DUBAI, February 18, 2019 (Press Release)
Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur will face defending champion Elina Svitolina at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships after surviving a tough challenge from Donna Vekic on Monday, fighting off two set points before clinching a 6-4 7-6 victory with her third match point.
The second round clash is not a match that Svitolina will take lightly, after Jabeur in her final tournament of the 2018 season qualified in Moscow and then went all the way to the final, defeating world No. 8 and former US Open winner Sloane Stephens before losing in three closely-contested sets to 2018 Dubai runner-up Daria Kasatkina. Despite that disappointment the former French Open junior champion made history by becoming the first Arab player to reach a final on the WTA tour.
— WTA (@WTA) 18. Februar 2019
Jabeur’s victory was especially sweet after Vekic had beaten her in Beijing towards the end of last season.
“Really happy with this win,” she said. “Especially when we played last year in Beijing, I was really close. I’m happy that I saved two set points. This time it (was) meant to be for me.”
She is proud to be a flag-bearer for Arab and African tennis and takes her role seriously, and that includes a desire to be a mentor to others from the continent who want to follow in her footsteps.
“For me, I’m really happy to represent Tunisia. I’m trying to give my best, to behave good on the court, to try to give a good example for the young generation who want to achieve what I’m doing right now. I’m trying to send a message that it’s not impossible. You have to work hard. Why not? I want to see a lot of players from Tunisia to be here one day. It’s one of my dreams.
“I had to go to the tournaments, discover on my own. I had to have my own experience. Okay, facilities are very important, but (so is) to find someone who can guide you to the top level, because it’s really tough to be here. That’s why I want to share my experience. I want to, like, give this to the kids who don’t have to go through what I went through, so I can save them some time or I can share my experience. Either in Tunisia or Africa, I’m really happy to do it.”
“Ons Jabeur is very popular with tennis fans in Dubai as well as throughout the region and it is with great pleasure that we have watched her career go from strength to strength,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “It will be very interesting to see how she will inspire a new generation and we offer her every encouragement.”
Among other matches, Alison Riske beat 13th seed and former finalist Julia Goerges 6-4 7-5 to set up a second round match against another former finalist, Alize Cornet, Shuai Zhang defeated 15th seed Anett Kontaveit 7-6 6-3 and lucky loser Dalila Jakupovic will face fifth seed Angelique Kerber after overcoming qualifier Zarina Diyas 1-6 6-1 6-2.
“We have seen more seeds upset in the first round, once again proving that it is impossible to predict who will finish the week as the strongest,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “On Tuesday the very best players in the world begin their own bid for the title, and none will take their opposition lightly.”