When Ons Jabeur’s flight from Marseille to Manchester was cancelled, delaying her arrival to the $100k grass tournament there, the Tunisian had a sneaky suspicion within.
“It’s a funny story, every time either I miss a flight or a bad thing happens before the tournament, I win the tournament,” Jabeur told Sport360 on the sidelines of her participation at Wimbledon.
“So this time, my flight was cancelled so I had to sleep the whole night at the airport and I didn’t get much sleep and it was a disaster. I was in Marseille, so we had to go to Nice and there were many problems.
“I turned to my coach [Bertrand Perret] and told him ‘I think there’s something that’s going to happen this tournament’.”
Jabeur, who had struggled in the first half of the season and dropped out of the top-100 in February, went to Manchester and won the title. Without dropping a set, no less. And with the trophy, came a special bonus: A wildcard into the Wimbledon main draw.
“I love grass, I love playing on grass. With my game, and my slices, my drop shot, really did help me play well in Manchester. I knew a little bit about the wildcard, the history says that if a girl wins one of the [ITF grass] tournaments she would get a wildcard so I had that in mind. So it was motivation, at the same time a little bit of stress but then I had to go for it, I was doing a great job and in the final I had to go for the wildcard,” said the 23-year-old Tunisian.
Jabeur went on to reach the quarter-finals in Ilkley the following week, also on grass, then came to Wimbledon and became the first Arab woman since 2005 to win a round at the All England Club, defeating Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic – for a third time in four weeks – 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 on Monday, to set up a second round against Czech Republic’s Katerina Siniakova.
Ons Jabeur becomes the first Arab woman go win a singles main draw match at Wimbledon since her fellow Tunisian Selima Sfar in 2005. Defeats Viktorija Golubic 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 to reach the 2nd round. Plays Siniakova next! pic.twitter.com/VAeiMtAIeK
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) July 2, 2018
“The good point today is that I wasn’t playing my best tennis but then I won,” Jabeur said after defeating Golubic and posting her first-ever main draw win at Wimbledon.
“Mentally I’m here. I’m really happy with this win. I proved that I deserved the wildcard and I really want to go as far as I can. Playing Siniakova next is kind of difficult for me, it’s going to be a big challenge because I never won against her. She’s not the type of game that I like but I have to be prepared for this one. It’s going to be a very big test for me.”
Jabeur knows she is constantly making history for Tunisia and the Arab and African world but she is more focused on going as far as possible this tournament than anything else.
“For me it’s not just about winning one match now, it’s about continuing and improving my game. I feel like I’m more mature and I’m playing better. I really wish that I can do something good this Wimbledon,” she confessed.
Picture this. Ernests Gulbis gets broken, at love, in the opening game of his Wimbledon first round against British wildcard Jay Clarke.
The Latvian ex-world No. 10 then walks to what he thinks is his bench during the change-of-ends, on his way to the other side of the court. Gulbis places his racquet on what he thinks is his racquet bag and grabs a bottle of water. Clarke pats Gulbis on the butt and points out that he is on the wrong side, and that this is not his bag, nor is it his water bottle.
Gulbis makes a nervous joke, “Can I drink your water?” then sheepishly walks over to the other bench.
“I tried to joke, you know this panic joke, when you’re nervous and you don’t know what to do but then you panic and then I tried to joke but something came out probably very stupid. Not funny at all,” a laughing Gulbis told reporters after the match about the moment of confusion.
“I was completely out of it. I lost the break and I was completely out. I was nervous, tense, I felt that maybe the fact that I qualified would help me, but these four days in between, it’s like another tournament. To move to these Championship courts, from the qualifying, it’s like another tournament.”
Gulbis, now married and a father of a four-month-old daughter, admits his desire to win now means he is experiencing different kinds of nerves compared to the past, as he hopes to resurrect his career following injuries and loss of form.
“It was always I was more nervous at the Grand Slams, but particularly now, just I never wanted to win more than I do right now. I’m 29 and I never wanted to win more,” said Gulbis, who ended up defeating Clarke in five sets.
“I have a family now, it also changes something in the sense that, when you’re 22, you win, you lose, sometimes you don’t practice 100 per cent, sometimes you don’t play 100 per cent… Right now if I don’t play 100 per cent I want to be home with my family, it makes no sense at all for me. Right now if I’m on the court or if I’m practicing I give it all, and sometimes it works a little bit against you. When you want it too much… but I managed to calm down in the second set so that was good.”
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 3, 2018
In an era of tennis where the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are setting records left, right and centre, Feliciano Lopez has managed to keep one for himself as he contests his 66th consecutive Grand Slam main draw – a new Open Era record.
Lopez, who marked his milestone tournament with an opening round win on Tuesday over Argentina’s Federico Delbonis, shared the previous record with Federer, who played 65 Slams in a row between the 2000 Australian Open and the 2016 Australian Open.
The 36-year-old Lopez hasn’t missed a major since Roland Garros in 2002 and spoke about what this record means to him.
“Well, when I was about to break the record, I thought, wow, I’m going to beat Federer at something, which is a lot already,” the Spaniard said with a smile.
“It’s only a number, and I’m really proud of my consistency. It’s not about the number of Grand Slams played. It’s about how many years have been playing at the top level. This is the most important thing.”
Egyptian tennis player Karim Hossam has been banned for life and fined $15,000 after being convicted of multiple match-fixing offences, the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) announced on Tuesday.
Hossam was found guilty of 16 corruption charges under Section D of the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program. These included match-fixing, facilitating betting, providing inside information and failing to report corrupt approaches to the TIU.
“The case was based on a TIU investigation and adjudicated by independent Anti-Corruption Hearing Officer (AHO) Jane Mulcahy QC,” read a statement from the TIU.
“The breaches of the sport’s anti-corruption code were committed at ITF Futures tournaments over a five-year period between 2013 and 2017.
“Mr Hossam has been subject to a provisional suspension imposed by AHO Mulcahy in June 2017, which has subsequently prevented him playing in or attending any authorised tennis events.”
The lifetime ban applies with immediate effect and means Hossam is not allowed to compete in, or attend, any sanctioned events organised or recognised by the governing bodies of the sport. Hossam can appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Hossam was a promising junior ranked No. 11 in the world junior rankings, and peaked at No. 337 on the men’s circuit in 2012. His younger brother Youssef, 20, is the current Egypt No. 2 and is ranked 320 in the world.