Tearful Ons Jabeur: ‘I pushed myself beyond my limits’ in US Open final

Special Tearful Ons Jabeur: ‘I pushed myself beyond my limits’ in US Open final
Ons Jabeur of Tunisia returns a shot against Iga Swiatek of Poland during their Women’s Singles Final match at the 2022 US Open. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 11 September 2022

Tearful Ons Jabeur: ‘I pushed myself beyond my limits’ in US Open final

Tearful Ons Jabeur: ‘I pushed myself beyond my limits’ in US Open final
  • In her fourth and final exclusive column for Arab News from New York, the Tunisian world No. 2 says she now belongs on tennis’ biggest stage

As you can imagine, losing a second Grand Slam final is tough!

After the last point against Iga Swiatek, I just felt like I wanted to cry … a lot. I felt disappointed. I was trying to put my heart out there, but it wasn’t meant to be. It’s tough, you know? I was thinking like: “I just lost another final, again.” I was very, very upset about it. I was trying not to cry on court. Just a lot of emotions and I couldn’t wait to get out of there and hug my team.

I don’t know why but I was more nervous before this US Open final than I was before the Wimbledon one. Maybe because it’s New York, the energy here is different a little bit. I was nervous about the possibility of losing another final; suffering another disappointment scared me a little bit. But I faced that fear.

I know that I lost yet another final but I don’t regret much because I felt like I gave it my all. It’s just that the ball fell more for her because she played really amazing at certain times and it was very tough for me to counter her shots and trying to be ready for them. I gave it my all. I pulled off shots I never expected to pull off, pushed myself beyond my limits. I had to make some unbelievable winners to get back in the match.

Iga had an incredible start to the final, but usually, from experience, when someone plays really well, it’s very tough for them to maintain that level for two whole sets. So I was waiting for that moment, and I was also provoking it with some crazy shots that I had to really commit to and had to dig deep to land them.

Even statistics-wise, she had some crazy numbers, like 90 percent first serves in, 100 percent returns in. It’s insane, I’m not even sure if she put up numbers like that in other matches. But I started to let go, get freer with my shots, I started fighting back and when I came back, the crowd really helped also. It was really amazing. I kept telling myself: “Keep believing, you can still win it.” Hearing my team cheering for me helped me as well.

I saw Matthew Perry in the stands during the match, it was nice to see him, actually unbelievable. It just reminded me of the TV show, “Friends,” and it got me nostalgic a little bit on court. To go from me watching him on the show and him watching me right now … that’s really crazy!

I don’t know if I’ll cut myself some slack after this loss; I’ve always been hard on myself. I think I’m going to struggle for a few days but I’ll get back stronger, that’s something I know that is in me.

Right after the match, my coach Issam (Jellali) and my husband and fitness trainer Karim (Kamoun) were very, very positive. They told me not to cry, because I was sobbing, but I had to let out some of the emotions I was feeling. They were very supportive, telling me, listen, she played really good and we see you really trying. Issam saw some things in me he had never seen before these two weeks, so he’s very positive about it.

We started playing this tournament not knowing if we could really win a few matches and then we made it to the final, that’s what he was saying: “We keep building, you will take time, we know that.” But now at least he’s very happy with the level that I showed and he told me he discovered a lot of things in my game that he never saw before; that’s encouraging and hopefully we’re going to continue working more.

What Iga has done all season is really impressive. I’ve been saying it for a while now, if we want to be a strong group of top 10 players, I think we have to pull each other up and raise the bar high. Maybe I’m pulling some girls who are ranked behind me to do more, and Iga is doing the same. She’s a great role model for all of us definitely. If she keeps fighting hard, of course no one wants to let her with her intensity pull away from our level, we always want to keep her close. It’s very nice to have her setting the bar very high so we can catch up to her, and vice versa.

I genuinely believe, and have believed for a long time already, that I belong here, on the sport’s biggest stages. I feel like now it’s going to be tougher, the pressure is going to be more. I’m going to try to belong on these stages regularly. I’m going to grind for more and more, more quarterfinals, more semifinals, more finals. That’s the goal. But for now I’m just going to rest a little bit and we’ll think about those things later.

Now it’s time to celebrate what we’ve accomplished these past two weeks. We’re going for some karaoke maybe and have a nice dinner with my team, just to at least give ourselves good credit for this tournament, that’s very important. And from there we can move on.

*Ons Jabeur was talking to Reem Abulleil in New York after her US Open final against Iga Swiatek*


US Soccer briefly removed emblem from Iran flag to show support for protesters

US Soccer briefly removed emblem from Iran flag to show support for protesters
Updated 10 sec ago

US Soccer briefly removed emblem from Iran flag to show support for protesters

US Soccer briefly removed emblem from Iran flag to show support for protesters
  • USoccer media officer Michael Kammarman: The intent of the posts was to show ‘support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights’
  • Iran’s state-affiliated Tasnim News Agency said the Iranian Football Federation will file a complaint against US Soccer to the FIFA Ethics Committee for ‘disrespecting the national flag’
AL RAYYAN, Qatar: The United States Soccer Federation temporarily displayed Iran’s national flag on social media without the emblem of the Islamic Republic as a show of solidarity with protesters in Iran ahead of the two teams’ World Cup clash on Tuesday.
A now-deleted graphic of the Group B standings posted on Saturday across US Soccer’s official Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts displayed a plain green, white and red flag.
Iran has been gripped by protests since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini’s death in September while in police custody after her arrest for flouting the country’s strict Islamic dress code.
The intent of the posts was to show “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights,” US Soccer media officer Michael Kammarman told a news conference on Sunday. Players were not consulted on the decision to alter the flag.
The banner on US Soccer’s Twitter page was also changed on Saturday to feature the flag without the emblem. It was changed back 24 hours later to the banner they had been using during the tournament.
Iran’s state-affiliated Tasnim News Agency said the Iranian Football Federation will file a complaint against US Soccer to the FIFA Ethics Committee for “disrespecting the national flag” of the Islamic Republic.
Iranian leaders have accused the United States and other foreign adversaries of fomenting the protests in which Iranians from all walks of life have mounted one of the boldest challenges to the theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Washington has imposed sanctions on Iranian officials over the crackdown on protesters.
The United States and Iran will face off in a decisive Group B clash with their place at the World Cup on the line, in a match which was already freighted by decades of emnity between the nations.

Saudi Arabia’s Yasser Al-Shahrani undergoes second surgery following injury

Saudi Arabia’s Yasser Al-Shahrani undergoes second surgery following injury
Updated 27 November 2022

Saudi Arabia’s Yasser Al-Shahrani undergoes second surgery following injury

Saudi Arabia’s Yasser Al-Shahrani undergoes second surgery following injury
  • Al-Shahrani collided with his goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais in Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 win over Argentina
  • The player also had an operation on his pancreas on Wednesday after the incident

RIYADH: Saudi national team player Yasser Al-Shahrani underwent successful facial surgery on Sunday in accordance with his medical plan after he was injured on Tuesday.

Al-Shahrani collided with his goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais in Saudi Arabia’s famous 2-1 win over Argentina at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

The surgery took place in the King Abdulaziz Medical City in Riyadh.

The player also had an operation on his pancreas on Wednesday after the incident.


Belgium slip to shock World Cup defeat by Morocco

Belgium slip to shock World Cup defeat by Morocco
Updated 27 November 2022

Belgium slip to shock World Cup defeat by Morocco

Belgium slip to shock World Cup defeat by Morocco
  • Abdelhamid Sabiri and Zakaria Aboukhlal’s late goals secured a surprise 2-0 triumph in Doha
  • Belgium produced another insipid display after their fortunate opening win over Canada

DOHA: Morocco jeopardized Belgium’s World Cup hopes as Abdelhamid Sabiri and Zakaria Aboukhlal’s late goals secured a surprise 2-0 triumph in Doha on Sunday.
Belgium, third in Russia four years ago, could have qualified for the last 16 with victory but instead produced another insipid display after their fortunate opening win over Canada.
Substitute Sabiri was the hero thanks to a 73rd-minute free-kick which Thibaut Courtois allowed to bounce in at his near post, before Aboukhlal grabbed a second in stoppage time.
The tens of thousands of Morocco supporters responded by cheering their team home at a raucous Al Thumama Stadium.
Morocco replace Belgium at the top of Goup F and know they will qualify for the knockout phase for the first time since 1986 if they can avoid defeat against Canada on Thursday.
Belgium, the world’s second-ranked side, will have to beat 2018 runners-up Croatia to be sure of going through.
Roberto Martinez’s aging side have reached at least the quarter-finals of each of the past four major tournaments.
Belgium, whose captain Eden Hazard has admitted are not as good as in 2018, lacked spark and were made to pay by inspired opposition.
Morocco were dealt a blow after the national anthems when goalkeeper Yassine Bounou appeared to gesture he would not be able to play.
The experienced Munir El Kajoui was sent out in his place.
The Atlas Lions fans vastly outnumbered their Belgian counterparts and breathed a sigh of relief when the Europeans almost grabbed a fourth-minute lead.
Hazard played in Michy Batshuayi whose effort from a tight angle was kept out by Munir.
Belgium dominated the early exchanges but Morocco did manage a shot at goal when Hakim Ziyech fired over from distance.
The African side continued to grow into the contest and Selim Amallah, who was born in Belgium, volleyed into the stands before Achraf Hakimi blazed a presentable chance off target.
The crowd erupted in raucous celebration when Ziyech’s free-kick flew all the way into the net in first-half injury time.
But the goal was ruled out after a VAR check, as Romain Saiss was leaning just offside and the former Wolves defender was in ‘keeper Courtois’ eyeline.
Both teams started the second period brightly, with Ziyech shooting straight at Courtois and Hazard bringing a save from Munir at his near post.
Sofiane Boufal almost broke the deadlock in the 57th minute after a jinking run but bent the ball narrowly wide of the far post.
Martinez made two changes on the hour mark, replacing the ineffective Hazard with Dries Mertens and bringing on Youri Tielemans for Amadou Onana in midfield.
Mertens almost made an immediate impact when his strike from just outside the area was beaten away by Munir.
The deadlock was finally broken with 17 minutes remaining as Sabiri’s free-kick from near the touchline, much like for Ziyech’s ruled out goal, caught out a flat-footed Courtois.
Martinez threw on Romelu Lukaku, expected to miss the game injured, in a desperate attempt to get back into the match.
But Belgium had long since run out of ideas and it was Morocco who scored the second goal of the game.
Brilliant play by Ziyech created space in the area for Aboukhlal to lash the Chelsea winger’s pull-back into the roof of the net.
Any tension in the stands was lifted and the Morocco fans were able to celebrate their first World Cup win in 24 years.


Germany fighting for survival as Spain, Japan eye last 16

Germany fighting for survival as Spain, Japan eye last 16
Germany's coach Hans-Dieter Flick (L) and assistant coach Hermann Gerland attend a training session. AFP
Updated 27 November 2022

Germany fighting for survival as Spain, Japan eye last 16

Germany fighting for survival as Spain, Japan eye last 16
  • Germany will suffer a humiliating exit in the group phase if they lose their Group E clash with in-form Spain
  • The prospect of an early German exit was practically unthinkable before the tournament

DOHA: Germany face a fight for World Cup survival on Sunday in a must-win clash with Spain as Japan and Belgium look to seal their place in the last 16.
For the second World Cup running, Germany will suffer a humiliating exit in the group phase if they lose their Group E clash with in-form Spain at the Al Bayt Stadium.
The four-time champions were left staring down the barrel of elimination after crashing to a shock 2-1 loss to Japan in their opening fixture on Wednesday.
The prospect of an early German exit — four years after bowing out at the same stage at the 2018 finals in Russia — was practically unthinkable before the tournament.
German coach Hansi Flick insisted on Saturday his team had the quality to bounce back against a rampant Spain team who obliterated Costa Rica 7-0 in their opening game.
“We have a team that has quality, that can implement the things (we are working on), and we are very positive about it,” Flick said.
“We need to arrive with courage and with faith in our quality for this game against Spain.”
Spain coach Luis Enrique meanwhile says his team face a “beautiful challenge” as they chase a win that will see them into the last 16.
Luis Enrique cautioned however that Germany’s World Cup pedigree — they won their fourth title in 2014 — meant nothing could be taken for granted.
“They are world champions, when you look there are four stars on their shirt,” the Spain coach said. 
“I have a lot of respect for their players, they are world class, and their history is there to see.”
- Past their peak -
A Spanish victory would mean Japan would also secure their passage to their knockouts if they beat Costa Rica.
On paper, a place in the last 16 is beckoning for the skilful and energetic Blue Samurai against an aging Costa Rica team that looked to have been reeled in by Father Time during the dissection by Spain.
Japan captain Maya Yoshida warned on Saturday however that there was no danger his team would take the Costa Ricans for granted.
“They got hammered in their previous game so I think they’re really going to go for it,” Yoshida said.
“There are no easy teams at the World Cup. They will be fighting for the pride of their country and we have to be mentally prepared to deal with that.”
Elsewhere on Sunday, 2018 third place finishers Belgium could advance with a victory over Morocco in Group F.
Belgium captain Eden Hazard admitted on Saturday that the Red Devils’ vaunted “Golden Generation” is also past its peak — but insisted they remain World Cup contenders.
“To be fair I think we had a better chance to win four years go,” the 31-year-old said.
“The team was better four years ago but still we have the quality to win games and to win the competition. We have a few guys, they are a bit older now but we have experience and the best goalkeeper in the world (Thibaut Courtois).”
Sunday’s other Group F game sees 2018 runners up Croatia look to edge toward the last 16 against Canada, playing in their first World Cup since 1986.
On Saturday, France became the first team into the second round after two goals from Kylian Mbappe inspired a 2-1 win over Denmark in Group D.
Argentina also resurrected their campaign following a shock opening defeat to Saudi Arabia after goals from Lionel Messi and Enzo Fernandez secured a 2-0 win over Mexico in Group C.
“We knew that we had to win today, that another World Cup was starting for us and we knew how to do it,” Messi said.


Odds stacked against African teams at World Cup, says Ghana coach

Odds stacked against African teams at World Cup, says Ghana coach
Ghana's coach Otto Addo addresses a press conference at the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC) in Doha. AFP
Updated 27 November 2022

Odds stacked against African teams at World Cup, says Ghana coach

Odds stacked against African teams at World Cup, says Ghana coach
  • No African side has ever gone beyond the quarter-finals at a World Cup
  • “There was never a point where everybody had an equal chance at the start. Never in FIFA history,” Addo said

DOHA: Ghana coach Otto Addo said Sunday the chances of an African team reaching the latter stages of the World Cup will remain limited until the continent is awarded more places at the tournament.
No African side has ever gone beyond the quarter-finals at a World Cup, although Ghana were a missed penalty away from reaching the last four at South Africa in 2010.
Addo, speaking on the eve of his team’s Group H match against South Korea, said Africa, with 54 teams, deserved more slots.
“There was never a point where everybody had an equal chance at the start. Never in FIFA history,” Addo said in Doha.
“It’s very, very difficult if you have five slots to get far. If you have 12 or 14 slots — I don’t know how many Europe get — the probability that a team will get further is much, much higher.”
Thirteen of the 32 nations present in Qatar come from Europe. Asia has six representatives, with South America and the CONCACAF region sending four each.
Senegal are the only African side to have won a match at the Qatar World Cup. None of the five African teams who took part four years ago in Russia made it out the group stage.
“Everybody still has chances, some more, some less, but I’m hoping and praying at least one or two (African) teams can advance to the next stage,” said Addo, who played for Ghana when they made the last 16 on their World Cup debut in 2006.
The Black Stars play South Korea in their second match on Monday after losing their opening game 3-2 to Portugal.
Addo had criticized the performance of American referee Ismail Elfath, insisting the penalty Portugal were awarded for a challenge on Cristiano Ronaldo was a “gift.”
But he said he had had time to reflect on the defeat.
“I can use this stage to apologize if I was a little rude, I was very emotional after the match,” said Addo.
“It’s in the past. It’s over, you can’t change it. Everybody on the pitch is a human, everybody makes mistakes. I do mistakes too. 
“I was surprised the VAR didn’t come but there’s nothing we can do. The day after the match we cut it off and we concentrated on South Korea.”