Dubai Duty Free Tennis: Arab hope Jabeur overcomes Zvonareva in thriller

The Tunisian, who was unable to play at the Australian Open due to a back injury suffered in Sydney, beat the Russian qualifier 6-2, 2-6, 7-5



Tunisia's Ons Jabeur plays a forehand against Russia's Vera Zvonareva in the first round of WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday. — Supplied photo
Tunisia's Ons Jabeur plays a forehand against Russia's Vera Zvonareva in the first round of WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday. — Supplied photo

By Team KT

Published: Tue 15 Feb 2022, 7:31 PM

Last updated: Tue 15 Feb 2022, 8:28 PM

Arab hope Tunisia's Ons Jabeur overcame veteran Vera Zvonareva 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 in a centre court thriller on Tuesday to reach the second round of the WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, but third seed Paula Badosa suffered a stunning defeat by qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse.

Jabeur, who was unable to play at the Australian Open due to a back injury suffered in Sydney and was playing her first match in more than a month, showed tremendous resilience as the clock moved past two hours and the match moved towards its climax. In a dramatic finale, the outcome remained in the balance until the final ball. Zvonareva opened the door by serving two consecutive double-faults that allowed Jabeur to break to lead 6-5 in the final set, but the Tunisian then had to fight off three break points before securing victory on her second match point.

”Very, very tough match. I tried to be focused as much as possible,” said Jabeur. “She plays good. It's not easy to play her. Honestly I didn't feel so many shots. I think lack of matches didn't help me much. I'm glad that the little experience I had helped me to win this match today.

“I tried to not, like, let her get in my head, not let myself get in my head. Sometimes with a lot of mistakes, it's not easy to be focused, to let the frustration take over. I felt like today I got angry a little bit, but not as much as before. I'm really happy with the fact I maintained calm, belief to win until the last second of the match.”

Two-time Dubai champion Elina Svitolina advanced against the promising Egyptian Mayar Sherif, who showed her potential by winning the 2019 African Games, and is the first Egyptian woman to reach the top100 and the first to reach the main draw of a Grand Slam. Although Sherif was beaten 6-2, 6-3, she cherished the opportunity to test herself against top class opposition.

“I think in general it's a positive experience because I see where the level is, I see where I'm at, and just to take my game forward and improve,” she said. “It was obviously exciting going onto the court my first time playing this tournament. It's been very welcoming. They have been great with us since we have arrived. It just gave me motivation. Also to feel the help from the Arab community, that gives you a lot of confidence I would say.”

And she has been inspired by what Ons Jabeur has achieved, saying, “Just having Ons around, seeing her around, the position where Ons is right now, it just gives you so much hope. Just looking at where she is right now, it gives you a lot of confidence, it gives you a way to be patient, to see where she is now, hoping for that to come.”

“The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is delighted to recognise and support the growing influence of women in the Arab tennis world, and the tournament wild card awarded to Mayar Sherif was richly deserved,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “Ons Jabeur is an inspiration to others and is now a member of the world’s top 10, and we look forward to seeing if Mayar Sherif can follow in her footsteps. We wish both of them well in the months and years ahead.”

Badosa struggled to overcome a determined opponent, who served for victory at 5-4 in the second set but lost the next three games. But, rather than becoming deflated at having victory denied her, Ruse refused to give up the fight, and when she broke to also lead the final set 5-4 she this time calmly closed out the match to win 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.

“Elena-Gabriela Ruse’s victory over world No.5 Paula Badosa underlines what a challenge any top player has when they face an opponent who has drawn confidence from winning three matches to reach the main draw,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “In contrast, it was Badosa’s first ever match in Dubai and we look forward to welcoming her back in the future.”

The WTA event continues until Saturday, and then between February 21 and 26, the tournament celebrates the 30th anniversary of the ATP Tour 500 tournament when world No.1 Novak Djokovic will be bidding for his sixth Dubai title.

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.


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