It Had To Be Ons Jabeur’s Day In Charleston - UBITENNIS
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It Had To Be Ons Jabeur’s Day In Charleston



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CHARLESTON, S.C. — What can you do when your opponent has the kind of day that Ons Jabeur had in Sunday’s final of the WTA Tour’s Charleston Open?


“You know, like even the point she played like between her legs. Like what can I do?,” Belinda Bencic said about her 7-6 (6) 6-4 loss to Jabeur and the shot by Jabeur that was perhaps the “shot of the year” in women’s tennis.

That shot played a significant role in Jabeur’s victory that helped the Tunisian climb to No. 4 in the world in the new WTA Tour rankings and gain revenge for her loss to Bencic in last year’s Charleston Open championship match.


The scene was almost like watching something in Fantasy Land. It was that surreal.

Jabeur had a break point against Bencic’s serve that if executed could deadlock the first set at 5-5, and Bencic was set up for a shot near the net that looked like it would be a sure winner.

But then Bencic hit a shot right in the middle of the baseline. Jabeur looked helpless.

 “I honestly thought I was going to lose the point,” Jabeur said. “I saw her coming with her backhand  . . . and I’m like I’m done . . . I think she chose like the safer side. I reacted very fast. I saw the ball coming at me.”

Jabeur jumped in the air and put the racket behind her. She made contact with the ball between her legs, sending it back toward Bencic at the net. Totally surprised, Bencic put together a weak forehand volley that sailed too high toward Jabeur’s backhand near the sideline. Jabeur hit a backhand that crossed the net past Bencic’s backhand side at the net for a winner.


Suddenly, the match was deadlocked at 5-5. And the fans went wild.

“I was surprised that she didn’t anticipate on the cross, because that’s where I usually play my shots. But I think I was lucky and creative with that shot, which was amazing, and it changed up the game a bit, I think, for the first set, for sure,” Jabeur said.

The point pretty much set the stage for the rest of the match, as Bencic didn’t appear to be the same after that. She appeared to be more defensive with her shots, and her serves lost some of their zest.

The two players split the remaining two games, although Bencic had to save five set points in game 12 to push the set into a tiebreaker. Bencic even held a 6-4 lead in the tiebreaker, but Jabeur won four consecutive points, the last two with sizzling forehands cross-court to Bencic’s forehand corner that hit the sideline to close out the first set.

Bencic couldn’t believe it, even though the chair umpire got down and looked at both marks on the green clay. She was given a code warning for the first one for throwing her racket down on the line.


Bencic also was a little unhappy about having only a short time to prepare for Jabeur’s tricky  game after having to complete her semifinal match from Saturday night against Jessica Pegula at midday Sunday.

“I had like 15 minutes to think about what’s I’m going to do (against Jabeur), and I still had the stress from Jess’ match,” said Bencic, a 5-9, 26-year-old whose game was modelled by Hingis’ mother/coach Melanie Molitor.

Bencic lost a little of her fight in the second set and quickly fell behind, 4-1. The feisty Swiss star got back to 5-4 and earned one break point in the decisive game while rallying from a 5-40 deficit. But then Bencic sent a backhand down the line that didn’t find the playing court.


What about the trophy? “I’m sleeping with it. I’m kicking my husband out of the bed and sleeping with the trophy tonight,” Jabeur said.
“I’ve wanted  to win this tournament for a long time. This is a pretty good start to the clay season. I don’t want to stop here. I want to continue to do more. Definitely I’m happy, and probably will celebrate for one day and then get back to training and get back to hopefully winning more matches.”


This tournament has been one of the best for a long time, going all of the way back to the 1970s on Hilton Head Island to Sea Pines Plantation when it was known as the Family Circle Cup. It was known as a tournament that produced many champions who almost immediately captured their first Grand Slam title when they travelled to Europe.

Some of those stars who won this tournament and then almost immediately won Grand Slam events included Steffi Graf, who went from winning back-to-back Family Circles in 1986 and 1987 to winning the 1987 French Open and completed the Grand Slam itself in 1988.

Or Justine Henin-Hardenne who won this tournament in 2003 on Daniel Island and then went to France to win her first Grand Slam event.

Mary Pierce won the last tournament at Hilton Head Island in 2000, then took off for Europe where she won her only major at the French Open.

Conchita Martinez took the Hilton Head title in 1994, then won Wimbledon the same year. 

Even Chris Evert won one of her many Hilton Head titles in 1974, and turned around and won her first of many majors a couple months later at the French Open.

Tracy Austin did much the same in 1979 by winning at Hilton Head and then getting her first major title at the U.S. Open.


Of course, all of the great ones played in and won in the earlier version of the tournament, including the likes of Monica Seles and Martina Navratilova as well as Martina Hingis, and Venus and Serena Williams and others.

With all of that in mind, Ons Jabeur is capable of capturing her initial Grand Slam title in just a couple of months in Paris. The Tunisian is definitely talented enough to make that happen.

Barring a red-hot return by Iga Swiatek, Jabeur may indeed be the player to beat in Paris.

Getting over the hump on Sunday in Charleston should make Ons even a better player.


Bencic was finishing her second match of the day. It took just six points on Sunday in a tiebreaker for Bencic to complete a 7-5, 7-6 (5) win over top seed Jessica Pegula. That was to complete a semifinal match that started on Saturday afternoon, and ended up in a late-night storm that turned the stadium court surface into a muddy clay field.

The rainstorm really did a job on Pegula. She wasn’t herself. The net got in the way of her backhand too often.

“She (Pegula) is the most consistent player on tour,” Bencic said. “She is playing every tournament. She has an incredible baseline game.
“Maybe the conditions were so heavy we had a lot of weird rallies. “I’m really happy I played a good match and that I kinda adapted to the conditions.”


On the slow wet court, Daria Kasatkina was almost helpless in the semifinals. She couldn’t put the ball away. Ons Jabeur was patient, knowing that Kasatkina couldn’t hit the ball past her. She played around with Kasatkina until she saw a clear opening on the other side of the court.

Jabeur then turned on the power to hit forehards and backhands to the open court.

Jabeur was just too powerful off the ground for former champion Kasatkina of Russia in a 7-5, 7-5 semifinal win at midday Saturday.

The match had major turns in each set. Kasatkina used her heavy top-spin and movement to jump out to a 5-2 lead in the first set, but didn’t win another game in the set.

Kasatkina was ahead 5-3 (15-15) when rain forced a lengthy delay in the first set. 

Kasatkina actually had a double set point in the ninth game of the first set, but Jabeur won four straight points to close to 5-4. The Tunisian lost only two points in the next three games to close out the first set.

The second set was nearly a reversal of the first set as Jabeur took a 5-3 lead, only to see Kasatkina win the next two games before Jabeur recovered to take the last two games to advance to the final for the second straight year.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award as the tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspapers. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at 


Seb Korda Wins First Match Since Injury At French Open



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After what has been a rollercoaster past few months, Sebastian Korda has returned to the winner’s circle at the French Open. 


The 22-year-old started the year set to become one of the sports rising stars after reaching the final of the Adelaide International and then the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. However, he was forced to retire from his match against Karen Khachanov at Melbourne Park due to a wrist injury that ended up sidelining him from the Tour for weeks.

 “I went two, three months without touching a racquet, basically,” the American said of his injury woes in Paris on Sunday. “I even still had a little bit of pain in Madrid, and then Rome was the first tournament where I kind of had nothing, which was a really big positive for me. Now I have zero pain in my wrist.” 

Finally pain-free, Korda clinched the first win of his comeback at the French Open on Sunday by defeating Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 7-5, 6-4. The player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of the Australian Open. It was a solid performance from the world No.20 who hit 52 winners and had an average first serve speed of 173 km/h. 

During his recent hiatus, the American used the opportunity to build on his physical development with the help of Jez Green. A highly experienced fitness coach who has previously worked with Andy Murray, Emma Raducanu and Dominic Thiem. 

“It was a tough period for me but a blessing in disguise. I had three, four months to really build the body and set a base that will basically be with me for the rest of my career.” Korda said of his work with Green. “I think that was one of the things I needed most was to kind of get the body right. The tennis I always had. It was just kind of getting the body right and getting ready for these long best-of-five matches to make deep runs.” 

It was at the French Open where Korda had his first major breakthrough. In 2020, when the tournament was held during the autumn due to Covid-19, he reached the fourth round on his debut. 

Korda will play Austria’s Sebastian Ofner in the second round.

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‘A Breath Of Fresh Air’ – Stefanos Tsitsipas’ High Praise For French Open Rival Alcaraz



Carlos Alcaraz’s rapid rise in the sport has left an impression on many, including his recent training partner Stefanos Tsitsipas.


The two top 10 stars held a practice session together at Roland Garros a day before this year’s tournament began. Alcaraz leads Tsitsipas 4-0 in their head-to-head and has only ever dropped three sets against him on the Tour. Whilst they are rivals on the court, there is a lot of admiration between them. This was highlighted by Tsitsipas following his 7-5, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(7) win over Jiri Vesely in the first round on Sunday. 

“I had a practice session with Carlitos the other day and did throw in a “thank you” just randomly, and I don’t know if he understood that or not. I owe a lot to Carlitos because he’s such a breath of fresh air, the fact that he’s on the tour.” Tsitsipas said during his press conference.
“The fact that he’s so competitive and he’s always with a smile on his face, and almost so much charisma to him and so much positive energy that he distributes. I think that’s contributed a lot to his growth as a tennis player and his consistency too. He seems to be enjoying having fun.”

Despite being four years older than the Spaniard, Tsitsipas admits he has been inspired by his rival to make certain changes to how he approaches the sport. Currently ranked fifth in the world, he is yet to win a trophy this season. Although he finished runner-up at the Australian Open to Novak Djokovic and at the Barcelona Open to Alcaraz. 

“Last year during preseason I was, like, I want to apply that more into my game. Players focus maybe more on technical stuff and stuff that doesn’t focus on these aspects of the game,” he explained.
”I kind of admire him for who he is. I have the capacity of being that person. I truly believe that. That is also the reason that I’m just much more joyful and happy when playing this sport, due to him.”

Besides his high regard for the Spaniard, part of Tsitsipas must be secretly hoping Alcaraz will suffer an early exit in Paris. He is in contention for claiming the No.1 position but can only do so if he wins the title and Alcaraz loses before the third round and Daniil Medvedev loses before the quarter-finals. 

However, to even have a chance of winning his maiden slam Tsitsipas admits he needs to improve his game after saying he was ‘very inconsistent’ throughout his clash with Vesely. He will next play either former champion Stan Wawrinka or Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the second round. 

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Aryna Sabalenka Powers Through French Open Opener



World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka kicked off her French Open bid with a dominant win over Marta Kostyuk in the first round on Sunday.


Sabalenka, who is yet to reach the second week of Roland Garros in her career, overcame an early setback en route to a 6-3, 6-1, victory. The win is her 30th of the season which is more than anybody else on the WTA Tour. Against Kostyuk, Sabalenka fired a total of 18 winners and converted four out of nine break point opportunities. It is the second time she has beaten the Ukrainian after their inaugural meeting at the 2022 Dubai Tennis Championships. 

“I always thought that my first Grand Slam (title) would be at the French Open. I have no idea why because I couldn’t play on the clay but it was on my mind,” the reigning Australian Open champion said during her on-court interview.
“It’s another goal and I am doing everything that I can to bring my best tennis to the court every time.”

It had been widely expected that the match would be a tense encounter given the current political climate. Sabalenak’s country is accused of supporting Russia in its war against Ukraine which is where Kostyuk is from. On Friday the world No.2 said she didn’t expect a handshake to be taking place at the net and has called for politics to be kept outside of sport. A stance that has been criticized by her opponent. 

“Sabalenka might become number one in such a popular sport. Having such a large platform and such a large influence in the world, she refuses it. What kind of message is this for the world?” Kostyuk told BTU 24 hours before their match. 
“We are talking about people being murdered and as a response, we hear that we should leave sport outside of politics. But war does not choose whether you are an athlete or not when it comes to your home.”

However, on Court Philippe Chatrier there was little friction between the two. 20-year-old Kostyuk came into this year’s French Open with a dismal 0-13 record against top-10 opposition on the Tour. However, she was the first to strike in her clash with second seed Sabalenka. After saving two break points during the fourth game, she broke for a 3-2 lead with the help of a delicate drop shot followed by two consecutive errors from her opponent. 

Sabalenka responded instantly by increasing the intensity of her shot-making to once again establish her dominance. A four-game winning streak from the Belarussian enabled her to close out the opening set despite her blip. She secured the 6-3 lead with a clean backhand winner.  

In cruise control, the power of the 25-year-old continued to overwhelm her opponent throughout the second frame. In less than 20 minutes she broke Kostyuk two more times en route to a 4-1 lead. Serving for a place in the second round, Sabalenka battled back from 15-40 down before prevailing on her first match point after hitting a blistering forehand winner.

As expected, Kostyuk refused to shake hands with Sabalenka afterwards and ended up being booed off the court.

“It was a very tough match. It was tough emotionally. At first, I felt that this (the crowd booing) was against me so I was a little surprised but then I felt their support. It’s really important,” said Sabalenka.

It is the 11th time in a row that Sabalenka has won her opening match at a Grand Slam tournament. Besides competing for the trophy, she could also snatch Iga Swiatek’s No.1 ranking and will achieve the milestone if the Pole fails to reach the quarter-finals. 

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