Ons Jabeur makes history for Arab women at Roland Garros

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Photo credit: Tnani Badreddine

Ons Jabeur made history at Roland Garros on Monday as she became the first Arab woman in nine years to reach a Grand Slam second round.

Jabeur’s Tunisian compatriot Selima Sfar last achieved that feat at the 2008 French Open, and the retired North African remains the only Arab woman to ever rank in the top-100. Jabeur is inching closer to that top-100 milestone, with her provisional ranking now at 106.

The 22-year-old Jabeur made it into the Roland Garros main draw for the first time in her career as a lucky loser this week. The 2011 French Open junior champion took full advantage of the lifeline she was given by defeating Romanian qualifier Ana Bogdan 6-3, 6-4 on Monday, to reach her maiden Grand Slam second round.

Photo credit: Tnani Badreddine.

Photo credit: Tnani Badreddine.


“It’s amazing to be here. Nine years ago was Selima (Sfar), right? I’m going to call her after, I’m going to tell her that it’s unbelievable to be here. I wish she was here with me. This lady is unbelievable, I have no words to describe her,” Jabeur told Sport360.








“To be here today in the French Open is unbelievable. I played juniors here, I have a lot of memories, I hope I will create more and more and hopefully I’ll be ready for the second round.”


Jabeur’s reward is a showdown with Slovakian No6 seed Dominika Cibulkova – a match that will more than likely be scheduled on a bigger court.


“It’s a great match for me, no stress at all for me, I’m just going to play relaxed and play my game and hopefully will create the surprise,” said Jabeur.


“I like to play on big courts, I played once here before on Suzanne Lenglen so I’m used it you know, as usual,” she said with a laugh. “I’m just joking. I’m really happy to be here, for me doesn’t matter to play on court 2 or 3 or 18 or Suzanne Lenglen, I just have to play my game and that’s it.”


Jabeur lost her last round of qualifying here on Friday to Japan’s Miyu Kato but found out soon after that she got a lucky loser spot that was available due to Laura Siegemund’s withdrawal.


She says she enjoys the feeling of getting another chance and is happy to grab it with both hands.


“It was nice actually, it was funny a little bit with the players because they come to me and they’re like ‘heyyy’, but they say the word ‘lucky’ and then ‘loser’ like out loud, I feel like ‘okay, I’m in the main draw, you don’t have to say the word you know?’ But I’m really really happy to be here. I think I got my chance, I won my match and hopefully will continue even better,” said Jabeur.


Against Bogdan, she was rarely in trouble, and her signature drop shots and slices were on full display.


“I played my game. A lot of the drop shots, and then things went really good. She got little bit pissed, and then I tried to get this opportunity to play better. Was slipping a little bit at 3-1, but then I came back and I was really, like, tough mentally to win this match,” she added.


Photo credit: Tnani Badreddine.

Photo credit: Tnani Badreddine.


Jabeur’s best memories on a tennis court have come at Roland Garros having lifted the junior title here six years ago.


“I like to be here. It’s really close to Tunisia, so maybe it’s that. I mean, it’s not the same as playing in Australia or USA than to play here. And I speak French, so it’s — I’m kind of close to this country and I like to play here,” she says.


“People are, like, very nice here. There’s a lot of Tunisian who came to support me. So being here, it feels like being in Tunisia. And I got to say, the weather here, they stole it from us, so kind of is a little bit…” she added with a laugh, referring to the ongoing heat wave in Paris.


Jabeur spent her offseason training in Slovakia, with the likes of Daria Kasatkina and Kateryna Kozlova, and she joked that perhaps the people of Trnava – where she practiced – will support her against Cibulkova.


Her fitness coach is also Slovakian – Maros Molner.


“He’s the craziest guy in Slovakia probably,” she said with a chuckle. “Yeah, he’s a really good fitness coach. We had preparation together last year, and I see him a little bit during the – actually, lately, three weeks ago I saw him. I worked out with him. And at the beginning of the year, actually, a little bit my husband was helping me since he’s a fitness coach. So it was kind of – if I’m in Slovakia, I practice with Maros. If I’m not there, my husband helps me a little bit.”




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Roland Garros day 1 diary and highlights: Sweltering heat and laughing fits

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Tough but victorious day in the office: For Kuznetsova.

It often seems that Roland Garros only deals in extremes. It’s either freezing cold, wet, windy and with constant showers like last year, or there’s a heat wave, with so much humidity, it makes Dubai’s summer weather feel like spring.

Right now, it’s the latter, and it ain’t pretty. The 20-minute walk from my hotel to the tennis, that includes at least three stops for security checks, feels like a marathon and you get to the stadium feeling so sweaty, I’m half-tempted to sneak into the players’ locker room to take a shower.

Players had to contend with two things on Sunday – tough weather conditions and first round nerves. No one can escape those first round nerves, even a veteran and former champion like Svetlana Kuznetsova. She had such a tough time on court on Sunday that she lost track of the score and didn’t know she was serving for the match.

“It was really, really tough. I was playing not so good. Like, you know, when you’re so nervous and you kind of gotta relax and just play the game. Like, I felt like I was playing against myself,” she told us after her 7-5, 6-4 win over Christina McHale.

“And on the changeover when it was 4-3, I thought it was 4-3. I heard it was 5-4, and then I was just serving for the match. So umpire got me really happy. I’m like, ‘What is the score?’ He’s like, 5-4. I’m like, ‘Oh, good’. And he looked at me like I was from another planet. And it looked to me better because I couldn’t win my service games, and I got so much happier and I could finish it. I mean, it was a really difficult match for me.”

What a legend!

It was quite a funny day all around in press conferences as I somehow, unintentionally, sent Grigor Dimitrov into laughter after his straight-sets win over Stephane Robert.

I asked the Bulgarian how it felt to finally claim his first Roland Garros match win since 2013 and he immediately started laughing.

“I was sure that question was coming. It’s great. I’m so happy,” said a chuckling Dimitrov.

I’m not sure what I did there but I generally aim to please so…

Meanwhile in the players’ lounge, I spotted Victoria Azarenka who made a surprise appearance at Kids’ Day on Saturday, and stuck around Sunday as well. She was dressed in tennis gear which perhaps means she did some training on-site, in preparation for her grand return from maternity leave next month?

Moving on, here are the highlights of day one in sweltering Paris…

Point of the day


Stats of the day

1 – Angelique Kerber became the first top-seeded woman in the Open Era to lose in the first round of Roland Garros.

10 – Top-10 wins for Ekaterina Makarova at Grand Slams, the fourth-most amongst active female players.

31 – Winners from Petra Kvitova in her first match back from hand surgery. 15 of those came off the forehand wing. Welcome back Petra!

Quote of the day

“Tennis is, I think, just a simple game for – you know, for, I guess, for intelligent people so…”
— Grigor Dimitrov tries to get philosophical. 

“My all time favourite thing – because she (my friend Julie Coin) drives around on a little Vespa – is driving around on the back of her Vespa around Paris. This is the highlight. She has a little yellow one and I named it Bumble. So, like, I’m, like, I just want to go every where on Bumble. Take me on Bumble. So that’s the highlight of Paris for me is riding the Vespa.” — Madison Brengle told reporters after her 1-6, 6-3, 13-11 win over Julia Goerges

Upset of the day

Cagla Buyukakcay bt Mirjana Lucic-Baroni [22] 6-3, 6-3

This time last year, Buyukakcay made history for Turkish tennis by becoming the first ever Turkish woman to win a Grand Slam main draw match. It seems Paris brings the best out of Buyukakcay, who on Sunday upset No22 seed and Australian Open semi-finalist Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in straight sets to reach the second round. The world No155 faces last year’s quarter-finalist Shelby Rogers.

Camera position of the day

GIF of the day

Random moment of the day

Monaco striker Kylian Mbappe was at the tennis on Sunday and for some reason, they thought it was funny to give him a tennis ball as a “Ballon d’Or”.

Day 2 highlights

Garbine Muguruza (ESP) [4] v Francesca Schiavone (ITA)

Alexander Zverev (GER) [9] v Fernando Verdasco (ESP)

Benoit Paire (FRA) v Rafael Nadal (ESP) [4]

Ons Jabeur (TUN) v Ana Bogdan (ROU)

Marin Cilic (CRO) [7] v Ernests Gulbis

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Tomic after Thiem loss: 'I had no chance'

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No chance: For Bernie.

Bernard Tomic admits he had “no chance” against Dominic Thiem in their Roland Garros first round and says the Austrian is a “huge favourite” at the tournament this year.

Thiem, who has won the second-most clay-court matches this season (has 18, one behind Albert Ramos-Vinolas), entered the French Open as one of the main contenders for the title having put together an impressive season on the red dirt, winning Rio, making finals in Barcelona and Madrid, and semis in Rome.

He was in merciless form in sweltering conditions on Sunday in Paris, handing a 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 defeat to Tomic in a mere 80 minutes.

The 23-year-old world No7 faced zero break points and now awaits Nicolas Mahut or Simone Bolelli in the second round.

“I was playing a top two, three player on clay, and he’s been playing well, and really no chance today,” said Tomic, who is unseeded in Paris and is currently ranked No39 in the world.

“He killed me from the start, from the 2-All game, and that’s why he’s been playing so well. So for him, I wish him the best of luck and he’s a huge favourite to do well in this Roland Garros this year.

“He’s not a player you want in the first round. I knew straight away it was going to be tough and I would have to serve amazing to have any chance. And really at the clay level I’m not quite there near him at this moment but hopefully one day in a few years I can improve on this surface and there’s been positive signs this year.

“I played really well, what, three or four matches. I think this is my best year on clay, where I have won the most matches. So for me I’m pretty happy. Obviously, the draw was bad and I look to be ready on grass.”

Sliding into the second round: Dominic Thiem.

Sliding into the second round: Dominic Thiem.

Clay is Tomic’s least favourite surface and he can’t wait to get to the grass, where he reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon as a teenager, and made the fourth round last year.

“I have played the wrong player in the first round and I lost and now I’m looking for the beautiful grass courts,” he said with a smile.

Thiem dropped just four points on his first serve and was dominating Tomic from the baseline. Tomic tried to mix up his game, experimenting with some drop shots and slices but to no avail.

“I don’t want to rally with Dominic Thiem. I think physically everybody would say this,” said the 24-year-old Aussie, who has never made it past the second round in Paris in eight appearances. “You have to play, especially me, I’m not playing the game of running and playing 30 balls. That’s not me. But I tried today and tried to do something different, but no chance really.”


Thiem, who reached the Roland Garros semis last year, was pleased with his performance, especially handling the brutal, hot conditions.

When told about Tomic’s remarks about avoiding rallying with him, Thiem said: “It’s good to hear this from such a good player like him. Of course if I play my aggressive game style, I guess it’s tough to be in the rally with me, and, I mean, also he’s not home on clay, so of course he tried to shorten the points and to play fast, to break the rhythm. That’s what he tried.”

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