Ons Jabeur takes positives from Beijing despite 'painful' loss to Donna Vekic

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Tunisian Ons Jabeur admits her close defeat to Donna Vekic in the Beijing second round on Monday was “painful” but says she was proud of her fighting spirit throughout the contest.

Jabeur rallied back from 0-5 down in the second set, and had game point to draw level at 5-5, saving two match points en route, but was broken in the last game to succumb 7-6(5), 6-4 to the Croatian world No. 38.

“She had more opportunities than me in the first set. I was trying to hold my serve. It was really difficult. The conditions are really, really tough. The balls are flying a lot and I couldn’t do anything to hold my serve, this is I think the point where I didn’t do good. It was kind of difficult for me to hold up. But then I was trying to come back,” Jabeur told Sport360 after the match.

“She had really good opportunities to win the set more than me. Even the tiebreak I started slow, also came back but then one point is missing. I’m really disappointed but it’s tennis. I had a lot of matches like this lately this year, but what can I do? I just have to be patient and try to learn. I hope it’s the last match like this because it’s really painful.”

Vekic went up a break in the opening set three times, and on each occasion Jabeur pegged her back to force a tiebreak. The start of the second set flew by as Jabeur quickly found herself down 0-5 to her 22-year-old opponent.

Vekic served for the match twice, at 5-1 and 5-3, but Jabeur broke her both times, and they were back on serve with the Tunisian taking four games on the trot.

In game 10, Jabeur hit a jumping backhand at the net straight in Vekic’s direction. Vekic responded with a forehand that dipped at Jabeur’s feet at the net and the Tunisian just missed the volley to face a fourth match point. This time Vekic did not falter and she closed out the topsy-turvy encounter in 1hr 42min.

“At the beginning of the second set I couldn’t feel the ball at all. I was trying to put it in the court, it was going in the net, the ball was flying. She actually didn’t do anything to win, I was giving away all the points. But then at 5-0 I told myself, ‘Just go and play’. I remembered some technical things, especially for the forehand, because that was the key for me. And then I tried to do that, it was going more and more in the court, but maybe it was too late at the end,” explained Jabeur.

“But I made it to 5-4, was serving, but again my serve wasn’t here for me today. I wish that I could remember anything for the serve at the end, I had a point to make it 5-5. But I don’t want to take it in a negative way.”

Jabeur, who was playing for a fourth day in a row after beating Monica Puig and Tatjana Maria in the qualifying rounds, before moving past world No. 1 Simona Halep, who retired with a back injury after losing the first set 6-1 to the Tunisian in the first round.

“I’m not really happy with the way I played today [against Vekic], I played much better in my last matches. Still, I had to play four days in a row, I think it’s a little bit unfair, because there are some second rounds tomorrow, even in the top half of the draw. It’s a shame. I wasn’t tired physically but still a good day of rest would have been better even for the brain. But that’s tennis, I have to deal with these conditions and hopefully I will be ready for the next tournaments,” said the 24-year-old Jabeur.

Discussing the point at the net that saw her go down a fourth match point, Jabeur added: “Maybe if I went cross for the backhand it would have been better, I mean I saw her standing there and I still went there. But what can I do? Sometimes it plays for one point. And she had to get this game, she probably relieved after being 5-0 up. But I did my best, I’m really happy with my attitude during the match so I’m just going to think about this and all the positive things that I had.”

Jabeur, ranked 116 this week, is likely to re-enter the top-100 thanks to her qualifying run and second round appearance at the Premier Mandatory event in Beijing. She heads to Hong Kong next week and plans on finishing her 2018 season in Moscow.

She says she takes confidence from her China Open experience.

“Winning against big players is always great. As I said before, I think my ranking doesn’t represent me right now, I feel like I deserve a much better ranking. But still, winning these kind of matches – I mean Puig, she was actually not really ready during the match, she was physically tired, but still she’s one of the best players and sometimes she can pull a great match. Also Tatjana Maria was a difficult match, a different game from the other girls, so you’re going to have to adapt. I was happy with the way I played,” said Jabeur.

“I think I deserve to be better ranked and I’m going to work to be in this great level. I’m just going to keep working hard, being patient and hopefully I can get to where I want.”

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