Ons Jabeur becomes first Arab woman to win WTA title after Birmingham Classic triumph

Tunisian defeats Russia's Kasatkina 7-5, 6-4 in Sunday's finals

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 20: Ons Jabeur of Tunisia celebrates with the trophy after her victory against Daria Kasatkina of Russia in the Womens Singles Final during the Viking Classic Birmingham at Edgbaston Priory Club on June 20, 2021 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Barrington Coombs/Getty Images for LTA)
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Ons Jabeur became the first Arab woman to win a WTA title on Sunday when the Tunisian beat Daria Kasatkina of Russia 7-5, 6-4 in an engrossing hour-and-a-half tussle in Birmingham.

Jabeur, the second seed, gained a measure of revenge as she secured her first title at the expense of Kasatkina, one of two women to have beaten her in her previous finals appearances.

"I knew I had to go for it, I had to win this title to at least breathe and give an example," Jabeur said.

"There's not a lot of Tunisian or Arabic players playing, so I hope this could inspire them, and I want to see more Arabic players and Tunisians playing with me on tour."

Jabeur, ranked No 24 in the world, has been in fine form this season where she ranks alongside world No 1 Ashleigh Barty in terms of matches won (28).

The 26-year-old held her nerve despite Kasatkina breaking back when Jabeur served for the first set at 5-4.

Jabeur, though, broke world No 35 Kasatkina immediately and this time she made no mistake in serving to win the set.

Kasatkina had beaten Jabeur twice in three-set affairs.

However, her opponent did not give her a sniff of a chance of a repeat of forcing her into a decider as she raced into a 4-0 lead in the second set.

Kasatkina, winner of two titles this season, fought her way back to 4-3 down but the Tunisian remained focused, sealing the title on her first match point when the Russian netted.

Jabeur revealed the pain of her defeat to Kasatkina in a final in Moscow in 2018 where she pleaded with her to be more generous the next time they met.

"Last time we played was in Moscow, she [Kasatkina] won, and I was crying, it was a great battle," said Jabeur.

"I told her, 'Can you please share some titles with me, at least, let me win my first WTA?'"