Ons Jabeur survived heat, illness and a battling Alexandra Dulgheru to book herself a spot in the US Open main draw on Friday.
The Tunisian threw up on the court during her 63 76(4) win over Dulgheru and admits she was relieved to close out the match in two sets, unsure how things could have gone in the third.
This will be Jabeur’s third US Open main draw appearance, having lost in the first round on her Grand Slam debut in 2014 and she made the second round here last year.
“I think with the heat and everything it was kind of tough,” Jabeur said of how she was feeling on the court.
“It happened to me at the French Open (in May) and I saw the doctor after that in Tunisia but nothing was wrong. I hope it’s just the heat and the stress.
“I’m drinking water and I feel it’s all coming up. It was tough rallies and she was holding up pretty good and she made my mission more difficult. But I needed to be there, I was there when she broke me at the end, I had to get it back. I’m really happy with this win.”
The world No. 114 is here without her coach Bertrand Perret, who is suspended for three months “for breaching the sport’s anti-corruption code by attempting to change the doubles partner of his former client, Peng Shuai, after the sign-in deadline,” according to the Tennis Integrity Unit.
Peng Shuai was also suspended for three months.
The incident that was the subject of the TIU investigation happened at Wimbledon 2017 when Perret was coaching Peng Shuai.
The suspension however was announced this month and it means Jabeur will be without her coach until November.
In US Open qualifying, players were around to speak to their coaches on the sidelines during the changeovers. Jabeur did not have that luxury though.
“I’m not that kind of player that likes to speak to the coach mid-match, even in WTA events, I don’t usually call him, I just do because he wants to come to the court more than I want him to. I kind of forgot that he’s not here. It’s a good thing, it’s not in a bad way. I was really focused on playing and winning the matches that I forgot. He’s with me all the time because we’re texting,” she said.
“It’s a shame though that the trial was one year after the incident happened and it ended up affecting me and I had nothing to do with what happened. But I’ve got to say, he’s a very good coach. He puts work before money and it’s tough to find a coach like him. He’s very honest and I can’t wait to practice again with him in November.”
Jabeur is looking forward to the main draw and admits that the idea of potentially drawing Maria Sharapova, who has a qualifier in the first round, is intriguing.
She feels New York often brings out the best in her, and if her form from qualifying is anything to go by, Jabeur, who turns 24 on Tuesday, can feel good about her chances this tournament.
“It’s amazing [to qualify for my third US Open]. I think I played well every time, except one year when I came here a bit sick and I also threw up on the court, I clearly have a problem here,” she said with a laugh.
“I think it’s pretty good. I have a lot of American friends here, they come all the time to support me in the qualies. I like it here, maybe it’s Manhattan and everything.
“And my birthday is always here, so in case anyone is reading this, it’s on August 28 and I like everything. Bring presents. I’m happy I qualified so I can go to the gift shop they have a lot of presents there.”
Andy Murray believes the new Davis Cup format, set to be introduced next season, is not the right solution for the competition and that having two competing team events from the ITF and the ATP puts the players in a tough position having to choose which one to participate in.
The Davis Cup revamp plan was voted on by ITF member nations in the annual general meeting earlier this month and 71.43 per cent of the votes cast were in favour of it.
The new format will combine the multiple ties that are scattered throughout the season to one week-long event at a neutral venue, with 12 qualification ties held in February.
“I would have abstained,” Murray told reporters at the US Open when asked how he would’ve voted if he was given the chance.
“Neither are the correct solution, I don’t think — in my opinion. From pretty much every single player that I’ve spoken to, and I’ve been in players council meetings where we’ve discussed things with the ITF and stuff, is that all players love playing Davis Cup. You can’t question that. You watch the players play, the passion and how much they get out of it.
“But obviously something wasn’t working because the top players were not playing. Whether that was because of scheduling, coming immediately after the slams, things like that. Possibly because it was every single year and it was a bit too demanding.”
There are several issues with the new Davis Cup including the fact that it will be played in November at the end of a long season, and less than two months before the ATP World Team Cup that is expected to launch in January 2020. Playing the Davis Cup finals on neutral ground has also been a major gripe for many players and fans who feel the home crowd atmosphere is one of the most special aspects of the competition.
“I think there was potentially less drastic changes that could have taken place to make it better, like even keeping potentially the same format but doing it every couple of years. I’ve heard lots of different ideas and discussions that were not quite as drastic as what’s happened,” said Murray.
“I don’t think that having a week-long team event in the middle of November, followed by a week-long team event at the beginning of January, I think that’s confusing for fans. I don’t think that it makes it easy for the players to decide, like, which one’s more important. Do you play the ITF one or the ATP one. It’s not a perfect fix.
“But you have to give the decision that’s been made, you need to give it a chance to work and see. We should try to get behind it and support it and see if it works. If it does, fantastic. But if not, I believe you can always change and go back. That’s also an option.”
The Tunisian, who turns 24 on Tuesday, took out American Kristie Ahn on Thursday 6-1, 6-2, to step closer to a third appearance in the US Open main draw. Last month, Jabeur became the first Arab woman since 2005 to win a match at Wimbledon when she took out Viktorija Golubic to reach the second round at the All England Club.
“I was playing my game, just trying to maintain. I had the image of playing in Wimbledon so it kind of helped me to make sure I was ready on my legs and I was here,” Jabeur told Sport360 of her qualifying second round at the US Open on Thursday.
“Today was a pretty good match, I was expecting a more difficult one. But since I was ready, I didn’t give her the chance to come back or to play her game. I’m very happy but I still have to be focused for tomorrow. It’s going to be a tricky match I’m sure but I’m going to give it my all and try to play like today and hopefully it’ll go well.”
Jabeur defeated Dulgheru easily in a $100k clay tournament in the south of France earlier this year but insists Friday will be a different story.
“I played her lately in Cagnes-Sur-Mer but it was clay, so it’s going to be a totally different match, especially that it’s on hard courts and she’s playing well lately. It’s qualifying for the main draw, so a lot of stress for both of us. But I’m going to try to do well and hopefully be ready for tomorrow,” Jabeur added.
With her eyes set firmly on a main draw berth, Jabeur couldn’t help but take a peek at the qualifying spots in the women’s draw, which was unveiled on Thursday afternoon, and admits a possible US Open first-round showdown with Maria Sharapova — who is drawn to face a qualifier in her opener — would be a real treat.
“It’s pretty interesting for me. It gives more motivation of course. I like the spots, there’s a pretty good chance and also exciting chances like the Sharapova one, it’s nice to have this draw. But for me I don’t want to skip the step for tomorrow and hopefully I’ll be thinking about this tomorrow afternoon,” said Jabeur.
Ons Jabeur plays Alexandra Dulgheru in final round of #usopen qualifying.
These are qualifiers’ spots in the draw:
Carla Suarez Navarro
Qualifier v qualifier
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) August 23, 2018