Charleston Open Draw Down To Two, Jabeur And Bencic

Ons Jabeur (photo: WTA Tour video)

CHARLESTON, S.C./WASHINGTON, April 10, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 10 Ons Jabeur staged multiple comebacks during her Credit One Charleston Open semifinal against No. 15 seed Amanda Anisimova Saturday afternoon at Daniel Island. Like the weather, which was unseasonably cool and made it challenging for both players and spectators, the match was all over the place.

In the final set of Jabeur’s 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 semifinal victory over Anisimova at Credit One Stadium, there were five breaks of serve alone and the No. 4 seed from Tunisia found herself down a break twice, trailing 2-0 and 4-3. Fortunately, the 27-year-old Jabeur – the highest remaining seed following the earlier elimination of top seeds Aryna Sabalenka, Paula Badosa and Karolina Pliskova – was able to overcome these obstacles and reach her first final of the season.

Jabeur finished with 32 winners and made just nine unforced errors. She saved 11 of 15 break points, converted six of 13 break-point opportunities against Anisimova and outpointed her 88-80. The 20-year-old American fell victim of five double faults and 16 unforced errors that overshadowed her 22 winners.

In the end, Jabeur pulled out a well-deserved and satisfying victory to reach her second career final on Charleston’s green clay following last year’s appearance in the title match of the MUSC Health Women’s Open, a WTA 250 pop-up event. After securing match point against Anisimova, she showed plenty of emotion that was punctuated by an emphatic fist pump. Come Sunday, Jabeur will be going after her second career WTA singles title and first on clay.

“For Jabeur, it was a great job of handling some adversity, some tough decisions and an opponent who played well at times,” commented Lindsay Davenport on Tennis Channel, who analyzed the match between Jabeur and the 47th-ranked Anisimova from the United States. “She was the stronger player mentally; she deserved this win.”

During her on-court interview, Jabeur admitted winning her first meeting against Anisimova wasn’t easy. “I had to dig deep to get the win today,” she said. “I never give up, to be honest. I always believed that I can this match. To be able to pick up so many difficult balls enabled me to win today.”

Eight years between Charleston semifinals, Bencic into first clay final

Meanwhile, eight years have passed since the last time Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic competed in a Charleston singles semifinal. Now, 25, and an Olympic gold medalist, the World No. 21 Bencic found herself facing No. 54 Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia in Saturday’s first semifinal match, just a few days after she was three points from exiting the tournament in the first round.

“She’s always tough,” Alexandrova said of Bencic, following her Friday quarterfinal win. “I came here with no expectations. So, I am going out there and trying to enjoy my tennis.”

Both Bencic and Alexandrova wore long sleeves and did their best to combat the 57-degree (Fahrenheit) temperature and 30 mile-an-hour windy conditions that plagued both semifinal matches.

In the end, it was Bencic who stayed calm, cool and collected the best and won 6-4, 6-3 in an hour and 18 minutes, closing out the victory with her fifth ace. The Swiss star added 16 winners and made just three unforced errors. She converted three of six break points and outpointed Alexandrova 62-46, who finished with 19 winners to seven unforced errors. She broke Bencic just once.

“I’m super happy. I didn’t think the moment would come, my first final on clay,” Bencic said cheerfully during her on-court interview following her semifinal victory. “I’m so happy here in Charleston. Thank you to everyone who came today, it was a little bit chilly. You guys were amazing.”

Later, during an interview with Tennis Channel, Bencic added: “I’m really happy with the match and how I could close it out. I felt good moving on court today. … I know what I have to do for tomorrow.”

On Sunday, Bencic will go for her sixth WTA crown in her first final on clay and 14th overall title match when she faces Jabeur. Bencic lost in her two previous semifinals on clay, including eight years ago in Charleston, when she advanced to the semifinals as a 17-year-old qualifier ranked 140th.

As Jabeur continues to make history as the No. 1-ranked Arab woman in tennis with her position in the Top 10 firmed for now, she looks forward to the challenge of playing against Bencic.

“Belinda is amazing, she’s an amazing player, an amazing friend,” Jabeur said, beaming a big smile during her on-court interview. “It’s going to be a tough match. She’s such a tough fighter. It’s going to be a great match.”

Saturday’s Charleston Open results

Sunday’s Charleston Open order of play

Around the Charleston Open

The women’s doubles draw finally got caught up after several days of rain delays and cancellations as several players were still alive in the singles draw.

Saturday’s last quarterfinal match took place, in which No. 4 seeds Andreja Klepac of Slovenia and Magda Linette of Poland defeated Vivian Heisen of Germany and Xu Yifan of China, 6-2, 6-3.

Then, in the semifinals, No. 1 seeds Zhang Shuai of China and Caroline Dolehide of the United States were upset by Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic and Sania Mirza of India, 6-2, 4-6, 10-8. In the second semifinal, Klepac and Linette defeated unseeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland and Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine, 6-3, 7-6 (6).

By the numbers

Ons Jabeur moved up to No. 9 in the live rankings with her semifinal win over Amanda Anisimova Saturday and can rise to No. 8 if she wins the Charleston title Sunday.

“Quotable …”

“We have a lot of things in common together. She’s an inspiration, you know. It’s like the same story, but someone from India and someone from Tunisia. Like, we are both Muslim, so I think we are the only Muslim on tour. It’s something we can talk about that I’m not able to talk about with some people. And it’s amazing that we share all the times we share kind of the different culture that exists in India and Tunisia. And, she’s a very nice person and inspiring, and I hope we can see more girls like her on tour, and I hope she can inspire more Indian girls, you know. I know they have a lot of doubles players there. It’s unbelievable. And to be honest, I’m a big fan of Sania, and she’s a nice person also outside the court.”

– World No. 10 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, reflecting upon her friendship with Sania Mirza of India, during her Friday post-match press conference.