Jabeur Earns Milestone Title Victory In Madrid

Ons Jabeur (photo: WTA Tour video)

MADRID/WASHINGTON, May 8, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Saturday’s Mutua Madrid Open women’s final paired a couple of Top 20 competitors, World No. 10 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia and World No. 14 Jessica Pegula of the United States. Each was chasing after something they’ve never achieved: their first WTA 1000 title. A victory by Jabeur would lift the trailblazing Tunisian to a career-best No. 7, while Pegula would crack the Top 10 if she prevailed.

As it turned out, Jabeur achieved another milestone in her remarkable career. She beat Pegula, 7-5, 0-6, 6-2, in one hour and 54 minutes on Manolo Santana Stadium to become the first Arab and African to win a WTA 1000 title. Come Monday, indeed, Jabeur will move up to No. 7 in the WTA Rankings.

“To my team, for all the hard work we’ve been doing, I’ve lost a lot of finals, but I’m really pleased to get the win,” Jabeur said during the trophy ceremony.

First, Jabeur reversed a 4-1 deficit, survived a set point and eventually garnered the opening set. Then, she persevered through a second-set dip in her energy and rhythm, in which she was bageled by Pegula 6-0. Finally, the Tunisian built a 4-1 lead in the final set and won the match convincingly. Jabeur hit 29 winners to Pegula’s 14 and outpointed her opponent 90-85.

It was Jabeur’s second career WTA title following her first crown won on grass last summer in Birmingham, England. She’s 2-4 in WTA title matches.

“When I had the match point, I was like I had to win it from the beginning, otherwise it’s going to be very tough for me,” Jabeur said later in press after the title victory. “But I’m very happy and trying to realize that I won today, really.”

Entering the 2020 season, before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the WTA for several months, Pegula was ranked 76th and Jabeur 77. Each has come a long way since then.

“For me and Ons,” the 12th seed Pegula said in press earlier this week, “it’s pretty crazy. It just shows you what hard work and determination, playing week in and week out and just trying to get better, you can get to the top, as long as you believe it.”

Thursday, in her first WTA 1000 semifinal, No. 8 seed Jabeur reached the title match with a 6-2, 6-3 win over No. 45 Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia. It built upon her earlier victories in Madrid against Jasmine Paolini, Varvara Gracheva, No. 11 seed Belinda Bencic and two-time Madrid champion Simona Halep.

Meanwhile, the 28-year-old Pegula reached  the final with a solid win over No. 35 Jil Teichmann of Switzerland, 6-3, 6-4, in the semifinals. She had advanced through the draw by beating Camila Giorgi, Kaia Kanepi, Bianca Andreescu and Sara Sorribes Tormo.

“The main important thing for me – I know it’s winning the title – but it’s knowing that I gave it all during the match and not regretting that,” Jabeur, 27, said earlier this week in press.

Now, after beating Pegula Saturday, Jabeur leads the WTA in wins on clay with 12.

“I know if this one is not coming, then there is another one.

“I keep pushing myself to do better, and the proof is that from Charleston, I worked really hard to be in the finals here. I’m going to leave my heart of the court on Saturday.”

After securing championship point, Jabeur dropped to her knees and said a prayer of thanks. She had a big smile on her face, too. Soon after, she strolled over to her box and hugged her coach, Issam Jellali, her husband, Karim Kamoun, and other assorted family members and friends, who had arrived in Madrid to watch her play in Saturday’s final.

“I’m so happy that I didn’t wait long [for the title], because I was really disappointed after Charleston and Stuttgart,” Jabeur said. “I was really close and I know I was playing really good there. But I have been doing a lot of hard work to see that it’s paying off. I cannot describe how I feel right now.”

Dabrowski and Olmos win women’s doubles final

Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Giuliana Olmos of Mexico won their first WTA doubles title as a team at the Mutua Madrid Open Saturday afternoon. The No. 2 seeds went the distance to beat No. 3 seeds Desirae Krawczyk of the United States and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands, 7-6 (1), 5-7, 10-7, in two hours and four minutes in the title match.

It was the first loss in over a month for Krawczyk and Schuurs (10-4), who won the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart two weeks ago on indoor clay. Dabrowski and Olmos improved to 9-7, including 5-4 in match tie-breaks.

After Dabrowski and Olmos jumped out to a lead of a set and a break, Krawczyk and Schuurs rallied to get to a match tie-break before the Canadian/Mexican duo prevailed.

“In those pressure moments, in the tie-break in the first set, in the super tie-break at the end, I felt more comfortable because we know that we weren’t having big highs and big lows,” Dabrowski said in press afterward, quoted by the WTA website. “I felt like we were always bringing something good, and that would put a lot of pressure on our opponents to come up with something better and better. In the end, that worked in our favor.”

It was the 11th career doubles title for Dabrowski and fourth for Olmos but their first together. Dabrowski had been a two-time runner-up in Madrid, in 2019 with Xu Yifan and again last year, partnered with Schuurs.

“I’m just a really happy to win another title,” Olmos said, quoted by the WTA website. “We’ve both put in a lot of World and we’ve both come pretty far from the beginning of the season. So, I think for us it’s really motivating to continue in the direction that we’re going, and to keep putting in the work.”

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