Dubai tennis: Crowd favourite Jabeur roars into quarterfinals

Ons Jabeur of Tunisia serves to Jessica Pegula of the US during their second round women’s singles match at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday. (AP)
Ons Jabeur of Tunisia serves to Jessica Pegula of the US during their second round women’s singles match at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday. (AP)

Jabeur is the only seed left in the draw. And she has the ideal chance to go all the way



By James Jose

Published: Thu 17 Feb 2022, 12:26 AM

It was one crazy day, a day when both Centre Court and Court 1 at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium devoured the big guns and turned out to be the graveyard for the seeds. Top seed and world No.2 Aryna Sabalenka, defending champion and fourth seed Garbine Muguruza, second seed and last year’s runner-up Barbora Krejcikova, two-time Dubai champion and 10th seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine and Poland’s sixth seed Iga Swiatek, saw their Dubai sojourn cut short in the second round.

But amidst all the carnage caused by qualifiers and lucky losers, Tunisian eighth seed Ons Jabeur held fort to move into the quarterfinals of the WTA Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Wednesday night.

After her first round examination against Russian qualifier Vera Zvonareva — her first competitive match since she had skipped the Australian Open — Jabeur had said that she would try to deliver her magic.

And backed by a raucous football-style Tunisian crowd, the world No.10 conjured her magic, waltzing her way past Jessica Pegula. There were no ill effects of the back injury that had forced Jabeur to withdraw in Sydney and the subsequent first Grand Slam of the year as she made light work of the unseeded American 6-3, 6-1.

With Spanish third seed Paula Badosa and Australian Open runner-up Daniella Collins going out of the tournament in the first round on Tuesday, Jabeur is the only seed left in the draw. And she has the ideal chance to go all the way.

The 27-year-old set up an explosive last-eight meeting with Simona Halep. World No.23 Halep, winner here in 2015 and 2020, saw off qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse 6-3, 6-2 in 69 minutes, in an all-Romanian clash, in the last match of the night.

“I’m really happy with the way I played. I wasn’t expecting that at all, especially after yesterday’s (Tuesday) match,” Jabeur said after her match.

“I’m glad that I kept it short, not a three-setter. This gives me a lot of confidence for the next match, for sure,” she added.

Jabeur was also amazed by the fans that came through the turnstiles on the night and they created quite the atmosphere with football-style chants.

“It’s amazing. All Tunisians are crazy. They think it’s a football match. It’s a crazy atmosphere. The crowd always pushes me a lot. Hopefully, I can see more tomorrow (Thursday),” she gushed.

The day had begun with two-time Dubai champion Svitolina being stunned by lucky loser Jil Teichmann. The 10th seeded Ukrainian, who won back-to-back titles here in 2017 and 2018, went up against the pumped-up southpaw, and had no answer with the world No.15 going down 7-6 (0), 6-2 in an hour and 42 minutes on Centre Court. Switzerland’s Teichmann served six aces to Svitolina’s three, while both had six double faults each.

At about the same time on Court 1, Latvia’s Ostapenko came through a tough three-setter to shock sixth seed Poland’s Swiatek.

Ostapenko, the French Open winner in 2017, rallied after losing the first set to beat the Polish world No.9 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4) in a match that lasted two hours and 29 minutes.

Defending champion Muguruza was the next to go, with the world No.7 going down to unseeded Russian Veronika Kudermetova 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 in two hours and 17 minutes.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian qualifier Dayana Yastremska, who had beaten 2010 runner-up Victoria Azarenka in the first round, battled a painful hip to dump Krejcikova 6-3, 7-6 (3) in an hour and 31 minutes.

Kudermetova set up a quarterfinal meeting with Teichmann, while Yastremska will meet Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova in the last eight.

And the demolition of the seeds was complete with Sabalenka beaten by 2013 Dubai winner and 2019 runner-up Petra Kvitova in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 25 minutes.

“It was a big fight from both sides. Yeah, I think it was a pretty solid game today (Wednesday),” said Kvitova.

The world No.25 was also delighted to have the fans back in the stadium.

“It’s amazing. I have to say I really miss them. It doesn’t matter where in the world. I think tennis, it’s pretty enjoyable when you do have the atmosphere, you’re not playing without the people, like a practice. I mean, it’s pretty boring. Definitely bringing atmosphere back, it’s something which we really wanted. Yeah, I think maybe some players like to play without the people, without the pressure, without this energy. But it’s not me. I’m for the people, for sure,” added the 31-year-old, who next takes on Ostapenko.

RESULTS

Wednesday

[LL] Jil Teichmann (SUI) beat [10] Elina Svitolina (UKR) 7-6 (0), 6-2

Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) beat [6] Iga Swiatek (POL) 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4)

[Q] Dayana Yastremska (UKR) beat [2] Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) 6-3, 7-6 (3)

Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) beat [4] Garbine Muguruza (ESP) 3-6, 6-4, 6-4

[Q] Marketa Vondrousova (CZE) beat [Q] Varvara Gracheva (RUS) 6-2, 6-0

Petra Kvitova (CZE) beat [1] Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) 6-4, 6-4

[8] Ons Jabeur (TUN) beat Jessica Pegula (USA) 6-3, 6-1

Simona Halep (ROU) beat Elena-Gabriela Ruse (ROU) 6-3, 6-2

ORDER OF PLAY

Thursday

2:00 pm

P. Kvitova (CZE) vs J. Ostapenko (LAT)

4pm

[LL] J. Teichmann (SUI) vs V. Kudermetova

(RUS)

7:00 pm

S. Halep (ROU) vs [8] O. Jabeur (TUN)

9pm

[Q] M. Vondrousova (CZE) vs [Q] D. Yastremska (UKR)


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