Ons Jabeur has long been a fan favorite in the tennis world. She’s now impressed by herself. The 27-year-old is in her maiden Masters 1000 final after keeping her cool at the Mutua Madrid Open. It’s not just her most major professional success to date, but it’s also a natural progression for her.
Ons Jabeur won her maiden championship in Birmingham last year, reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the first time, and became the first Arab player to reach the Top 10. She lost in the final of the Charleston Open to Belinda Bencic last month; this week, she beat Bencic and then dominated former No. 1 Halep to set up a semi-final match with Ekaterina Alexandrova in Madrid.
“I’m still extremely excited to see what I can contribute,” the 27-year-old said after advancing to her maiden WTA 1000 final with a 6-2, 6-3 triumph over Ekaterina Alexandrova.
“I’m pleased that I didn’t dwell on that moment,” Jabeur remarked earlier this week, alluding to her resiliency after losing a key rally in her victory against Simona Halep.
“I may have lost the game if I was truly irritated at this moment.” But I’m glad I maintained my cool.”
It may have been the moment when Jabeur hit the ground in the past. Her game, centered on abrupt shifts of speed and the persistent threat of the drop shot, is one of the most unexpected and odd on either circuit; nevertheless, it’s also one of the riskiest, so its efficacy may swing drastically from day today
Alexandrova was well aware of the situation. Despite her low ranking, the Russian has always had Jabeur’s number. Alexandrova was 6-1 versus Jabeur before today; she looked to have no issue getting through Jabeur’s labyrinth of spins and drops with her powerful, flat strokes.
For a short time early in the opening set, it seemed that this would be the case once again. Alexandrova dominated Jabeur’s drop strokes, firing backhands past her at the baseline and breaking her with a strong forehand. But Jabeur remained composed. She didn’t even look up from her game.
With the score at 3-2 in the first set, Jabeur broke service with a wonderfully selected and carefully timed crosscourt drop shot. Both players double over after the point, but only Jabeur would recover. She would win the next two games in the set, never trailing in the second. Her 6-2, 6-3 victory puts her in a position to win her first career championship on Saturday.
Some of Jabeur’s success, according to sports psychologist Melanie Maillard, may be attributed to a greater openness to evaluating what went wrong in her defeats.
Jabeur won the Roland Garros girls’ championship. Her evident skill appeared a touch too wild, too inconstant in the years following for her to duplicate her Grand Slam success at the adult level. However, she has gradually learned to integrate her many pictures into a cohesive whole. It may have been the week the strain got to her; by the third round, Ons Jabeur was the highest seed remaining in the draw, with many big names falling early. Instead, Jabeur seemed at ease in the spotlight.