Abu Dhabi Open: Ons Jabeur to face Emma Raducanu in second round

British wildcard defeats Marie Bouzkova and set up blockbuster clash with the Tunisian second seed

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Ons Jabeur will open her Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open campaign with a blockbuster second-round match against Emma Raducanu after the British wildcard came through her opening match in impressive style on Monday.

Raducanu, the 2021 US Open champion, recovered from a slow start against world No 36 Marie Bouzkova to claim a 6-4, 6-1 win in the last match of the day on Stadium Court at Zayed Sports City.

In a first set where both players struggled to hold serve, Raducanu found herself 2-0, 3-1, and 4-2 down but mounted a fine fightback, winning four straight games to take the set. The 21-year-old British player maintained her momentum in the second set, and after both players held serve for 1-1, she raced away with the match by winning five games in a row.

The victory, secured in one hour and 22 minutes, sets up a mouthwatering clash with Tunisian second seed Jabeur, who as one of the top four players in the draw, received a bye into the second round.

Jabeur and Raducanu have yet to meet on the WTA Tour, but the pair have played against each other at Zayed Sports City's International Tennis Centre, where in 2022 they participated in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition event.

Speaking to The National in the lead-up to the tournament, Raducanu said she was happy to be patient on her road to recovery having missed most of last season to undergo wrist and ankle surgeries. While this was only one match, her performance against Bouzkova – in particular the last 12 games – will only heighten external expectations.

The former world No 10, currently ranked 296, played with controlled aggression and power, and once she found her range and rhythm, she proved too strong for Bouzkova.

Raducanu was particularly effective on return, winning 59 per cent on first-serve return points, and 71 per cent on Bouzkova's second serve to limit her opponent to just two service holds from a possible nine. She was also efficient on break points, converting seven of nine.

This was arguably Raducanu's most complete performance of the season so far, given the quality of an opponent who reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals in 2022 and has made five WTA Tour finals, winning one.

Jabeur should represent a significant step up in challenge, although the Tunisian world No 6 has hardly had an ideal start to the season. After opting to skip the Australian Open warm-up events, Jabeur was handily beaten in the second round at Melbourne Park by teenage sensation Mirra Andreeva.

A victory for either player in Abu Dhabi would provide an encouraging statement of their progress during the early weeks of the new season.

Raducanu's victory capped a long opening day at the tournament. First up was former world No 4 Caroline Garcia from France, who surrendered a one-set lead to lose 6-7, 6-4, 6-4 to Romanian world No 26 Sorana Cirstea.

That was followed by another marathon match between Americans Bernarda Pera and Ashlyn Krueger, with Krueger taking the win 6-2, 5-7, 6-3. Brazilian sixth seed Beatriz Haddad Maia found the going easier against Chinese wild card Xiyu Wang, claiming a 6-2, 7-6 victory, but Russian seventh seed Daria Kasatkina needed more than two-and-a-half hours to defeat France’s Diane Parry 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.

Tuesday’s singles action starts at 11am on Court 1, where Czech qualifier Linda Noskova takes on Spanish lucky loser Sara Sorribes Tormo, before Filipino wild card Alexandra Eala makes her debut in Stadium Court’s opening match against Poland’s Magda Linette.

That is followed by the highly-anticipated match between Naomi Osaka and Danielle Collins, while over on Court 1 there’s an all-Chinese clash between Xinyu Wang and Lin Zhu.

British qualifier Heather Watson then faces Russian ninth seed Veronika Kudermetova, and Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina plays Italian lucky loser Lucia Bronzetti. The singles matches conclude with Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko against Russian eighth seed, and last year’s finalist, Liudmila Samsonova.

There is also a doubles match not to be missed late on Court 1 as Jabeur partners with Osaka to play Chinese pair Wang and Saisai Zheng.

Updated: February 06, 2024, 9:39 AM