Ons Jabeur says she is hungry for more success after she claimed the biggest title of her career, becoming the first Arab or African player to win a WTA 1000 title thanks to a 7-5, 0-6, 6-2 victory over the US’ Jessica Pegula on Saturday in Madrid.
The Tunisian trailblazer picked up her second WTA trophy and is set to return to her career-high ranking of No. 7 in the world when the new rankings are released today.
Jabeur, who is the first Arab player — man or woman — to crack the top 10, owns a tour-leading 12 victories on clay so far this season and picked up a 20th win overall this year.
“I honestly still can’t believe it. I went through a roller coaster of emotions during the past few days, just after the semi-final. I was really stressed trying to breathe,” said Jabeur, who had won just one of her previous five WTA finals.
“I really didn’t want to get disappointed again. I thought my heart was going out of my chest today. I’m very happy and trying to realize that I won today really,” Jabeur said.
Pegula had to save four break points in her opening two service games before she pressured Jabeur’s serve to break for 3-1.
The Tunisian struck back in game seven, finding her range on the return and was soon on level terms with Pegula.
Jabeur faced a set point in an error-strewn 10th game, but then broke Pegula to love using a signature drop-shot return. The world No. 10 closed out the set on the 54-minute mark.
Pegula was in trouble at the start of the second set, but she swatted away three break points and it was her turn to attack as she swept the next six games in less than 30 minutes.
The first three games of the decider went against serve until Jabeur finally consolidated a break to edge ahead 3-1. The 27-year-old doubled her advantage and fell to her knees when she wrapped up a milestone victory.
Jabeur improved to 2-4 in WTA finals and to 3-2 head to head against Pegula, who is to rise to a career-high No. 11 in the world today.
“I think for both of us, the last two weeks proved a lot. We’ve come a long way from a few years ago when we were ranked 75 and 76 — and we were right next to each other. So that’s pretty amazing,” Pegula told Jabeur during the trophy ceremony.
The 28-year-old American has shown great consistency at WTA 1000 tournaments, winning 28 matches at that level since the start of the last season. Only one player has tallied more victories within that span at such events — world No. 1 Iga Swiatek.
Meanwhile, Jabeur was shifting her focus on to her next tournament in Rome, where she is to face Romanian Sorana Cirstea in the opening round tomorrow.
“Definitely all those matches I’ve won on clay will give me a lot of confidence. I’m just going to try to take as many [ranking] points as I can in Rome. I know I didn’t play last year, so it’s extra points for me,” Jabeur said. “When you’re confident like that and you win a lot of matches, I think I should take this opportunity to go, like, really forward and win.”
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