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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Image via https://twitter.com/CharlestonOpen/

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.

A POINT THE CROWD WILL REMEMBER

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.

https://twitter.com/WTA/status/1645141119548915713

THE GAME HAD CHANGED IN SECONDS

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 HAD ONLY MINUTES TO PREPARE

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.

ONS LIKES HER NEW TROPHY

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.”

LONG HISTORY WINNING IN S.C. AND THEN FIRST MAJOR

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.

JABEUR READY TO WIN FIRST MAJOR

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.

DID BENCIC RUN OUT OF GAS?

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.”

JABEUR DEFEATS KASATKINA IN SEMIS

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 Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Danil Medvedev saves a set point to beat Nuno Borges in Halle

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Danil Medvedev started his grass campaign with a 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 win over Portugal’s Nuno Borges in 1 hour and 31 minutes at the Terra Wortmann Open Open in Halle. Medvedev is still chasing his first title this season. 

Borges converted his third break point in the second game of the first set. Medvedev broke straight back in the third game and held serve at 15 in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Borges earned a set point at 6-5 in the first set, when Medvedev hit a double fault long. Medvedev hit a first serve out wide to save the set point. 

Both players went on serve en route to the tie-break. Medvedev raced out to a 4-0 lead with two mini-breaks. Borges pulled one of the two mini-breaks back for 2-5. Medvedev earned his third mini-break to take a 6-2 lead. Borges saved two set points for 4-6, but Medvedev sealed the tie-break 7-4 on his third chance. The second set went on serve until the 10thgame, when Medvedev broke serve on his second match point. 

Medvedev won five more points than Borges, but he saved five of the six break points he faced. 

Medvedev has a win-loss record of 22-1 against players outside of the top 20. 

Medvedev set up a second round match against Chinese number 1 Zhang Zhizhen, who battled past Sebastian Ofner 7-6 (10-8) 6-7 (3-7) 6-4. Medvedev will play his first head-to-head match against Zhang Zhizhen. 

Lorenzo Sonego won 85 % of his first serve points in his 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-5) win over Miomir Kecmanovic. 

Sonego saved the only break point of the first set in the 11th game. Both players went on serve until the tie-break. Sonego raced out to a 4-1 lead. Kecmanovic pulled back on serve to draw level to 4-4. Sonego earned a first set point at 6-5, but Kecmanovic saved it. Sonego sealed the first set 7-5 on his second set point. 

Sonego earned a break point in the first game of the second set, but Kecmanovic saved it. The Serbian player fended off another break point in the ninth game. Sonego went down 2-5 in the tie-break, but he won five consecutive points to win the second set. 

Sonego will face the winner of the German clash between this year’s Roland Garros finalist Alexander Zverev and world number 471 Oscar Otte. 

Hubert Hurkacz beat Flavio Cobolli 7-5 7-6 (7-5). The first set went on serve until the sixth game, when Hurkacz earned the first break to take a 4-2 lead. Cobolli broke straight back in the seventh game and draw level at 15 to draw level to 4-4. Cobolli saved a set point in the 10th game, but Hurkacz sealed the first set with a break in the 10th game. The second set went on serve until the 12th game when Cobolli saved two match points. Hurkacz earned two mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-2.  

Hurkacz will face either Brazilian wild-card Joao Fonseca or James Duckworth. 

Dominik Koepfer was leading 6-4 4-3 against Felix Auger Aliassime, when the Canadian player withdrew from the match due to a left hip injury. Fabian Mazoszan overcame last year’s Wimbledon quarter finalist Roman Safiulin 7-5 4-6 6-1. Maroszan could face world number 1 Jannik Sinner, if the Italian player beats Tallon Grieksppr. 

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Alex De Minaur beats Sebastian Korda in s’Hertogenbosch to win his second title of the season

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Alex De Minaur beat Sebastian Korda 6-2 6-4 after 1 hour and 31 minutes to win the ninth title of his career at the Libema Open in s’Hertogenbosch. De Minaur claimed his second title of the season after winning in Acapulco last week. 

De Minaur, who was competing as a top seed for the first time this week, did not drop a set en route to the title at the Dutch grass tournament. He converted five of his 14 break points and saved four of the six chances he faced. 

De Minaur reeled off four consecutive games from 2-2 with back-back breaks in the opening set. The Australian player won eight of nine points breaking at love for 4-2 and consolidated with a hold at 15 for 5-2. De Minaur earned his second straight break to clinch the first set 6-2. 

De Minaur converted his fourth break point in the second game of the second set to build up a 6-2 2-0 lead. Korda broke straight back in the third game and held his serve at 15 in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. De Minaur converted his third break point in the sixth game to open up a 4-2 lead. The 2023 Davis Cup finalist saved four break points in the seventh game to hold serve for 5-2. 

Korda saved a match point in the eighth game as he was serving to stay in the match, but he made his fourth double fault to face a second match point. The US player hit a forehand pass to save his championhip point. 

Korda broke back for the second game in the ninth game at 15 in the ninth game for 4-5 with a forehand down the line, as De Minaur was serving for his second title of the season. On the changeover Korda took a medical time-out to treat a blister. After a five-minute delay Korda hit a between the legs mid-court forehand. 

De Minaur earned a third championship point with a forehand in the 10thgame, but Korda threw down a smash to save it. Korda hit a backhand long to face a championship match. 

Korda faced a fourth championship point after a backhand long. De Minaur broke serve in the 10th game on his fourth championship point to seal his second title of the season after 1 hour and 34 minutes, as Korda steered a forehand down the line wide. 

The Australian player, who beat Casper Ruud at the Mexican Open in Acapulco last February, has won multiple ATP titles in a single season for the third year following his triumphs in Sydney, Atlanta and Zhuhai in 2019, and in Antalya and Eastbourne in 2021. He has joined Australiana legends Patrick Rafter (1998) and 2000) and and Lleyton Hewitt (2001) as the third player from his country to win the title in s’Hertogenbosch. De Minaur has won his first grass title since Eastbourne in 2021.

“Obviously it was a great match. The conditions were tricky, and Sebastian is a hell of player. I am looking forward to playing doubles with him next week at Queen’s. I am super happy with the week. It’s been great. Happy days. I think it achieves a new career-high for me. That’s always a great title bonus for me. The first week on grass could not have gone better. I am looking forward to next week at Queen’s ”, said De Minaur. 

De Minaur, who had reached a career high of eighth with his semifinal win over Ugo Humbert in the semifinal, will rise two spots to world number 7 in the ATP Ranking next week after winning this title. 

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Sebastian Korda reaches his second semifinal of the season in s’Hertogenbosh

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Sebastian Korda beat Tommy Paul 6-4 6-2 in 67 minutes to reach his second ATP Tour semifinal of the season at Libema Open in s’Hertogenbosh. 

Korda hit 18 winners and won 84% of his first serve points. Korda earned his first break in the third game of the first set to take a 2-1 lead. Paul broke straight back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. Korda broke for the second time in the seventh game to win the first set 6-4. Korda broke twice in the third and seventh game to close out the second set 6-2. 

Korda has improved his head-to-head record against Paul to 4-1. 

Korda reached the semifinal on grass at Queen’s in 2023. The US player is is aiming to win his first ATP Tour title since 2021, when he won in Parma on clay. 

Korda set up a semifinal clash against defending champion Tallon Griekspoor, who ccame back from one set down to beat Alexandar Vukic 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-3). Griekspoor has won his past eight matches at this tournament. 

Vukic broke in the ninth game to win the first set 6-4. Griekspoor earned his first break in the sixth game of the second set to win the second set 6-3. The third set went on serve with no breaks en route to the tie-break. Griekspoor earned two mini-breaks to open up a 4-1 lead in the tie-break. Vukic pulled one of the two mini-breaks, but Griekspoor held on his serve and sealed the tie-break on his first match point.

“I am very happy to be through. It was a very tough match once again. I think Alexandar played unbelievable grass court tennis, so it was not easy and I am very happy to find my way in the third set. I am enjoying the crowd, the atmosphere and the whole tournament”, said Korda. 

Alex De Minaur beat Milos Raonic7-5 6-2 in 1 hour and 26 minutes. De Minaur has improved to 3-0 in his head-to-head matches against Raonic, who was playing in just his fourth tournament of he year.

De Minaur earned his first break in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead. Raonic broke straight back to draw level to 3-3. De Minaur broke for the second time in the 11th game and served out on his first set point after saving three break points in the 12th game. De Minaur broke twice in the fifth and seventh games to win the second set 6-2. 

De Minaur is aiming to win the second title of his career on career following his win in Eastbourne in 2021.  

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