Ons Jabeur likes to put on a show for her fans and that’s exactly what she did on Wednesday evening with a dazzling victory over Emma Raducanu at the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open.
As one of the top four seeds, Jabeur received a bye into the second round this week, so this match was her first since an earlier-than-expected exit at the Australian Open last month.
Playing just her third competitive match of the season, any concerns that Jabeur might be undercooked were allayed with a controlled performance as the Tunisian claimed a 6-4, 6-1 win in the last match on Stadium Court.
Jabeur moves on to face Brazilian sixth seed Beatriz Haddad Maia on Friday for a place in the semi-finals, and a repeat of this display would put her in a strong position to go deep this week.
“I’m very happy with the performance today,” Jabeur, 29, said. “I played a great match and I’m hoping to see this level the whole week.”
The world No 6 started fast against Raducanu, controlling the match from the baseline while being solid on serve to race into a 4-1 lead. A wobble when serving for the first set at 5-2 halted her momentum slightly but she made no mistake at the second attempt, closing out the opener with a love service hold.
Jabeur maintained her dominance in the second set, breaking Raducanu’s serve three times in a run of six straight games to close out the victory in just 78 minutes. The Tunisian ended the match with an astounding 35 winners against 11 unforced errors.
It was a markedly improved performance from her last match at the Australian Open, where Jabeur was defeated in less than an hour by 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva.
“I’m feeling emotionally much better this week, and I had some amazing practice after the Australian Open,” Jabeur said. “I’m trying to take control over what I do.
“Tennis-wise, I’m feeling much better. I’m just trying to enjoy and keep calm on the court, and when I do that I definitely feel like I play my best tennis.”
Raducanu didn’t do all that much wrong, particularly in the first set. She fought well to claw back one of the breaks and for a few games, looked to be matching Jabeur shot for shot.
At the same time, Jabeur never allowed her to gain any real control or rhythm. The Tunisian’s variety and shot selection ultimately proved too tall a challenge on the day.
The second-round loss continues the trend of Raducanu’s comeback season so far. Sidelined since last April following wrist and ankle surgeries, the 2021 US Open champion has been eliminated at the same stage of all three events she’s played this year after encouraging first-round wins.
“It was a tough match. Ons is a difficult opponent so credit to her, she played really well. It’s just a match I need to forget about,” Raducanu, 21, said. “She has amazing hand skills, makes life really hard for you on the court. Her defensive skills are great so that is something I can improve, too.”
Jabeur was just as effusive in her praise for Raducanu and is expecting the Briton to have a successful season.
“She didn’t make it easy for me. Emma is such an amazing player, I wish her all the best,” Jabuer said. “I know she can play much better, I’m a big fan of her. I’m looking forward to seeing her win more matches – not against me, but against other players!”
As always, the fans turned out in strong numbers to support Jabeur, although the British expat community were also getting behind Raducanu to create a great atmosphere inside Stadium Court. She will again enjoy the majority of the support against Brazil’s Haddad Maia on Friday.
“It’s amazing to see the fans out supporting me, and hopefully we’ll see more [in the next match],” Jabeur said. “I don’t think there are too many Brazilians who live in the area!”