No.8 seed Ons Jabeur continued her pioneering path at the Mutua Madrid Open, becoming the first Arab player to reach a WTA 1000 final after defeating qualifier Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-2, 6-3 in 61 minutes.
The result was an illustration of Jabeur’s reinvention over the past two seasons. Between 2016 and 2018, she lost to Alexandrova five times in six matches, all at the ITF or ranking level. Last October, Alexandrova added a sixth victory, but via retirement in Moscow.
In the first full match between the two since Jabeur’s rise to the Top 20 in 2020, the Tunisian was ruthless and efficient. He opted to go toe-to-toe with Alexandrova in terms of first-hit tennis, racking up quick points with sheer power rather than relying on flashy shots.
Madrid will be Jabeur’s second final of 2022, after his runner-up finish in Charleston last month, and the sixth final of his career overall.
Alexandrova’s loss means the qualifiers are now 0-11 in WTA 1000 semi-finals dating back to 2009. Jabeur is guaranteed to rise from No. 10 to No. 8 in the rankings next week, and a title her would see his career-high of No.7 equaled.
By the numbers: In all, Jabeur lost just six points behind his first serve; and in the second set, his delivery reached untouchable heights. Hitting 80% of his first serves, he conceded just four points in his service games overall.
Jabeur also hit slightly more clean game winners, 13 to Alexandrova’s 11, but more importantly, she kept her unforced error count to a meager nine compared to her opponent’s 23. Particularly unwelcome for No.45-ranked Alexandrova were the two errant groundstrokes, followed by two consecutive double faults, with which he lost serve at 3-4 in the second set.
match point: After a rocky start that had already seen an exchange of breaks, Jabeur regained his lead by prevailing in a spectacular rally to break for 4-2 in the first set. Both players hit the ball to each corner of the floor for 20 shots before Jabeur finished in style with, naturally, a drop shot.
Jabeur on the challenge Alexandrova posed: “I don’t have great records against her. I knew I was playing such an aggressive player. She hits very flat and hits a lot of game winners, so in my mind, I was accepting those kind of game winners and accepting that she can make any ace. at any time, any winner at any time.
“I know she was the favourite, I know she was playing well, I also knew she was a bit tired from playing a lot of matches. So mentally I was really focused and ready to win and not accept losing this.” weather.
“I feel like the tournament is also a revenge tournament, from Bencic to Halep to Alexandrova. If she’s going through this pace, I think Jil [Teichmann, who defeated Jabeur at Dubai 2021] will win tonight.
“But I feel like I’m continuing to test myself, to test my patience. To test, OK, Ons, you said you wanted to be in the Top 5, you wanted to win titles, here it is, players, champions, you go.” to play against. Show me what you got, you know.”
Jabeur on the prospect of the final: “I’m going to put a positive here. I want to win this final. I’m going to put my heart, my favorite drop shot, my right inside.
“This game is going to be different. [from the Charleston final]. I’m really going to do my best. I don’t want to regret it, you know, saying: I should have done this, I should have done that, I should have won my serve at that point. I may go in the same spirit that I played in Birmingham.
“The most important thing for me, I know it’s to win the title, but to know that I gave it my all during the match and not regret it. I know that if this one doesn’t come, then there’s another one.”
“I keep pushing myself to do better. The proof is that since Charleston I worked very hard to be in the final here. Like I said, I’m going to leave my heart on the court on Saturday.”