience,” she added.


Saudi Arabia names 25-man squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers

Saudi Arabia will face Japan and China in October’s Asian Qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup. (SAFF)
Saudi Arabia will face Japan and China in October’s Asian Qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup. (SAFF)
Updated 28 September 2021

Saudi Arabia names 25-man squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers

Saudi Arabia will face Japan and China in October’s Asian Qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup. (SAFF)
  • The Green Falcons sit second in Group B and will host Japan on Oct. 7 and China on Oct. 12 at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah
  • The top two finishers in each of the two six-team groups will qualify for Qatar 2022 while third-place finishers will meet in a play-off round

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard on Tuesday named a 25-man squad for the team’s upcoming Asian qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup against Japan and China.

The Kingdom will host Japan on Oct. 7 before facing China on Oct. 12. Both fixtures will be held at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah.

The Green Falcons sit second in Group B of the third round of AFC qualification behind Australia, having won their opening two fixtures against Vietnam (3-1) and Oman (1-0).

The top two finishers in each of the two six-team groups will qualify automatically to Qatar 2022 while the third-place finishers will meet in a play-off round.

The squad list revealed by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation includes Mohammed Al-Owais, Zaid Al-Bawardi, Fawaz Al-Qarni, Mohammed Al-Yami, Mohammad Khobrani, Abdullah Mado, Abdulelah Al-Amari, Ali Al-Bulaihi, Saud Abdulhamid, Hussain Qassim, Sultan Al-Ghannam, Yasser Al-Shahrani, Nasser Al-Dossari, Ali Al-Hassan, Abdulelah Al-Malki, Mohammed Kanno, Sami Al-Najei, Salman Al-Faraj, Mohammed Al-Kwaikbi, Fahad Al-Muwallad, Abdulrahman Ghareeb, Abdulrahman Al-Obud, Firas Al-Buraikan, Ayman Yahya and Saleh Al-Shehri.