When two Arabs flew the flag at Dubai Duty Free Tennis

Egypt's Mayar Sherif serves to Elina Svitolina of Ukraine during their match in the WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday. — AP
Egypt's Mayar Sherif serves to Elina Svitolina of Ukraine during their match in the WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday. — AP

Dubai - Tunisian world No.10 Ons Jabeur a big inspiration for rising Egyptian star Mayar Sherif


James Jose

Published: Tue 15 Feb 2022, 11:28 PM

Ons Jabeur has been flying the flag for Arab tennis for a while now and the Tunisian is now a massive inspiration to the upcoming Mayar Sherif.

The 25-year-old, who became the first Egyptian woman to win a main draw match in a Grand Slam at last year’s Australian Open when she beat Frenchwoman Chloe Paquet, was handed a wildcard for the WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. And while her tournament debut didn’t pan out as she would have liked, going down to two-time Dubai champion Elina Svitolina, the 10th seed, Sherif felt that such matches against some of the top players in the world will hold her in good stead.

“It was obviously exciting going onto the court, my first time playing this tournament,” Sherif said after her first round loss at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on Tuesday.

“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.

“On the court today (Tuesday), a little nervous (smiling). I haven't played many matches like this. But it was a good experience that I think will help my game in the future. But 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 added.

Since making her debut on the WTA Tour two years ago at the Prague Open, Sherif has taken some small but significant steps in her journey. She became the first Egyptian woman to make it to the main draw of a Grand Slam at the French Open two years ago. She also reached the main draw of the US Open last year. Sherif also became the first from her country to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after winning the 2019 African Games.

Sherif reached a career-high WTA ranking of world No.64 in singles in October last year and then scaled to a career-high No.61 in November. She is currently ranked No.65 in the world.

It was a rare moment where two Arab players played back to back on Centre Court with Jabeur following Sherif, to win her first round match-up against Russian qualifier Vera Zvonareva.

And Sherif, who finished runners-up at the WTA final in Cluj-Napoca last year, said that Jabeur has been a big inspiration for her.

“Just having Ons around, seeing her around, the position where Ons is right now, it just gives you so much hope. Just looking at her way to 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,” said Sherif.

“It just is very nice really to have her around. I can't wait to play more tournaments while she's there, and hopefully to get a double match with her. So let's see,” she hoped.

Jabeur, who has blazed a trail for Arab tennis, and is currently ranked No.10 in the world, had words of praise for Sherif.

“Mayar is a great player. I met her and her team. It's so nice to see her here. Hopefully, she will get better. I know it's not easy to start those tournaments. I've been there. I played those tournaments. It was very tough to win the first rounds. I am hundred percent sure she is going to get there. Hopefully, she will get better in the future,” said Jabeur, who had reached a career-high No.7 last November.

And what did she make of Sherif’s first round match and her qualities?

“Yeah, I've watched today's (Tuesday) match, a little bit, not the whole of it. I think her fighting spirit is what got her into the top 100. Maybe she's going to be in the top 10 now. I won't tell you what she needs to work on, but I feel like she has the forehand, it's really good when she's attacking. You never know when she could come back. She never gives up. I think her best quality is that she's such a fighter on the court,” added the 27-year-old, who became the first Arab woman to reach the quarterfinal of a Grand Slam at the 2020 Australian Open and repeated that feat at Wimbledon last year.

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