Ons Jabeur smiling all the way to first US Open quarterfinal

Special Ons Jabeur smiling all the way to first US Open quarterfinal
Tunisia's Ons Jabeur celebrates after defeating Russia's Veronika Kudermetova in their 2022 US Open Tennis tournament women's singles Round of 16 match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. (File/AFP)
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Updated 06 September 2022

Ons Jabeur smiling all the way to first US Open quarterfinal

Ons Jabeur smiling all the way to first US Open quarterfinal
  • In her exclusive column for Arab News, Tunisia’s world No. 5 talks about beating Veronika Kudermetova, and next opponent Ajla Tomljanovic

NEW YORK: I am through to the US Open quarterfinals for the first time in my career and I did it thanks to a tough win over Veronika Kudermetova at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Sunday night.

It’s never easy to play Veronika. She hits really hard and serves really well. But as soon as I got my rhythm and stepped inside the court a little bit more, it was much better for me. I was more aggressive and followed the tactics set out by my coach Issam (Jellali). I think that helped me a lot. So did the belief I had that I could come back after one break down. That was very, very important. I think I played the tiebreak really well and I was the better player on the important points.

I was smiling a lot on court today because I was watching all the people dancing in the stands. On some points I went full power on my shots and I hit so many lines, which usually I never do. In fact, it’s usually the opposite and my opponents are the ones hitting the lines against me. I’m definitely glad I got that win and hopefully I can continue playing this way because I love how I’m playing right now.

This was my first match at Arthur Ashe Stadium since 2017 when I played Coco Vandeweghe. Back then I was a different player, mostly just wanting to go on the court, have a great match and that’s it. Today, there was a lot of pressure, but I still managed to enjoy myself on court. I really wanted to win against Veronika, someone I had never beaten before in all three previous meetings, which was extra pressure.

Plus playing the night session, it wasn’t the same. I usually play at 11 a.m., so my schedule completely changed and I had to adapt because usually at 10 p.m. I’m sleeping in bed, not preparing for a match. I’m glad I adapted to all the difficulties around me. Definitely the atmosphere on the court, as soon as I stepped in, the crowd cheering for me, kind of helped me and gave me enough energy.

The legendary Arantxa Sanchez Vicario was in my player box today. She was there as a friend supporting me, nothing more. We talk from time to time and she gives me great advice. It’s so nice to talk to her and to have someone like her following me and backing me. The first time we met was in Charleston this year and it immediately felt like we’d known each other for years.

I watched a little bit of the Nick Kyrgios-Daniil Medvedev match that was on before me. They had some insane points. I joked with a reporter who asked me if I was watching, and maybe got inspired by Nick’s serve because I served amazing today.

I was mostly watching the other match taking place at the same time between Ajla Tomljanovic and Liudmila Samsonova. I don’t know why but today I just served really, really well. When I practiced with Serena Williams before the tournament, I asked her to leave her serve behind for me. Now that she is evolving away from the sport, she doesn’t need it anymore. So who knows, maybe she really did leave me her serve and that kind of helped me.

My next opponent Ajla is a tough player, a physical one and it’s going to be a physical match between us. I’m going to try to play like today. It’s not easy to play her, I know that, but hopefully the crowd will be with me.

I don’t know why but I’ve been thinking a lot about my late grandmother recently, she’s been on my mind. I kept asking her for support during my fourth round match with Veronika, especially in the last game. I wish she was here to see how successful I am and how far I’ve come. She was always supportive and I just really miss her.

The US Open balls have been a hot topic this year, with many players including world No. 1 Iga Swiatek noting the fact that we play with a different ball compared to the men here in New York. Some girls have texted me about this issue and I told them I’m the worst person to be asked about this. I adapt very fast. If you ask me to play with rocks, I’ll play with rocks. I have no problem.

Some players like the balls, and some don’t. Apparently they weigh the same, it’s just the pressure is more in one ball. Obviously if you factor in doubles and mixed doubles, it’s much easier to play with the same balls across all three events, and if we play with the same balls as the men in each Grand Slam, it makes sense to play with the same ones here at the US Open. So I told them you girls decide and whatever you feel like, we can give it a shot and see what happens.

For me, I will adapt no matter what, and even if you ask me to change the racket, I’d do it.

*Tunisia’s world No. 5 Ons Jabeur was talking to Reem Abulleil in New York following her fourth round victory over Veronika Kudermetova in the early hours of Monday morning*