Timea Bacsinszky knows that she stood in the way of history with her 6-2, 6-2 triumph over Tunisian Ons Jabeur on Friday but the Swiss No30 seed is confident her opponent has plenty more success ahead of her.
Bacsinszky, a semi-finalist at Roland Garros in 2015, stopped Jabeur from becoming the first Arab woman to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam and the first Arab – man or woman – to make it into the French Open second week since Younes El Aynaoui in 2000.
“In one way I can feel sorry, I mean, because she’s a great person, a great player, and she deserves way more wins than only this third round,” said Bacsinszky after she booked a fourth round clash with Venus Williams.
“I’m sorry that I stopped her, I mean, yeah, her dream. But I think it’s happening all year long, as well.
“But I’m not really worried about her, because if she can get the motivation that she had here on this tournament on every tournament during the whole year, I think she could have an amazing level.”
Jabeur, who is just 22 years old, was making her Roland Garros main draw debut, and is now on the brink of breaking the top 100 for the first time. Bacsinszky predicts a bright future for the young Tunisian.
“This is something that you don’t learn that quickly. I mean, she’s still young. Probably a lot of expectations, as well, on her shoulders. So people have to understand that, too. It’s what she did already is pretty amazing. I mean, during her whole career,” explained Bacsinszky, who turns 28 next week.
“I knew Selima Sfar (the only Arab woman to reach the top 100) as well pretty well. We played a couple of doubles together. She’s a great, great person and player, as well.
“So she kind of continued Selima’s legacy, as well, which is quite good. It shows women in North Africa that anything is possible, and that women are limitless, as well, and there are options, there are ways to live their dreams.
“Ons for sure should be very, very proud of the person she is and of what she carries. It’s a privilege. But for sure this is a lot of pressure, but she should just play for herself and play for her own dreams and goals.”
Ons Jabeur says she walks away with positives from this year’s French Open after her historic run in Paris came to an end at the hands of Swiss No30 seed Timea Bacsinszky on Friday.
Jabeur, who is the first Arab woman to ever reach the third round of a Grand Slam in singles, fell to Bacsinszky 6-2, 6-2 and admits she wasn’t physically up for the task following a tough match in the previous round.
The 22-year-old Tunisian had taken out No6 seed Dominika Cibulkova in the second round – her first top-10 win – and was looking to enter the second week of a major for the first time.
But Switzerland’s Bacsinszky, a semi-finalist at Roland Garros in 2015, proved too strong for Jabeur and wrapped up the win in a mere 67 minutes.
“I couldn’t find my legs today. I don’t know where they gone. Maybe my sister played today. I’m not sure it was me,” said Jabeur after the match.
“It was a little bit tough. I mean, I was trying to really play and put the ball in. Physically, I was not there. And if I’m physically done, then mentally affected me a little bit.
“But I’m a little bit disappointed with finish like this because it was really good tournament for me. I was trying to make it to a third set, but it was a little bit tough at the end. But still happy with my performance here. And I’m going to work even harder to be ready for the other Grand Slams, I hope.”
Jabeur, who is the first lucky loser since 1996 to reach the third round of the French Open, started by breaking Bacsinszky’s serve but the Swiss retaliated immediately. The No30 seed had to save a break point to hold in game five then capitalised on a poor service game from Jabeur to inch ahead 4-2.
Bacsinszky consolidated and got three set points on the Jabeur serve at 5-2. The 2011 Roland Garros junior champion saved the first with an overhead and the second with a down-the-line forehand winner.
The third was saved with a killer down-the-line backhand winner but double-faulted when she had game point to hold for 3-5. Bacsinszky got her hands on a fourth set point and this time, she wouldn’t let a Jabeur drop shot fool her, as she ran it down and found the winner to take the opening set in 32 minutes.
Bacsinszky broke for a 4-2 lead in the second, using the weapon Jabeur had been using against her – a deadly drop shot. And the Swiss never looked back, completing a dominant victory to set up a fourth round against Venus Williams.
Jabeur admits it was tough to regroup after her big win over Cibulkova but she was not short on motivation against Bacsinszky.
”I honestly tried to forget my win against Cibulkova yesterday because I had to move on a little bit. And it was tough because everyone sees me says, like, Congrats, congrats. I’m like, Okay, it was yesterday. I’m trying to forget about it,” she explained.
“And I don’t want people think that I won yesterday that today I gave up or something. I didn’t want to do that. I just wanted to play my game, but I just physically wasn’t ready. I played six matches, I think, and it’s really long.”
Jabeur says there were plenty of lessons learnt from her history-making efforts in Paris and she’s looking to do even better at Wimbledon.
“I honestly learned that even when you lose, you have to believe that maybe you get in again as a lucky loser. And just have to believe in yourself even if you play a top 10,” she said.
“You just have to believe in yourself and you believe that she can be not – it can be not her day that day. You can be better. And you have to believe in yourself as much as you can.”
Bacsinszky had faced Jabeur before, in Oeiras in 2014, and knew what to expect from the crafty youngster.
“She’s kind of trying to make a surprise on every point,” explained Bacsinszky. “You don’t know what you’re going to get, so you have to be awake every time. You cannot just relax and just wait for it to happen.
“Because if you leave her play, then, I mean, I think you can be pretty quickly in a pretty bad position during the match.”
Andre Agassi has revealed he is coaching Novak Djokovic for free and that this is his way of contributing to the tennis world.
The pair have teamed up this French Open after Djokovic announced he had parted ways with his long-time coach Marian Vajda last month and they’ve so far had a good start with the Serb booking himself a place in the fourth round on Friday, with a five-set win over Diego Schwartzman.
Agassi had shown little interest in coaching as he lives in Nevada with his wife Steffi Graf, and has founded charter schools for young children. But he said that it was his wife who actually urged him to take up Djokovic on his offer.
“It was a surprise for me. I got a call from him late in Monte Carlo after he was done and he wanted to talk tennis and he wanted to talk the possibility of working,” Agassi told Djokovic’s former coach Boris Becker on Eurosport.
“I said ‘listen, maybe I can help you over the phone, I don’t think you need much, but this is not possible for me with the balance of my life’.
“And then ‘Steffi says maybe, maybe you’ll enjoy it’. And I said ‘do you think?’ I respect her so much, I said ‘okay, I’ll go early since I have to be in Paris anyhow and I’ll just get to know him.
“He’s a very inspirational guy for me. For me, this is – I do it on my own time, I do it on my own dime, my own money, I don’t want anything, I don’t need anything. I want to help him. And it helps the game and I think he should be – him at his best is good for the game and it’s a way I can contribute, hopefully.”
It remains unclear how much time Agassi and Djokovic will be spending together but the American eight-time Grand Slam champion is willing to work with him at Wimbledon as well.
“If he wants me there, yeah, I will come and figure it out. Whatever is practical and achievable, 100 per cent I will make the effort.”
Becker, who had great success with Djokovic for three seasons (2014-2016), asked Agassi on which parts of the Serb’s game he would like to work on.
“I don’t want him thinking about the things that are going to make him so much better that he stops doing what comes naturally and all this, so this is a whole different conversation,” replied Agassi. “But for me it’s simple. His game is built on controlling the baseline. And his game is built on executing to big targets. He’s not a guy that plays precisely to lines, occasionally if he’s on the defence he surprises you with this.
“He’s a guy that throws body blow after body blow after body blow. He’s just never thought a lot about the other side of the court. So I think there’s ways he can take his game at 30 years old, and older, because hopefully he’s going to still want to play for a while and then he could start to make it easier for himself by knowing what to do with the guy across the net.”